Greg Tate has spent the last two decades formulating a critical language that has redefined African American cultural theory and writing. An essayist and longtime staff writer for The Village Voice, Tate has published widely, with writings on art, music, and culture appearing in The New York Times, Rolling Stone, The Washington Post, Spin, Artforum, The Nation, and DownBeat, and Africa-based magazines such as Glendora Review and Chimurenga. Taken together these uncollected works constitute a virtual nomadic periodical that pushes the limits of African-American culture.

The impact of Tate’s writing lies in the seminal productive tensions he navigates between post structural theory and black cultural nationalism; academia and street culture. Taking his cue from black innovators such as Miles Davis, Hendrix, Sly Stone, George Clinton and the artist Jean-Michel Basquiat who fused the “superbad Stagolee tradition” with an intellectual sophistication, he defies fixed notions about what constitutes “authentic” black culture, inscribing a new radical trajectory that throbs with the rebellious rage of Nirvana, flows with the swank of a Bootsy bassline and bristles with the verbal acrobatics – puns, quibbles, equivocations, neologisms, subterfuges, conflations, allusions and playful digressions – of a deconstructionist.

Now in his 50s, Tate continues to challenge cultural hegemony, writing on everything from hip-hop to Youtube. His books include Flyboy in the Buttermilk, Midnight Lightning: Jimi Hendrix and the Black Experience, and Everything But the Burden: What White People Are Taking From Black Culture. He is also a founding member of the Black Rock Coalition and the conductor and music director of Burnt Sugar, a band that, like his writing, binds jazz, rock, funk, and African music in a lyrical, exploratory and improvisational manner.


Greg Tate


  • Discovering his literary talents as a performance poet in his native, Washington, D.C., where he grew up going to nationalist meetings and passing out fliers exploring ideas crucial to racial discourse with his parents, Tate was guided by the auspices of political activists H. Rap Brown and Stokely Carmicheal, writers Ntozake Shange and Thulani Davis, and lesbian poet /filmmaker Michele Parkinson.
    His writing is attributed as “setting it off” for a generation of “freaky-deke cult-nat” journalists, essayists, painters, screenwriters, directors working the Black Atlantic connection. As “Blackadelic Pop” wordsmith Michael Gonzales writes, “if it were not for Greg Tate, there would be no Bonz Malone, Harry Allen, Joan Morgan, Kris Ex, Scott Poulson Bryant, Toure, Danyel Smith, Michael Eric Dyson, Karen R. Goode, Selwyn Seyfu Hinds, Smokey Fontaine, John Caramanica, Jeff Chang, Amy Linden, Tom Terrell, Mark Anthony Neal, Tricia Rose, Sasha Jenkins, DJ Spooky (aka Paul Miller), Dream Hampton, Miles Marshall Lewis, Aliya King, SekouWrites, Kenji Jasper, Oliver Wang, Cheo Hodari Coker, Keith Murphy or myself… to paraphrase a line from the gangster rappers interview handbook, if it wasn’t for Greg ‘Ironman’ Tate, I might be robbing your house right now.”


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