The Last Poets (1970)

“You can trace the birth of hip-hop to the summer of 1973 when Kool Herc DJ’d the first extended breakbeat, much to the thrill of the dancers at a South Bronx block party. You can trace its conception, however, to five years earlier – 19 May 1968, 50 years ago this weekend – when the founding members of the Last Poets stood together in Mount Morris park – now Marcus Garvey park – in Harlem and uttered their first poems in public. They commemorated what would have been the 43rd birthday of Malcolm X, who had been slain three years earlier. Not two months had passed since the assassination of Martin Luther King. ‘Growing up, I was scheduled to be a nice little coloured guy. I was liked by everybody,’ says the Last Poets’ Abiodun Oyewole. He was 18 and in college when he heard the news. ‘But when they killed Dr King, all bets were off.’  That day led to the Last Poets’ revelatory, self-titled 1970 debut of vitriolic black power poems spoken over the beat of a congo drum. Half a century later, the slaughter continues daily, in the form of assaults, school shootings and excessive police force. ‘America is a terrorist, killing the natives of the land / America is a terrorist, with a slave system in place,’ Oyewole declares on the Last Poets’ new album, Understand What Black Is, in which he and Umar Bin Hassan trade poems over reggae orchestration, horns, drums and flute. It’s their first album in 20 years, reminding a new generation of hip-hop’s roots in protest poetry. … The late Gil Scott-Heron, meanwhile, is often mistakenly believed to have been a member of the Last Poets. Rather, they were contemporaries, the connective tissue between the rap, hip-hop and spoken word genres they helped inspire, and their own direct influences: jazz and Langston Hughes and the words of their slain leaders. ‘I been to the mountaintop!’ Oyewole says, quoting King’s final speech when I visit him. ‘Ain’t nothing but a poem.’ On this Sunday, as with almost every Sunday for the last three decades, Oyewole is hosting the Open House poetry workshop in his Harlem apartment, a 20-minute walk from the spot where the Last Poets once spoke their first words. The door is cracked open for the stream of visitors who will fill the seats all afternoon and evening. …”
Guardian (Video)
W – The Last Poets (album)
allmusic (Audio)
YouTube: The Last Poets 57:10

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
This entry was posted in Black Power, Harlem, Jazz, Malcolm X, MLKJr., Poetry and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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