Russell A. Potter, a.k.a. Professa R.A.P.



When asked about the first rappers, knowledgeable hip-hop heads won't

start talking about the Sugar Hill Gang. They know that the Last Poets were

rapping over a beat back when Big Bank Hank was still in diapers. Yet,

partly because of the vagaries of record distribution in the CD era, and

partly because of the fast-forward amnesia fostered by the record industry,

few people have actually heard the Last Poets, save for a few sampled snippets

here and there ("Time is running out"). Complicating matters, the Last Poets'

membership has varied greatly over the years, with rival groups at several

points claiming the title of the "original" Last Poets; recent years have seen

still more rifts between the surviving Poets. Yet despite this confusion,

most of the Last Poets' output is readily available on CD -- if you're willing

to take some time to track it down. Like other neglected Black artists, their

music is actually better known in Europe, and even Japan, than it is in the

U.S., and if you're willing to pay the premium for imports, and have a good

used CD or vinyl shop in your neighborhood, it's possible to find almost

everything the Last Poets recorded. But first, a little history.

The Poets first got together in Harlem in 1969 -- as legend has it, at

a celebration of Malcolm X's birthday in Mt. Morris park, creating what Ty

Williams calls "a workshop of the mind." This original get-together let to

further sessions at "East Wind," a loft located on 125th St. between Madison

and Fifth Avenues, and a record contract with Alan Douglas (known as the

producer of Hendrix's _Electric Ladyland_ LP). It was a time of potent Black

nationalism, and the Black Arts were a major part of that scene; the Poets

took their inspiration from poets like Imamu Amiri Baraka, musicians like

'Trane and Sun Ra, and political organizations like the Panthers and the NOI.

They chose African-flavored jazz rhythms as their backup, rather than R&B,

consciously rejecting (at least at first) mass-media "Black" culture. Theirs

was a performance art, done on the spot at late-night sessions, improvising

individually and collectively, trading words just as jazz musicians traded

melodic ideas, repeating them with variations, coming together with multiple

voices for the climax. Here's a small part of their seminal track, "Run,

Nigger" (a.k.a. "Time is Running Out"):

I understand that time is running out [tick - tock]

I understand that time is running out [tick-tock, tick-tock]

I understand that time is running out [tick-tock, tick-tock]

I understand that time is running out [tick-tock, tick-tock]

Running out as hastily as niggaz run from the Man [tick-tock, tick-tock]

Time is running out on our natural habits... [tick-tock, tick-tock]

Time is running out on lifeless serpents reigning [tick-tock, tick-tock]

over a living kingdom [tick-tock, tick-tock]

Time is running out of talks, marches tunes, chants, [tick-tock, tick-tock]

and all kinds of prayers [tick-tock, tick-tock]

Time ... is running out of time. [tick-tock, tick-tock]

I heard someone say things are CHANGING [changing, things are changing]

Chain ... chain chain CHANGING [changing, things are changing]

from Brown to Black, time is running out on [changing .... tick-tock]

bullshit changes! [tick-tock, tick-tock]

Running out like a bush fire in a dry forest [tick-tock, tick-tock]

Like a murderer from the scene of a crime [tick-tock, tick-tock]

Like a little roach from DDT ...


Hanging out at East Wind in those days was Afrocentricty in action. Yet for

reasons lost in obscurity, not all of the Poets who used to gather there made

it into Douglas's recording sessions. Felipe Luciano, Gylan Kain, and David

Nelson -- all absent from the Douglas Records lineup -- went on to perform as

the "Original Last Poets," and gained fame as the soundtrack artists for the

film "Right On!" (1971). Kain went on to a solo project, "Blue Guerrilla," a

sort of slice-of-life set piece which was the inspiration behind K.M.D.'s

banned second album "Black Bastards" (a title taken from Kain's raps).

Luciano's "Jazz" was something of a minor hit, and still brings back memories

for those who heard it at the time:

JAAAZZZZ, yeah, is a woman's tongue

Stuck dead in your mouth, ya dig it?

JAAAZZZZ, yeah, is a woman's tongue

Stuck all in your mouth [uh uh]

JAAAZZZZ, is a tongue, cool

Lickin' ya slowly, revolving around your side, your cheeks

Letting you know who's come to visit

Or teasing and tickling you your teeth

Buffing them 'till they shine-sparkle

Or HOT, WET, like the black streets in El Barrio

After a quick sun-shower ...

