Hip-Hop’s original street poets make a comeback

Discussion in 'Music and Podcasts' started by Winston Smith, Jun 8, 2018.

  1. Winston Smith

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    It was no coincidence that the group of musicians and poets who formed The Last Poets decided to do so by gathering at a park in New York City’s East Harlem on the birth anniversary of the radical African-American human rights activist Malcolm X. It was May 1968 and barely a month after Martin Luther King had been assassinated. The group had emerged during the height of the black activist movement of the late 1960s. Originally a loose and motley congregation of poets and musicians, which later morphed into a smaller group, their early performances were stark with spoken-word lyrics that were blunt and politically charged; and music that was sparse—sometimes just the primordial beat of a drum. Years later, they would be acknowledged by many to be the biggest influencers, the genesis even, of hip hop, but when they began, they were angry young men expressing themselves through their unique brand of music themed on black rights and activism.

    The early albums of The Last Poets—1970’s eponymous debut or 1971’s This Is Madness—raged against not only racism and white oppression but also against the passivity and inaction of blacks. On the first album, songs such as N*****s Are Scared of Revolution or Wake Up N*****s rebuke and admonish those who let things be the way they were and invoke them to rise and join the civil rights movement that was raging in America then. The founding members of The Last Poets included Jalal Mansur Nuriddin, Abiodun Oyewole and Umar Bin Hassan. Nuriddin, who died on 5 June at the age of 74, was a US soldier, imprisoned after he refused to serve in Vietnam, and the other two were inmates he had met while in jail. The three formed the group after they were released from prison and began by performing on the streets of Harlem. Soon, they adopted the beats of jazz, incorporating horns, drums and other instruments, but the overriding factor of their music remained their explosive lyrics.

    Article link below:
    Hip-Hop’s original street poets make a comeback

    I owned all their albums in college. There’s no doubt about their influence as 1960s pioneers of today’s rap and hip hop culture (e.g. M/A/R/R/S famously quoted their song “Mean Machine” in “Pump Up the Volume”). Now as an adult, black, gay man I find a lot of their work problematic. You can trace the roots of idiot, macho, quasi-Islamic homophobia (Brand Nubian, X-Clan) in a lot of post-NWA rap to them, as well. But their first few albums are worth checking out for younger CA squad, if only for black history and music roots purposes...

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