I'm New Here

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I'm New Here
Studio album by Gil Scott-Heron
Released February 8, 2010
Recorded 2007–09
Genre Post-industrial, blues,[1] folk, trip hop[2]
Length 28:25
Label XL Recordings
Producer Richard Russell
Gil Scott-Heron chronology
I'm New Here
We're New Here
Singles from I'm New Here
  1. "Me and the Devil"
    Released: February 22, 2010

I'm New Here is the 13th and final studio album by American recording artist Gil Scott-Heron, released on February 8, 2010, by XL Recordings. It is his first release of original material in 16 years, following a period of personal and legal troubles with drug addiction. Recording sessions for the album took place during 2007 to 2009, and production was handled by XL Recordings-owner Richard Russell. I'm New Here is a post-industrial blues album,[1] with spoken word folk songs and trip hop interludes.[2]

The album debuted at number 181 on the US Billboard 200 chart, selling 3,700 copies in its first week. It has spawned one single, "Me and the Devil", an adaptation of blues musician Robert Johnson's "Me and the Devil Blues" (1937). Upon its release, I'm New Here received positive reviews from most music critics. A remix of the album, titled We're New Here, was produced by Jamie xx of The xx and released February 21, 2011, on XL Recordings.[3] Pitchfork Media ranked I'm New Here number 45 on its list of the Top 50 Albums of 2010.[4]

Music and lyrics[edit]

Scott-Heron sang and played piano on the album.

I'm New Here is a departure from the rhythmic, jazz-funk and soul style of Scott-Heron's previous work,[5][6][7] and embraces an acoustic and electronic minimal sound.[8] Musically, I'm New Here incorporates blues, folk, trip hop, and electronica styles.[2][9][10][11][12][13][14][15][16][17] Music writer Patrick Taylor notes of the album's style, "It's the ragged, warts-and-all approach of the blues versus the more refined jazz soul style he favored in the seventies".[9] It also contains some musical elements of dubstep, electro, and ambient music.[8][18][19][20] Some music writers viewed it as a "post-modern" blues album.[10][11][21]

The album contains a sonically dark and gritty soundscape characterized by low-tone synths and spacial beats.[19][22] Due to its sparse sound and minimalist production, music writers have compared it to singer-songwriter Johnny Cash's American Recordings albums with producer Rick Rubin.[17] Crawdaddy!'s David MacFadden-Elliott wrote that Richard Russell's production finds "deep electronic grooves that still contain hints of soul and gospel music",[23] while critic Neil McCormick noted that the album's musical setting produced by Russell "blends dubby beats with spoken word and raw, confessional blues", describing the musical fusion as "like Massive Attack jamming with Robert Johnson and Allen Ginsberg".[24]

I'm New Here features introspective, confessional lyrics expressing themes of regret, reconciliation, and redemption,[13][25][26][27] which deviate from his earlier music's agitprop lyrics and social, political themes.[5][15][28][29] On Scott-Heron's thematic departure, critic Paul Trynka wrote "The man who depicted Winter in America is now in his own autumn; a season replete with both beauty and sadness".[22] The Skinny's Bram Gieben perceived "flashes of Burroughs-like darkness, the wry humour of post-addiction Richard Pryor" in Scott-Heron's performance.[27] Although Scott-Heron's lyrics concerning his bleak life experiences are understated and reflective, they express pride, dignity, defiance, and unapologetic confession.[13][28][30] According to Robert Ferguson of Drowned in Sound, Scott-Heron expresses "confession, but no apology" to "pick over the bones of his life, acknowledging the hard times and his own mistakes, but standing proud of all they have led him to become".[7]

Scott-Heron's baritone vocals on the album stylistically range from spoken word to blues-oriented crooning.[5] Music writers have noted that Scott-Heron's vocal ability has changed, perceiving it as rougher, slurred, and aged.[7][13][15][17][19][24][27] Simon Price of The Independent described his voice on the album as "bourbon-soaked".[31]


The spoken word piece based on Scott-Heron's 1970 poem "The Vulture" features dubstep-styled sonics over a cello loop.

Written as a 12-bar blues,[12] the song is about alienation in New York City and is built around handclaps and distorted bass.[9][15]

Problems playing these files? See media help.

The album's bookending and two-part poem "On Coming from a Broken Home" features piano and a sampled string loop from Kanye West's "Flashing Lights" (2007).[19][32] It is a tribute to the women in his family, particularly Scott-Heron's grandmother Lily Scott, with whom he was sent to live as a child in Tennessee.[7][15][28] The song reflects on his upbringing around strong female figures and challenges the sociological perception of a broken home:[19][33] "Womenfolk raised me, and I was full-grown before knew I came from a broken home".[28] It defends Scott-Heron's upbringing and arguing that his grandmother's love and devotion taught him passionate humanity, despite lacking of a positive male figure.[13] According to music writers, "On Coming from a Broken Home" introduces and concludes the album's prominent theme of unapologetic confession.[7][15][28]

"Your Soul and Mine" adapts lyrics from Scott-Heron's spoken word piece "The Vulture", originally featured on Small Talk at 125th and Lenox (1970).[34] It contains a dubstep-styled collage of effects over a cello loop similar to the style of Burial and Massive Attack.[19][35] The song's blank verse recitation discusses the evils, represented as a metaphorical vulture, that inhabit and destroy African-American ghettos.[35][36] The "vulture" also represents death from Scott-Heron's point of view, who concludes the song with the theme of defiance.[19][36]

