Gil Scott-Heron, "Me and the Devil"
Gil Scott-Heron comes to grips with a decade of incarceration and tribulation on this captivating number, a variation of blues giant Robert Johnson's "Me and the Devil Blues." The lead single from the legendary spoken-word laureate's album, "I'm New Here"-his first since 1994's "Spirits"-was produced by XL label head Richard Russell, who cooks up a downtempo, dubstep beat. Scott-Heron sounds far older than his 60 years might suggest as he wails, "Early this morning, when you knocked upon my door/I said, 'Hello, Satan, I believe it's time to go.' " When he delivers those ominous opening lines, he transplants Johnson's Mississippi scene all the way to Harlem with the conviction of a man who's done his own share of small talk with the devil.-Ron Hart