cream of the crate cd review #3: bob dylan – biograph
cream of the crate cd review #8: the last poets – the legend: the very best of the last poets
CD Cover – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

  This review was originally posted on the first Toorak Times web site where publications ceased on that site in March 2017. The old site will be permanently closed in 2020 and these reviews are being re-published in order to preserve them on the current Toorak Times/Tagg site.

"...with the Poets, we were angry and we had something to say. We addressed the language. We just put it right in front of your face." - [Abiodun Oyewole - Last Poets] _ "For the Poets there is a wafer-thin dividing line between their personal life and their recorded work" - [The Black Archive]

Cream Of The Crate Reviews 1 to 50 were vinyl album reviews.  
The following fifty reviews (51 - 100) were originally marked as CD Reviews 1 - 50
and this numbering has been kept to keep consistency with the published CD reviews.
This is number eight in the series of albums I’m featuring as part of an on-going retrospective of CD’s in my personal collection.
 
The series is called, “Cream of The Crate (CD’s)”, and they represent CD albums that I believe are of significant musical value, either because of their rarity, because they represent the best of a style or styles of music or because their is something unique about the group or the music.

This release is in a double CD format with an accompanying booklet. Now it has been claimed that
Gil Scott Heron is the father of Hip Hop.
 

Well, if that’s the case then it could be argued that this group were the fathers of Rap!

The CD featured is The Last Poets and is titled The Legend – The Best Of The Last Poets.

Its a double CD and was released in 1995 on the Esperanto Label (ESP8053) by M.I.L Multimedia.
 
 
cream of the crate cd review #8: the last poets – the legend: the very best of the last poets
CD Label; – [CLICK to enlarge]
 

The set has 28 tracks on CD #1 and a further 10 tracks on CD #2.

Why is it that a group recording in 1970 can lay claim to be the first of the “rap style” of music, that for all intents and purposes didn’t rear its head until the 1980’s?

The Last Poets released their self-titled album in 1970 and blasted onto the street scene of New York, and quickly, around the world.

So, yes I believe this album also established Rap Music. I did have this vinyl album, purchased in 1970, but like many recorded treasures it was stolen.
 

Then its replacement was likewise stolen, so when this CD was released years later I grabbed it immediately.

By the time you have finished listening to the tracks I will present, it is going to be hard for you not to admit, that these guys did it first and by the god’s of music – they did it brilliantly!

However, I also recognise that many people will find the style of music disturbing, difficult to listen to, not just because of the use of ‘language’ or because the format of the ‘music’ isn’t conventional – but because it is simply quite confronting! 

 
This is not ‘play street’ music; it is the music of the real street, where reality is that you are black and to be a Second Class Citizen would be an advancement.
 

Critical of the situation they found themselves in, both because of the forces aligned against them as well as the apathy of their own people, the last thing the Last Poets seek is to emulate the life of the ‘white society’ that surrounds them!

The Legend – The Best of The Last Poets has 2 CD’s and it comes with a booklet containing 11 double sided pages with the lyrics to the tracks – and that is necessary.

 

There are times when the ‘rap’ is being delivered like a machine gun, you can loose track of the fact that there is a very definite story going on!

cream of the crate cd review #8: the last poets – the legend: the very best of the last poetsBooklet cover

Make NO mistake, many of the tracks on this album cut deep. There is no fucking around.

“It” is said powerfully and said clearly!

Now the use of the ‘F’ word offends you, you had better NOT listen to the Last Poets. They do not use (what we loose call) “bad language” for the sake of trying to make the listener go, “Ohh” or because they are trying to be ‘hip’!

These guys are the real deal, and we are listening to the real language of the street …. NO! maybe a better description is that we are listening to the “Poetry of the Street”! More on language later.

The downside (and it’s a real downside) of the booklet is, that we have 22 single sides re-pages, but not one picture of members of the group, no attempt at a bio, no listing of available material!

OK! I have been spoiled by some of the booklets that have come with some of the albums I have reviewed, I accept that. But this really is a let down!

Then the-let down gets worse when you discover they lyrics are for all the tracks from #14 onward! They didn’t print the lyrics to the tracks from the 1st album – “The Last Poets“.

Makes no sense!

L to R: Jamal Mansur Nuriddin, Umar Bin Hassan, Abiodun Oyewole and Nilaja Obadi

 

So, who are these guys and what is some of their background?

There have over time actually been several groups of poets and muso’s using this name – but, it is the group that formed in May 1968, led by Jalaluddin (Jalal) Masur Nuriddin aka Alafia Pudim aka “Lightning Rod” along with Umar Bin Hassan, and Abiodun Oyewole, along with poet Sulieman El-Hadi and percussionist Nilaja Obabi that is generally accepted as the lineup’s that were the ‘real’ Last Poets.