Release and reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars[19]
The Daily Telegraph 4/5 stars[24]
The Guardian 4/5 stars[18]
The Independent 4/5 stars[28]
NME 9/10[2]
Pitchfork Media 8.5/10[15]
Q 4/5 stars[37]
Rolling Stone 3/5 stars[11]
Slant Magazine 4/5 stars[38]
Spin 7/10[39]

I'm New Here was released February 8, 2010 in the United Kingdom and February 9, 2010 in the United States on XL Recordings.[40] It debuted at number 181 on the US Billboard 200 chart with first week sales of 3,700 copies.[41] It also entered at number 28 on Billboard's Top Independent Albums,[42] at number 6 on its Top Jazz Albums,[43] and at number 38 on its Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart.[44] The album also entered at number 35 in Ireland and at number 39 in the United Kingdom.[45][46] It also debuted at number six on the UK R&B Chart.[47] It spent two to three weeks on most international charts.[48] The album's lead single, "Me and the Devil", was released on February 22, 2010 as a 7" and music download.[49] It did not chart as a single on the Billboard charts.[50]

On September 26, 2010, British director Chris Cunningham premiered the 10-minute film New York Is Killing Me at the Museum of Modern Art, projected on three screens side by side. Chris Cunningham is credited with guitar and overdubs on the song on the album,[51] and for this "audio-visual remix" he replaced 90% of Scott-Heron's musical track with train sounds and environmental recordings to create a "musique concrète" version of the original composition.[52]

I'm New Here received generally positive reviews from critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream publications, the album received an average score of 78, based on 28 reviews.[53] Jesse Cataldo from Slant Magazine called it "post-structural, indefinably plotted" and "masterfully stark".[38] Allmusic's Thom Jurek commented that it "contains the artful immediacy that distinguishes Scott-Heron’s best art".[19] Siddharta Mitter of The Boston Globe praised Russell's production and stated, "the swirling miasma of sound wholly suits Scott-Heron’s mood, which is angry yet humble, and even more his voice, which is rich and intent as ever".[6] The Daily Telegraph's Neil McCormick noted "lyrics of depth, wisdom and experience, a voice rich with musicality, all set in a sonic context that locates him in the present moment".[24] Rupert Howe of Q commented that Russell's arrangements "brilliantly frame [Scott-Heron]'s rich burr and terse street poetry with brooding electronica and stark blues handclaps".[37] John Lewis from Uncut called it "a brave, brilliant and highly personal statement".[35] The Village Voice's Stacey Anderson complimented Scott-Heron's thematic departure from his previous work, stating "it's more emotional, more optimistic, than his past political provocations, and he hasn't sounded this lively in ages".[54] Dan Cairns of The Sunday Times called it "an extraordinarily powerful album", with "superb Scott-Heron originals".[20]

In a negative review, Chicago Sun-Times writer Jim DeRogatis found I'm New Here's sound "alien and unsuccessful", and described Scott-Heron's performance as "bland philosophizing and surprisingly hollow personal reflections".[55] Will Layman of PopMatters called the record "a thin affair—musically weak and lyrically narrow", perceiving its material as "unimaginative" and panning its musical structure.[12] Giving it two out of four stars, Chicago Tribune writer Greg Kot described it as a "postmodern blues album as conceived sometime between closing time and sunrise, a dark-night-of-the-soul lament in which the artist tosses and turns while mumbling and slurring his words", while noting its minimal production and concise composition as flaws.[10] Rolling Stone magazine's Will Hermes described it as "a steely blues record at heart — the sound of a damaged man staring in the mirror without self-pity but not without hope".[11] Andy Gill from The Independent stated, "As with the man, so with this album: it might fall short in some regards, but such is the heart and the mind involved that what little is left should be treasured accordingly".[28]

Track listing[edit]

  • All tracks were produced by Richard Russell.
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "On Coming from a Broken Home (Part 1)"   Gil Scott-Heron 2:20
2. "Me and the Devil"   Robert Johnson 3:33
3. "I'm New Here"   Bill Callahan 3:33
4. "Your Soul and Mine"   Richard Russell, Scott-Heron 2:02
5. "Parents (Interlude)"   Scott-Heron 0:18
6. "I'll Take Care of You"   Brook Benton 2:58
7. "Being Blessed (Interlude)"   Scott-Heron 0:12
8. "Where Did the Night Go"   Scott-Heron 1:14
9. "I Was Guided (Interlude)"   Scott-Heron 0:14
10. "New York Is Killing Me"   Scott-Heron 4:29
11. "Certain Things (Interlude)"   Scott-Heron 0:08
12. "Running"   Russell, Scott-Heron 2:00
13. "The Crutch"   Russell, Scott-Heron 2:44
14. "I've Been Me (Interlude)"   Scott-Heron 0:16
15. "On Coming from a Broken Home (Part 2)"   Scott-Heron 2:15


Credits for I'm New Here adapted from liner notes.[56]


Charts (2010) Peak
Dutch Albums Chart[48] 88
French Albums Chart[48] 97
Irish Albums Chart[45] 30
Swiss Albums Chart[48] 97
UK Albums Chart[46] 39
UK R&B Chart[47] 6
US Billboard 200[41] 181
US Billboard Independent Albums[42] 28
US Billboard Jazz Albums[57] 5
US Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Albums[44] 38


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  2. ^ a b c d Doran, John. Review: I'm New Here. NME. Retrieved on 2010-02-23.
  3. ^ The Guardian Music Blog (14 February 2011). "New album stream: Gil Scott-Heron and Jamie xx – We're New Here". Music Blog (The Guardian). Retrieved 18 February 2011. 
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External links[edit]