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This Month's Issue

The Last Poets
Wednesday, June 2, 2004

When did Hip-Hop begin? Recently at a Grandmaster Flash concert, he credited the beginning of it as early as 1973. In The Source magazine Afrika Bambattaa and Kool DJ Herc credit themselves as founders of Hip-Hop later than that. Similarly, Chuck D has been named the father of politically charged 'revolutionary Hip-Hop'. To me, it seems that Hip-Hop cannot be credited to any one point or person, as it must go back hundreds, even thousands of years. Spoken word poetry and the drum have been the root of culture since the beginning of the human race.

On the 'birth of Malcolm X day' in 1968 a revolutionary group was formed. Taking their name from a poem of South African poet Willie Kgositile, The Last Poets dropped a bomb on turntables across America. Seven members in total have recorded as The Last Poets but never all at the same time. The original group began as David Nelson, Felipe Luciano, Gylan Kain (Omar Ben Hassan, Abiodun Oyewole, and Alafia Pudim as they would later be known) as the poets with Nilaja on percussion. The Last Poets used the language of the streets evoking images of black ghetto life to promote revolution and change in an oppressed society. Often compared to Jazz each poet would step to the front and 'solo' as the others would provide background chants and percussion, combining the 'solos' and 'rhythm' to create a collective sound.

The Last Poets lived the life that they spoke about as various members spent time in prison for armed revolution while others spent lifetimes on the street battling drug addictions. The Last Poets have re-emerged in the nineties appearing on various Bill Laswell produced projects and with Pharoah Sanders on the Red, Hot and Cool album. They continue to promote their ideology through school programs and community projects.

Hip-Hop began as Abiodun Oyewole said, "We're no more 'Godfathers to the spoken word' than the man on the moon, it comes in a package from the motherland."

The Last Poets Discography:

Right On sndtrk. - Juggernaut Records, 1969
Last Poets - Douglas Records, 1970
This Is Madness - Douglas Records, 1971
Chastisement - Douglas Records, 1972
Hustlers Convention (w/ Jalal Nuriddin as Lightning Rod) - Douglas Records, 1973
At Last - Blue Thumb, 1974
Delights of the Garden - Celluloid, 1975
Jazzoetry - Celluloid, 1975
Oh My People - Celluloid, 1985
Freedom Express - Celluloid, 1991
Be Bop or Be Dead - Axiom, 1993

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