“Jalal” Masur Nurridin

 

The Last Poets were ‘born’ on May 19, 1968, when they read poetry at a memorial for Malcolm X.

Their goal was to be a poetic voice for Malcolm’s call for self-determination and black nationalism. Like many black activists of the time, they were tired of Martin Luther King’s integrationist agenda.

They were much more influenced by the politics of radical members of the SNCC (Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee), the SDS (Students for a Democratic Society), and the Black Panthers.

Members have come and gone but for their debut album, self-titled The Last Poets, the lineup was Nurridin, Hassan & Nilaja.

All the tracks from this first album are on Disk #1 of this 2-disk set, in fact they make up the first 13 tracks on CD#1.

After this album, a second album was recorded titled, This Is Madness, but Nilaja had left and was replaced by El-Hadi.

They released 20 albums between 1970 and 2019.  I believe that first album, The Last Poets, with it’s very sparse percussion accompaniment is still among the best!

As further albums were produced that sparse backing became more and more filled with what was labelled, “Jazzoetry” – a blending of jazz and funk!

I think the use of this blend works well and there are tracks in this set that demonstrate this. Sure instrumentation certainly takes a bit of the raw edge from the tracks – yet by no means ‘sanitising’ the sound, but making it more acceptable to the majority of listeners.

I love the sparseness of the percussion and voice, and I hope by the end of this review you can see (or hear) why I hold this belief.

Suliaman El Hadi passed on in October 1995 and although not the founding member, it really meant the Last Poets were on their last legs! But what a legacy they left!

Suliaman El Hadi

 

The tracks on this album are:

cream of the crate cd review #8: the last poets – the legend: the very best of the last poets
Track List for CD #1 – [CLICK to enlarge]
cream of the crate cd review #8: the last poets – the legend: the very best of the last poets
Track List for CD #2- [CLICK to enlarge]

 

What better place to start than CD#1, Track #1 – Run Nigger.

The strengths of the Last Poets is that their lyrics are cutting social commentaries. They are not just an assemblage of rhyming couplets, or ‘smart’ phraseology.

Abiodun Oyewole

They identified the issues that were confronting them, their place in society, the forces that were assembled against them – be they political, social or financial and, they told is as was and probably as it still is!

The were just as cutting when it came to their own people as those forces they saw assembled against them. Certainly highly critical of the entire white community, their most cutting comments were often for their ‘own’ people.

Run Nigger, Run, because time is running out. This is track #1.

In it we understand that “they” saw nothing but words from the African-American community.

Constant claims that things were changing (a theme they would come back to in another track) was untrue, for they saw nothing was changing and the time for that change was rapidly moving on and leaving them behind.

No matter what I write it cannot have the impact that the track has.

Listen!

{*”tick-tock” rhythms occur after first two lines*}
I understand that time is running out..
I understand that time, is running out…
I understand that time is running out, I understand that time is running out..
Running out as hastily as niggers run from the Man..
Time is running out, on our natural habits
Time is running out, on lifeless serpents reigning over a living kingdom
Time is running out of talks, marches, tunes, chants, and all kinds of prayers
Time, is running out of time
Heard someone say, “Things were chaaaaaanging” (Changing – things are changing!)
Change, CHAN-CHAN-CHAN-CHANGINNNNNG… from brown to black
Time is running out on bullshit changes
Running out like a bushfire in a dry forest
Like a murder from the scene of a crime
Like a little roach from DDT
Running out like big niggers, running a football field – RUN NIGGER!!
Screwing your woman (RUN NIGGERS!!)
Whooping your ass (RUN NIGGERS!!)
Stealing your culture (RUN NIGGERS!!)
Taking your life (RUN NIGGERS!!)
Killing your children (RUN NIGGERS!!)
RUN NIGGER!! – RUN like you run, when the liquor store’s closing at Saturday night
Run nigger, cause time is running
Run like time never yielding or forgiving
Moving forward, in a direct pattern of percussive movement
Never warning or relinquishing
Time, is running running running RUNNING RUNNING RUNNING
TIME’S DONE RUN OUT

 

Run Nigger

In fact it seemed to these ‘Poets of the Street’, that the work that had gone to bring about change had come to nothing.

Even the “Revolution” promised by the Black Panthers had amounted to nothing.

One reason they could see for this stalling of action was that although the Afro Americans talked about Revolution, at heart they had no real desire for revolution.

In the minds of the Last Poets, Niggers Are Cured Of The Revolution!

But hang on!!!

On the original vinyl release of their first album – “The Last Poets”, the track is listed as “Niggers are SCARED of the revolution”*

[* My capitals]

cream of the crate cd review #8: the last poets – the legend: the very best of the last poets
Track listing as per the original vinyl album – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

What gives?

