Greg Tate

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Greg Tate reading at NYU in February 2013

Greg Tate is an African-American writer, musician, and producer. The focus of his writing has been African-American music and culture, he is a founding member of the Black Rock Coalition and the leader of Burnt Sugar.


Tate was born and raised in Dayton, Ohio; when he was 13 years old, his family moved to Washington, D.C.[1][2] He credits Amiri Baraka's Black Music and Rolling Stone, which he first read when he was 14, with stimulating his interest in collecting and writing about music;[3] as a teenager, Tate taught himself how to play guitar. He attended Howard University, where he studied journalism and film.[4]

In 1982, Tate moved to New York City, where he developed friendships with other musicians, including James "Blood" Ulmer and Vernon Reid. In 1985 he co-founded the Black Rock Coalition with some of the African-American musicians he knew who shared a common interest in playing rock music.[4]

Tate became a staff writer for The Village Voice in 1987, a position he held until 2005,[5] his 1986 essay "Cult-Nats Meet Freaky Deke" for the Voice Literary Supplement is widely regarded as a milestone in black cultural criticism;[6] in the essay, he juxtaposes the "somewhat stultified stereotype of the black intellectual as one who operates from a narrow-minded, essentialized notion of black culture" (cultural nationalists, or Cult-Nats) with the freaky "many vibrant colors and dynamics of African American life and art",[7][6] trying to find a middle ground in order to break down "that bastion of white supremacist thinking, the Western art [and literary] world[s]".[8] His work has also been published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Artforum, Down Beat, Essence, JazzTimes, Rolling Stone, and VIBE.[9] The Source described Tate as one of "the Godfathers of hip-hop journalism".[10]

In 1999, Tate established Burnt Sugar, an improvisational ensemble that varies in size between 13 and 35 musicians.[5] Tate described the band in 2004 as "a band I wanted to hear but could not find".[11]

Tate has been a visiting professor of Africana studies at Brown University and the Louis Armstrong Visiting Professor at Columbia University's Center for Jazz Studies.[9][10] In 2010, he was awarded a United States Artists fellowship.[12][13]


  • Flyboy in the Buttermilk: Essays on Contemporary America. New York: Simon & Schuster. 1992. ISBN 0-671-72965-9.
  • Everything But the Burden: What White People Are Taking From Black Culture. New York: Broadway Books. 2003. ISBN 0-7679-0808-2.
  • Midnight Lightning: Jimi Hendrix and the Black Experience. Chicago: Lawrence Hill Books. 2003. ISBN 1-55652-469-2.
  • Flyboy 2: The Greg Tate Reader. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press. 2016. ISBN 978-0-8223-6180-0.
  • James Brown's Body and the Revolution of the Mind. Riverhead Press. (forthcoming)


  1. ^ "Every Show Unique". University of Dayton. July 31, 2006. Retrieved April 12, 2012.
  2. ^ Robinson, Amelia (June 15, 2009). "Dayton native gets shoutout in 'Rolling Stone'". Dayton Daily News. Retrieved April 12, 2012.
  3. ^ "Ain't But a Few of Us: Black Jazz Writers Tell Their Story". Open Sky Jazz. October 30, 2009. Retrieved April 12, 2012.
  4. ^ a b Infantry, Ashante (March 23, 2008). "Acid Funk Never Sounded Sweeter". Toronto Star. Retrieved April 12, 2012.
  5. ^ a b "Greg Tate". Cooper Union. April 12, 2010. Retrieved April 12, 2012.
  6. ^ a b Lordi, Emily (July 26, 2017). "Post-Soul Aesthetics". Oxford Bibliographies Online. Retrieved April 21, 2018.
  7. ^ Vincent, Rickey (June 25, 2003). "Black Music and Ivory Towers". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 19, 2018.
  8. ^ Tate, Greg (December 1986). "Cult-Nats Meet Freaky Deke". Flyboy in the Buttermilk: Essays on Contemporary America. New York: Simon & Schuster (published 1992). p. 201. ISBN 0-671-72965-9.
  9. ^ a b "Greg Tate: Visiting Professor of Africana Studies". Brown University. Retrieved April 12, 2012.
  10. ^ a b Casey, Caroline (October 13, 2009). "Visiting Professor Brings Hip-Hop to Columbia". Columbia Daily Spectator. Retrieved April 12, 2012.
  11. ^ Tate, Greg (May 25, 2004). "Band in My Head". The Village Voice. Retrieved April 12, 2012.
  12. ^ Salzman, Michelle (January 7, 2011). "Brighde Mullins Awarded Literature Fellowship". University of Southern California. Retrieved April 12, 2012.
  13. ^ "Greg Tate: Fellow Profile". United States Artists. Retrieved April 12, 2012.

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