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The Last Poets


The Last Poets are a group of poets and musicians, arising from the late 1960s African American civil rights movement. Jalal Mansur Nuriddin, an Army paratrooper who chose to go to jail instead of fight in the Vietnam War, founded the group in prison after converting to Islam and learning to spiel, an earlier form of rapping.

With Omar Ben Hassan and Abiodun Oyewole, Nuriddin was released from prison and joined the East Wind workshop in Harlem, and began performing their speils, along with music, on the street. They adopted the name the Last Poets in 1969 from a South African writer named Little Willie Copaseely, who believed he was in the last era of poetry before guns would take over. They released an LP in 1970, The Last Poets, whch reached the Top Ten album charts. Oyewole was arrested for robbery before a tour could begin, and he was replaced by Nilajah.

The follow-up, This Is Madness, featured more politically charged, radical poems, which resulted in the group being listed as part of the counter-intelligence program, founded by then-President Richard Nixon. Following This Is Madness, Hassan joined a southern-based religious sect and was replaced by Suliam El Hadi in time for Chastisement (1972). The album introduced a sound the group called "jazzoetry", a mix of jazz and funk with poetry. At Last (1974), was a free jazz album.

The remainder of the 1970s saw a decline in the group's popularity, as well as the departue of Nilajah. In the 1980s, however, the group became popular with the rise of rap, collaboarting with Bristol based British post punk band The Pop Group amongst others. They returned to recording in their oen right in 1984 with Oh My People and the follow-up, Freedom Express (1988). Hassan and Jalal worked on several projects until 1995, when two groups using the name formed. Jalal and El Hadi released "Scatterrap" while Oyewole and Hassan released Holy Terror. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Last_Poets [Oct 2004]

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