Les anglonautes

About | Search | Grammar | Vocapedia | Learning | Docs | Stats | History | News podcasts - Videos | Arts | Science | Translate

 Previous Home Up Next


Arts > Music > Rap, Hip-hop, Street poetry > Late 20th, early 21st century > USA > The Last Poets




Jalal Mansur Nuriddin, Abiodun Oyewole and Umar Bin Hassan.


Photograph: Michael Ochs Archives


The Last Poets:

the hip-hop forefathers who gave black America its voice


Fri 18 May 2018    06.00 BST

Last modified on Fri 18 May 2018    16.19 BST















The Last Poets


You can trace

the birth of hip-hop

to the summer of 1973

when Kool Herc DJ’d

the first extended


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,

Understanding 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.





















Jalal Mansur Nuriddin (born Lawrence Padilla)        1944-2018



Jalal Mansur Nuriddin,

who helped establish

the foundation for hip-hop

as a member of the Last Poets

and in his own solo work




The Last Poets emerged

in Harlem at the end of the 1960s,

reciting rhythmic verses

over conga drumming

and speaking directly

to the disenfranchised youth

of New York City’s black community.


The group’s poetry

pushed revolution

and self-determination,

while admonishing listeners

about survival

in an environment

defined by racialized poverty.


With his high,

declamatory voice

and his way of milking words

for their sonic potential

as well as their meaning,

Mr. Nuriddin

(pronounced noo-ruh-DEEN)

stood out.


He delivered

some of the group’s

most urgent

and incisive verses,

and although

the Last Poets’

lineup rotated over time,

he performed

with the group

well into his later years.


By then

he had come

to be widely known

as the “grandfather of rap,”

a laurel he proudly accepted.














Related > Anglonautes > Arts


urban music, rap, hip-hop









Related > Anglonautes > Vocapedia > Arts


genre > rap, hip-hop