Yet these Poets, even though they were there at the start, were eventually

displaced by the Poets who recorded for Douglas, including Alafia Pudim

(a.k.a. Jalaluddin Mansur Nuriddin, a.k.a. Lightnin' Rod), Sulieman El-Hadi,

Abiodun Oyewole, and Omar Ben Hassan (lately known as Umar Bin Hassan), along

with percussionist Nilaja. These were the poets (minus Oyewole, who departed

after the first album) who formed the core of "The" Last Poets from the early

70's into the mid-80's, offering up a potent series of political and personal

commentaries on everything from race relations to Ho Chi Minh to the birth

control pill. Many of their early tracks are landmarks of poetic radicalism,

and have been claimed by rappers as seminal influences: "Niggas Are Scared of

Revolution" and "When the Revolution Comes" predate and prefigure Gil Scott-

Heron's "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised"; "White Man's Got a God

Complex" struck a potent satirical chord in 1971 (and again in 1994, with a

cover by Flavor Flav on PE's new Muse Sick n Hour Mess Age album which

features backup from Umar Bin Hassan). Still, perhaps because of their unusual

polyrhythms, the Poets aren't sampled as often as they might be, though

artists such as different as Yo Yo, A Tribe Called Quest, and Paris have

looped lines from "Run, Nigger" on their recent albums; they also top many

rappers' prop lists (right up there after God and Moms). Their influence is

great, but it's more an influence on *attitude* than on the music itself.

Yet while the Poets' early work may seem strangely unfunky to a 1994

hip-hop head, they also made interesting moves towards funk and hip-hop in the

late 70's and early 80's. Pudim/Nuriddin, under the name "Lightnin' Rod, cut

a wild track with Hendrix (Doriella Du Fontaine), and hooked up later on with

Kool and the Gang and Eric Gale in 1973 to cut "Hustlers' Convention," which

Nelson George calls "a moralistic blaxploitation film on record." Certainly

listening to it today, it sounds in places like a catalog of outdated hustler

cliches, but it also makes effective use of funk grooves, street noises, and

sound effects in a way that brings to mind the better skits and interludes on

hip-hop discs today. According to David Toop, "Hustlers' Convention" had a

powerful street-level impact, and was used as a break record by some of the

first hip-hop DJ's. Here are a few lines from the opening track, "Sport":

It was a full moon, in the middle of June

In the summer of '59

I was young and cool,

And shot a *bad* game of pool

And hustled all the chumps I could find ...

Nuriddin was the one Poet who clearly paid attention to what was happening

with rap; he put out a beat-box/synth track ("Long Enough") on Brooklyn's Kee

Wee label in 1984, as well as a hip-hop remake of the Poets' "Mean Machine"

with Grandmaster D.ST (the wizard behind the wheels in "Rockit") on Celluloid.

Nuriddin was, and remains, the funkiest of the Poets, as his new album with

El-Hadi, "Scaterrap/Home" proves (see below).

The careers of other Poets have been varied to say the least; aside

from Nilaja (who died of a brain tumor in 1980), they have all carried on

their artistry, though not always in public performances or records. Abiodun

Oyewole, semi-retired since 1984's "Super Horror Show" on the Nia label,

resurfaced to speak with Ice Cube in a _New York Times Magazine_ interview

earlier this year. He's been teaching school and trying to instill pride in

a new generation; while reluctant at first to recognize Cube's work as a

continuation of his own, he came to respect him personally in the course of

the interview. Towards the end, he tells Cube:

"Rap has made itself a billion-dollar industry, and you and some other

brothers are sitting at the top of the charts because of the simple reason

that people have a need to express themselves and hear their own voice. And

you have been that mirror, relecting a lot of the pain and joy they have felt.

But the reality is, what we got to do is take all of that pain and joy and

give it some direction so we can have a tomorrow. But not only for you -- for

me, too, old as I am, I'm 40-plus. I still got to grow. And I've got to

respect that your rebel spirit is the same rebel spirit I had."

"Reality" rappers take note. Oyewole has recently re-united with some of the

other Poets to record a new album, "Holy Terror," released last year in Japan

and just now available in the U.S. (for better or worse, the Poets, like many

Black artists, have enjoyed more honor abroad than at home; their albums are

big sellers in Japan, and Japanese and European labels have been home to most

of their post-Celluloid recordings).

