8 bars with: greg tate

Our guest is writer, musician and cultural provocateur, Greg Tate


8 bars with is a series on educated guesses where we offer up 8 questions to a special guest for them to ponder and freestyle on.  The questions aren't necessarily questions as much as they are prompts or linguistic ink blots meant to stimulate thought.  The responses can be short and pithy, long and loquacious or somewhere in between. 


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Greg Tate is a writer, musician and cultural provocateur who lives on Harlem’s Sugar Hill. His books include Flyboy In The Butterrmilk (1992),  Everything But The Burden —What White People Are Taking From Black Culture (2004) and Flyboy 2: The Greg Tate Reader (Duke University Press 2016)  Tate has also led the Conducted Improv band, Burnt Sugar The Arkestra Chamber since 1999, and is a proud member of Howard University’s Bison Nation. He has been Visiting Faculty at Yale, Columbia, Brown, Williams, and, most recently, Princeton, where he taught ‘The Loud Black And Proud Musicology of Amiri Baraka’ and NYU, where he debuted the course ‘A Brief History of Woke Black Music’.


1. Florence Tate (Mother)? 

Original title: The World’s Most Dangerous Press Secretary.  Retitled: Sometimes Farm Girls become Revolutionaries, as told to Jake-Ann Jones, forthcoming from W. Paul Coates Black Classics Press, 2021. 

2. Howard University?

The Mecca: Where I met E. Ethelbert Miller, Clarence Major, Haile Gerima, Ernest Dickerson, Geri Allen, Calvin Reid, Tom Terrell, Lewis Flip Barnes, Arthur Jafa, Ron Stozo Edwards, my daughter Chinara Tate's mother, Rikki Smith, and The Great Visual Artists Skunder Boghassian, LeRoi Clark,  Wadsworth Jarrell, Lois Maillou Jones, Jeff Donaldson, Frank Smith, Richard Powell, James Phillips, Ed Love.

3. Sterling Brown?

“They don’t come by ones/ They don’t come by twos/They comes by tens.” - SB

4. Amiri Baraka?

Blues PeopleThe Dead LecturerBlack MusicTalesDutchmanThe System of Dante's HellBlack Magic PoetryThe Autobiography of Amiri BarakaTransbluesencyDigging‘Rhythm and Blues (for Robert Williams)’, ‘Black Dada Nihilismus’,‘’Harlem is vicious modernism…’,

5. Wayne Shorter?

Part 1

Speak No Evil, Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum, Night Dreamer, Schizophrenia, Footprints, Nefertiti, Pinocchio, Supernova, Sanctuary, The Moors, Mysterious Traveler, Odyssey of Iska, Native Dancer and Emanon.

Part 2

GT: “There’s an attention to detail in your writing that could almost be called sculptural. Where do you think that derives from?”

WS: “I guess I see that the little thing equals the big thing. The little thing has got to be in there , all the details got to be in there.  I like this phrase: A million dollars does not exist without one penny, but one penny can exist without a million dollars. I like that brother! And there’s a third something in there too. When you can see that something is existing without the premise, you know its jive. It’s just acting like it’s existing. It’s saying, ‘Here I am’, and you’re saying,’you jive—the penny ain’t in there.’’—from Flyboy2: The Greg Tate Reader.                  

6. Jean-Michel Basquiat?

When asked about his subject matter Basquiat answered, “royalty, heroism and the streets.’’ “The Black person is the protagonist in most of my paintings. I realized that I didn't see many paintings with Black people in them.’’—JMB

7. The State of Black Literature?

Suggested Reading: Counternarratives by John Keene, Slumberland by Paul Beatty, Sing Unburied Sing,by Jesmyn Ward, The Underground Railroad by Paul Beatty, Mumbo Jumbo by Ishmael Reed, Sula by Toni Morrison, The Wig by Charles Wright, Reflex & Bone Structure, by Clarence Major

8. Afrofuturism?

AKA The Futurity of the Afroed. Suggested Reading: The Einstein Intersection,‘Aye and Gomorrah’, NovaBabel IINovaTime Considered A Helix of Semi-Precious Stones, and The Star Pit by Samuel Delany. Wildseed‘’Bloodchild’’,  and Clay’s Ark by Octavia Butler.


Bonus Question:

Your sci-fi novel?

Altered Spaydes -- Fables of Race Mutation and Harlem. An excerpt will be published soon in the journal, Hotel.