Who was Greg Tate? Writer and 'Godfather of Hip-Hop Journalism' dies aged 64

Greg Tate recently passed away at the age of 64 (Image via huahsu/Twitter)
Greg Tate recently passed away at the age of 64 (Image via huahsu/Twitter)

Well-known writer Greg Tate is no more. Tate recently passed away at the age of 64, and the news was confirmed by Duke University Press spokeswoman Laura Sell on December 7.

Tate’s cause of death remains unknown, and his friends and other popular personalities paid tribute to him on Twitter. MSNBC contributor and New Yorker magazine staff writer Jelani Cobb said in his latest tweet that Flyboy in the Buttermilk is a clinic on literary brilliance.

Life and career of Greg Tate

Born on October 15, 1957, Greg Tate was a critic of the newspaper, The Village Voice, and put more emphasis on African-American music and culture. Flyboy in Buttermilk: Essays on Contemporary America comprised of his 40 works for the Voice.


Tate was also a founding member of the Black Rock Coalition and Burnt Sugar’s leader. He was born in Dayton, Ohio, and his family shifted to Washington, D.C., when he was 13. He trained himself in playing guitar when he was a teenager and studied journalism and film at Howard University.

Tate was a staff writer for The Village Voice from 1987 to 2005, and his essay, Cult-Nats Meet Freaky Deke, is mostly considered a milestone in black cultural criticism. His works were published in Down Beat, Rolling Stone, The New York Times, and more.

Greg Tate's cause of death currently remains unknown (Image via dem8z/Twitter)
Greg Tate's cause of death currently remains unknown (Image via dem8z/Twitter)

Greg Tate founded Burnt Sugar in 1999 with 13 and 35 musicians combining several genres of music. He then published Everything But the Burden: What White People Are Taking From Black Culture, a collection of 18 black writers conveying the topic of white appropriation of black art.

Tate then published Flyboy 2 in 2016 and was the Louis Armstrong Visiting Professor at Columbia University’s Center of Jazz Studies and a visiting professor of Africana studies at Brown University. He was also a recipient of the United States Artists Fellowship in 2010.

Public pays tribute to Greg Tate on Twitter

Greg Tate was a name familiar to everyone, and his works were always appreciated by the critics. The public paid tribute on Twitter as soon as the news broke:

Heartbreaking to hear about Greg Tate's death. A truly inimitable writer and storyteller. I believe @TheNation was the last place to publish him. His unique brilliance rings through this critique of Afropessimism:…
Devastated to learn of the death of the great Greg Tate. His commentary and work was always such a delight to read. I had the honor of interviewing him for a 2018 story on the Black history of punk:……
I don’t know if “shattered” covers how I feel after learning about Greg Tate’s death. Never knew him in person, but his writing was incredibly influential for me as a young storyteller. He was one of those rare folks out here who used language in ways you never thought possible.
Did not know Matana Roberts and Greg Tate shared a stage
I read Greg Tate’s meditation on the Black life + death of Michael Jackson my first semester in grad school and was changed.A forerunner. A guide. One who modeled a way forward when we were told there was no way to find depth, theory, and profundity in Black popular culture.🤲🏾
Absolutely devastated by the death of Greg Tate. His thoughts changed culture.
one of my greatest accomplishments as a film critic/writer was when Greg Tate shared a review I wrote about Arthur Jafa’s film “Dreams are colder than death” on Facebook. I remember feeling like I arrived. I was such a fan and admirer of Tate’s writing and thoughts. RIP.
Genuinely, deeply saddened to hear of the death of Greg Tate. An absolute giant of 20thC cultural criticism and an influence on just about every music writer worth reading in his wake. Just a brilliant, incisive, humane writer.RIP…
Greg Tate, an influential cultural critic and founding pillar of hip-hop journalism, has died, a representative for Tate’s publisher Duke University Press tells Pitchfork. A cause of death was not provided. Tate was 64.😢
Terrible news about Greg Tate's death. I never got to know him. But the brother gave me a great suggestion when I was writing #GrooveTheory. #RIP

There is very little information available on Tate’s personal life. However, he is reportedly the father of a daughter born in 1979.

Edited by Shaheen Banu
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