Umar Bin Hassan, who left the group in the mid-70's to pursue his

ambitions as a playwright, also recently returned to the studio, working with

Bill Laswell on a number of projects on the latter's AXIOM label, including a

solo album, "Be Bop or Be Dead," which appeared last year. It features re-

makes of some classic Poets jams ("Niggers Are Scared of Revolution, This is

Madness") as well as new cuts ("Bum Rush," "Personal Things"), and funky

backup from AXIOM regulars Bernie Worrell, Bootsy Collins, Foday Musa Suso,

and Aiyb Deng. El-Hadi and Nuriddin, for their part, express some bitterness

about Celluloid, Laswell, Celluloid, and Axiom; after their props list on

their current CD, they send out "No thanks to Celluloid Wreckoids N.Y. & Bill

Laswell of AXIOM Wreckoids and the past poets who copped out and dropped out

while we (THE LAST POETS) held out." Still, word is that they are finally

getting back together with Umar Bin Hassan and Laswell and are recording some

sides in London (where Jalal now lives) for a new album. For now, the closest

thing to hearing those recordings is Nuriddin and El-Hadi's current release,

"Scatterap/Home." This album returns to the old questions of Time and Space

(the CD art features their two faces surrounded by the track numbers with

Roman numerals like the face of a clock). The tracks, like this clock, are

split down the middle; the "Scatterrap" half is primarily Jalal's, bring home

funky flavor in a style reminiscent of late-70's Bambaataa as he encourages

his listeners to "See," 'Hear," "Taste," "Touch," "Smell," and "Reason." The

"Home" half is dominated by El-Hadi, who has a style closer to the older Poets

releases; the best track, "Minority of one," drops some potent conscious

rhymes over long-time Poets percussionist Abu Mustapha's congas. For too

long, El-Hadi raps, the white man has been

Hiding my story, making a mystery

Showing himself and calling it history

But we know where they're coming from

Minority of one, under the shadow of the gun.

Although they were hard or impossible to find for many years, most of

the Last Poets' old LP's are now available on compact disc. There's no way to

describe what it is the Poets did or do without listening to it, and these

records are a vital part of hip-hop history and Black history in general; I've

appended a discography of their most notable albums available on CD, as well

as a more detailed LP discography by Jalal himself, transcribed by Culf from

the European release of Scatterrap/Home (the U.S. release omits this

discography). If you want to trace the roots of hip-hop, you owe it to

yourself to check these out.


Last Poets -- Compact Disc Discography

The Last Poets (a) The Last Poets (1970) Celluloid Records CEL 6101

The Last Poets This Is Madness (1971) Celluloid Records CEL 6105

Original Last Poets * Right On! (1971) Collectibles COL-CD-6500

Gylan Kain Blue Guerilla Collectibles COL-CD-6501

The Last Poets Chastisement (1972) Celluloid

Lightnin' Rod Hustlers Convention (1973) Oceana/Celluloid 4107-2

The Last Poets At Last (1974) Celluloid

The Last Poets Delights of the Garden (1976) Celluloid CEL 6136

The Last Poets Jazzoetry (1976)+ Celluloid

The Last Poets Oh! My People (1984) Celluloid

Jalal & Grandmaster Mean Machine (12") Celluloid CELD 6205**

The Last Poets Freedom Express (1988) Celluloid

The Last Poets Retrofit (1992)++ Celluloid CELD 6208

The Last Poets One (1993) Celluloid

Umar Bin Hassan Be Bop or Be Dead (1993)AXIOM 314-518 048-2

The Last Poets Holy Terror (1993) P-Vine 2499 (Japan)

The Last Poets Scatterap/Home (1994) Bond Age BRCD 9471

Abiodun Oyewole 25 Years Black Ark RCD 10335

*= Felipe Luciano, Gylan Kain, David Nelson

** The 12" is available on this Celluloid CD, "Roots of Rap Volume 1"

+Jalal's discography lists this as a 1971 release; I don't have a copy & so

can't confirm the date.

++ A remix album -- very funky, but probably part of the reason some of the

Poets are so angry at Celluloid; also contains a remix of "Doriella


Where I have a copy, or catalog info., I list the CD catalog number; otherwise

I can only say that the disc appears on other lists as having been available

on CD. I also have not yet received the import copy of "Holy Terror" I

ordered a few weeks ago, and so have no detailed information as to who (aside

from Oyewole) participated in that recording.

Anyone having more information on the Poets on CD or vinyl, please send your

info to; I hope to compile a more thorough discography, to

be posted at net sites such as JazzNet or the archive.



Last Poets Discography -- by Jalal

1. The Last Poets / Self titled / Recorded April 1969 at Impact Sound

Studios n.y.c.

Released in April of 1970 The Last Poets album sells over a million copies

by word of mouth and thus put "Rap" on the map.

Produced by Alan Douglas & The Last Poets & East Wind Associates.

Poets: Abiodun Oyewole, Alafia Pudim (a.k.a. Jalal Mansur Nuriddin), Omar

Bin Hassan

Percussion: Nilaja

Engineer: Danfort Driffith


2. "This Is Madness" The Last Poets.

Recorded 1971 at Media Sound Studios n.y.c.

