Greg Tate

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Greg Tate reading at NYU in February 2013

Greg Tate is an American writer, musician, and producer. The focus of his writing has been African-American music and culture. He is a founding member of the Black Rock Coalition and the leader of Burnt Sugar.


Tate was born and raised in Dayton, Ohio. When he was 13 years old, his family moved to Washington, D.C.[1][2] He credits Amiri Baraka's Black Music and Rolling Stone, which he first read when he was 14, with stimulating his interest in collecting and writing about music.[3] As a teenager, Tate taught himself how to play guitar. He attended Howard University, where he studied journalism and film.[4]

In 1982, Tate moved to New York City, where he developed friendships with other musicians, including James "Blood" Ulmer and Vernon Reid. In 1985 he co-founded the Black Rock Coalition with some of the African-American musicians he knew who shared a common interest in playing rock music.[4]

Tate became a staff writer for The Village Voice in 1987, a position he held until 2005.[5] His 1986 essay "Cult-Nats Meet Freaky Deke" for the Voice Literary Supplement is widely regarded as a milestone in black cultural criticism;[6] in the essay, he juxtaposes the "somewhat stultified stereotype of the black intellectual as one who operates from a narrow-minded, essentialized notion of black culture" (cultural nationalists, or Cult-Nats) with the freaky "many vibrant colors and dynamics of African American life and art",[7][6] trying to find a middle ground in order to break down "that bastion of white supremacist thinking, the Western art [and literary] world[s]".[8] His work has also been published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Artforum, Down Beat, Essence, JazzTimes, Rolling Stone, and VIBE.[9] The Source described Tate as one of "the Godfathers of hip-hop journalism".[10]

In 1999, Tate established Burnt Sugar, an improvisational ensemble that varies in size between 13 and 35 musicians.[5] Tate described the band in 2004 as "a band I wanted to hear but could not find".[11]

Tate has been a visiting professor of Africana studies at Brown University and the Louis Armstrong Visiting Professor at Columbia University's Center for Jazz Studies.[9][10] In 2010, he was awarded a United States Artists fellowship.[12][13]


  • Flyboy in the Buttermilk: Essays on Contemporary America. New York: Simon & Schuster. 1992. ISBN 0-671-72965-9.
  • Everything But the Burden: What White People Are Taking From Black Culture. New York: Broadway Books. 2003. ISBN 0-7679-0808-2.
  • Midnight Lightning: Jimi Hendrix and the Black Experience. Chicago: Lawrence Hill Books. 2003. ISBN 1-55652-469-2.
  • Flyboy 2: The Greg Tate Reader. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press. 2016. ISBN 978-0-8223-6180-0.
  • James Brown's Body and the Revolution of the Mind. Riverhead Press. (forthcoming)


  1. ^ "Every Show Unique". University of Dayton. July 31, 2006. Archived from the original on August 5, 2012. Retrieved April 12, 2012.
  2. ^ Robinson, Amelia (June 15, 2009). "Dayton native gets shoutout in 'Rolling Stone'". Dayton Daily News. Archived from the original on July 10, 2012. Retrieved April 12, 2012.
  3. ^ "Ain't But a Few of Us: Black Jazz Writers Tell Their Story". Open Sky Jazz. October 30, 2009. Retrieved April 12, 2012.
  4. ^ a b Infantry, Ashante (March 23, 2008). "Acid Funk Never Sounded Sweeter". Toronto Star. Retrieved April 12, 2012.
  5. ^ a b "Greg Tate". Cooper Union. April 12, 2010. Retrieved April 12, 2012.
  6. ^ a b Lordi, Emily (July 26, 2017). "Post-Soul Aesthetics". Oxford Bibliographies Online. Retrieved April 21, 2018.
  7. ^ Vincent, Rickey (June 25, 2003). "Black Music and Ivory Towers". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 19, 2018.
  8. ^ Tate, Greg (December 1986). "Cult-Nats Meet Freaky Deke". Flyboy in the Buttermilk: Essays on Contemporary America. New York: Simon & Schuster (published 1992). p. 201. ISBN 0-671-72965-9.
  9. ^ a b "Greg Tate: Visiting Professor of Africana Studies". Brown University. Retrieved April 12, 2012.
  10. ^ a b Casey, Caroline (October 13, 2009). "Visiting Professor Brings Hip-Hop to Columbia". Columbia Daily Spectator. Retrieved April 12, 2012.
  11. ^ Tate, Greg (May 25, 2004). "Band in My Head". The Village Voice. Retrieved April 12, 2012.
  12. ^ Salzman, Michelle (January 7, 2011). "Brighde Mullins Awarded Literature Fellowship". University of Southern California. Retrieved April 12, 2012.
  13. ^ "Greg Tate: Fellow Profile". United States Artists. Retrieved April 12, 2012.

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