’Waxing’ Nostalgic About the Father of Hip-Hop

’Waxing’ Nostalgic About the Father of Hip-Hop

Black History Museum puts Gil Scott-Heron in the spotlight.

Perhaps the most famous of Gil Scott-Heron’s poems was "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised," a phrase that has been referenced by everyone from Elvis Costello to Public Enemy.

But at the Alexandria Black History Museum on Thursday, Aug. 2, Scott-Heron’s revolutionary life will be portrayed in moving images. "Black Wax," the 1982 film featuring Scott-Heron’s commentary and music will be screened at 902 Wythe St. The free event begins at 6:30 p.m.

"Basically, it’s a film screening where the public is invited in, and there will be a panel discussion," said Louis Hicks, the museum’s director. "Gil Scott-Heron is an icon in the black community as well as in performing arts."

The event ties in with the Black History Museum’s summer-long exhibition of black musicians which began in June, which is Black Music Month. Tributes to Nina Simone and Little Jimmy Scott were held earlier this summer.

Jonathan French, a photographer who previously helped curate a show with the museum, has led the effort behind the Gil Scott-Heron event.

"Gil Scott-Heron is a poet, and is considered the father of rap," he said. "His music always had a message."

THE EVENT WILL feature "Black Wax," a film directed by Robert Mugge ("The Gospel According to Al Green"). In it, Scott-Heron sings the blues and offers caustic commentary while visiting Washington, D.C. and a wax museum. He discusses topics like apartheid and economic disparity during what sometimes feels like a documentary and other times feels like a concert video. Eleanor Mannikka of the "All Movie Guide" said the film is "a one-man act sometimes accompanied by music."

After the film, French said there will be some discussions about Scott-Heron and poetry readings from special guests. "I assume they’ll take off from Gil Scott’s perspective," he said. "How he influenced them, and maybe a comparison with their work and what they try to do."

French said Scott-Heron’s influences can still be felt today. "In the 1990s, they considered him the father of hip-hop, he sent out a message to the hip-hop community telling them they don’t have to be out there cursing and this and that," said French.

Born in 1941 in Chicago, Scott-Heron has released over 20 albums and five books over his storied career. In the last several years, he had battled legal problems and drug addiction. "He kind of disappointed me, because he had one song dealing with people and the bottle and then he ended up being a drug addict," said French.

Despite that, Scott-Heron’s legacy lives on in his music, his words and the images of "Black Wax."

"Most of his music has been about sending messages to the community, about the community," said French.