Greg Tate, an Acclaimed Music Writer and Cultural Critic, Passes Away at 64

Image: Nicola Gell/Getty Images for SXSW

Greg Tate, a groundbreaking journalist, cultural critic, and music writer, passed away on Tuesday, NBC News reported. He was 64. 

Tate’s passing was confirmed by Laura Sell, a Duke University Press spokesperson, the publisher of his latest book,  Flyboy 2: The Greg Tate Reader.  No cause of death was given.

Born in Dayton, Ohio, Tate relocated with his family to Washington, DC. as a child. There he would be deeply influenced by Rolling Stone magazine and Amiri Baraka’s noted work, Black Music.

After graduating from Howard University, in 1981, Tate was hired by Robert Christgauas as a staff writer for New York’s Village Voice, where he began having an immediate impact on criticism and popular music as a journalist and as a pioneering voice in hip hop criticism. The Source magazine described him as “one of the godfathers of hip-hop journalism.”

In 1992, Tate published his first book Flyboy in the Buttermilk: Essays on Contemporary America, which earned critical acclaim and became essential reading for cultural criticism. He would go on to release several other highly-regarded books.

Over the course of his remarkable career, Tate’s work was featured in the New York Times, The Washington Post, Vibe, Rolling Stone, the BBC, Down Beat, and many more.

A talented guitarist (which he self-taught), he founded the improv group Burnt Sugar and was a co-founder of the Black Rock Coalition, a progressive collective with the vision of highlighting the work of Black musicians and fighting stereotyping within the music industry

Tate was a visiting professor of Africana studies at Brown University, a Louis Armstrong Visiting Professor at Columbia University’s Center for Jazz Studies, and lectured at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. 

After his long tenure with The Village Voice ended in 2005, Tate would go on to write for several media outlets. His last article was published in The Nation this September. In the article, he explored the Black cultural landscape through the lens of the book Afropessimism, by Frank B. Wilderson III. 

“James Baldwin said, ‘To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a state of rage almost, almost all of the time,'” wrote Tate. “But what he didn’t say was that, on a good day, it is mostly a sublimated state of rage since folk got bills to pay and sanity to keep.”

We send our thoughts and prayers to the family and friends of Greg Tate.

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