Producers: Alan Douglas & Stefan Bright

Cover painting: Abdul Mati (based on a photograph by Bilal Farid)

Engineer: Tony Bongiovi

Poets: Alafia Pudim (a.k.a. Jalal Mansur Nuriddin) & Omar Bin Hassan

Percussion: Nilaja


3. "Chastisement" The Last Poets 1972-73.

Recorded at Media Sound Studios n.y.c.

Produced by The Last Poets & Stefan Bright

Poets: Jalal Mansur Nuriddin & Sulieman El-Hadi

Percussion: Nilaja, Omanyaki, B, Jalal

Vocals: Oluiyi/Ann

Saxophonist: Sam Harkness

Bass: Jox Hall

Engineer: Tony Bonjovi

Cover Art: Jim Wipox

Photographer: Edmund (Majur) Wartkixs


4. "At Last" The Last Poets 1974

Produced by The Last Poets.

Poets: Jalaluddin Mansur Nuriddin, Sulieman El-Hadi, Omar Bin Hassan


Tenor sax: Brother Juice

Alto sax: Claude Laurence

Piano: Casa Burak

Drums: Philip King

Bass: Duke Cleamons

Recorded in a fire house Studio, lower eastside, n.y.c.


5. "Delights Of The Garden" 1976

Recorded at Media Sound Studios n.y.c. & Sound Ideas Studio n.y.c.

Produced by Alan Douglas & The Last Poets

Mastering: Joe Gastuirt, Masterdisk Studios n.y.c.

Cover Art: Abrahim Ben Benu

Photographs: Peter Harron

Art Director: Frank Guana

Chief engineer: Cron St Germaine

Poets: Jalaluddin Mansur Nuriddin, Sulieman El-Hadi


Bass & Guitar: Mann

Bass: Alex Blake

Drums: Bernard Perdie

Conga: Aby Mustapha

Percussion: Jalaluddin Mansur Nuriddin, Sulieman El-Hadi, Abu Mustapha


6. "Oh My People" The Last Poets 1984

Produced by Bill Laswell

Recorded at Evergreen Studios and mixed at RPM by Rob Stevens

Asst Engineer: Hank Rowe

Cover Design: Thi Linh Le

Group photo: Stephen Critchlow

Poets: Sulieman El-Hadi, Jalaluddin Mansur Nuriddin

Musicians: Bernie Worrell

Synthesizer: Ayiele Dieng, Chatan Cowbell, Bill Laswell/DMX AMS

Musicians: Jamal, Abdus Sabor/Bass, Ayiel Dieng/Talking Drums/Congas,

Kenyatte Abdur/Rakman/Congas, Philip Wilson/Cymbals/Percussion


7. "Freedom Express" The Last Poets 1988

Produced by: The Last Poets

Recorded at Brent Black Music Co-Op

Willesdex, England

Poets: Jalaluddin Mansur Nuriddin, Sulienman El-Hadi


Abu Mustapha/Congas

Sulieman El-Hadi/Congas

Kenyatta Abdur-Rahman/Congas Wx7/Linwood 5000 + Drums

Jamal Abdus Sabor/Bass

Dave Lugay/Bass

Curtis Lugay Memphis/Lead guitar

Engineered by Sid Bucknor

Ray Brown

Arranged by Kenyatte Abdur-Rahman

Mixed by Jalaluddin Mansur Nuriddin


O'D/Black Thighs 1970 Poets: Jalal/Omar

Percussion: Nilaja

Organ: Buddy Miles

"Long Enough" Last Poets 1981 - Jalal & Sulieman

"Stella Marina" 1984 Working Week, Jalal

"Mean Machine" 1984 Jalal & D.S.T.

"Mean Machine" 1990-91 Jalal & Lugman


"Doriella du Fontaine" 1969

Recorded at Electric Lady Land n.y.c. 12 mix approx.

Lightnin'Rod (a.k.a.Jalal, leader of Last Poets) &

Jimi Hendrix Lightinin'Rod/Jalal

Vocals: Jimi Hendrix/lead (Guitar/Bass)

Buddy Miles/Drums

Released in 1984 as 12" Duck single on the Criminal Label Celluloid

N.Y. (sell-you-into-Avoid-Paying you royalties)

Produced by Alan Douglas

"Jazzoetry" Compilation 1971 Jalal & Omar

"Hustler's Convention" 1973

Lightnin'Rod a.k.a./Jalal leader of The Last Poets

Kool & The Gang

Gene Dinwoodie

King Curtis

Billy Preston

Eric Gale

Cornel Dupree

Tina Turner & Ikettes

Produrced by Alan Douglas

Recorded and mastered at Media Sound

W. 57th St N.Y.C.


Discography written by Jalauddin Mansur Nuriddin

Transcribed by Culf <>