When and why was the track re-labelled?

Umar Bin Hassan

 

Here are the last few stanzas of this long track – Niggers are Scared (cured) of the revolution

Niggers are players, niggers are players, are players
Niggers play football, baseball and basketball
while the white man cuttin’ off their balls

When the nigger’s play ain’t tight enough
to play with some black thighs,
Niggers play with white thighs
to see if they still have some play left
And when there ain’t no white thighs to play with
Niggers play with themselves

Niggers tell you they’re ready to be liberated
But when you say ‘Let’s go take our liberation’
Niggers reply: ‘I was just playin’
Niggers are playing with revolution and losing
Niggers are scared of revolution

Niggers do a lot of shootin’
Niggers do a lot of shootin’

Niggers shoot off at the mouth
Niggers shoot pool, niggers shoot craps
Niggers cut around the corner and shoot down the street
Niggers shoot sharp glances at white women
Niggers shoot dope into their arm

Niggers shoot guns and rifles on New Year’s Eve
A new year that is coming in
The white police will do more shooting at them
Where are niggers when the revolution needs some shots!?
Yeah, you know. Niggers are somewhere shootin’ the shit
Niggers are scared of revolution

Niggers are lovers, niggers are lovers are lovers
Niggers love to see Clark Gable
make love to Marilyn Monroe
Niggers love to see Tarzan fuck all the natives
Niggers love to hear the Lone Ranger yell “Heigh Ho Silver!”

Niggers love commercials, niggers love commercials
Oh how niggers love commercials:
“You can take niggers out of the country, but
you can’t take the country out of niggers”

Niggers are lovers, are lovers, are lovers
Niggers loved to hear Malcolm rap
But they didn’t love Malcolm
Niggers love everything but themselves

But I’m a lover too, yes I’m a lover too
I love niggers, I love niggers, I love niggers

Because niggers are me
And I should only love that which is me
I love to see niggers go through changes
Love to see niggers act
Love to see niggers make them plays and shoot the shit

But there is one thing about niggers I do not love
Niggers are scared of revolution

Niggers Are Cured Of Revolution

The Last Poets are also scathing on the scourge of drugs and the many Afro-American that have taken solace in the ‘dreamy’ world that they provide.

This is a world where they don’t have to face reality – except, when the drugs, particularly heroin, is no longer available.

Then the “Jones’ have got them, and they are coming down – hard!

“Jones Coming Down” – (n) A craving for something. It is said to come from Jones Alley in Manhattan where junkies used to live. E.g.: “Baseball Jones”: needing baseball, “Love Jones”: a dire craving for someone, “Jonesing for some MJ”: wanting some marijuana.

This is one track – Jones Comin’ Down, is where the percussion backing does more than just provide a beat.

When you are coming off hard drugs, the pain is unbelievable. Just listen to Lennon in “Cold Turkey“! His Jones were definitely coming down!

You are alone, because no one-else can take that ride with you, and so we find the percussion has a hard edge to its tone.

It is relentless, no dance beat, no happiness – it is pain. The delivery is done by someone who if not having experienced ‘cold turkey’, has certainly witnessed it many times.

This is not a song of celebration, it is not a song of pride – it is telling the cruel hard reality of the street black who is hooked!

The lyrics are not pretty, but I just love the irony at the end where ‘he’ cries, “I’m gonna be freee, freeee, freeee, freeeee, freeeeee!

But the exclamation mark is, an ironical, “REALLY?”

Day breaks
Got the shakes
Nose running
Joint dripping
Mind slipping
Body aches
Jones coming down!

Got an attitude
Fighting mad
Feeling bad
Funeral sad
Another 24 hour drag Man,
I needs me some scag

Jones Comin’ Down

As much as I favour the material from the first album, I do need to acknowledge the other material on the CD.

In fact tracks #15 to #28 are all from the second album, This Is Madness, released in 1971, the following year of the release of the album The Last Poets.

Mind you it is not unsurprising that the second album does in fact have a similar feel to the first and features

  • Jalal Mansur Nuriddin a/k/a Alafia Pudimpoet
  • Omar Ben Hassen poet
  • Nilaja percussion


Track #22 is the stand-out in my mind. The White Man’s Got A God Complex
– Here is a selection of the lyrics from this track so read them through and you can see why the ‘white man’s got a god complex’!

Silent niggas scream for help
Aaah!! Help me! Help me!
Nigga, make your own help
Shit, you need it
I turn around and hear the sound
Of jukeboxes playing in bars
Pimps parked outside in big pretty Cadillac cars
Cleaner than a broke-dick dog
Sitting in a big fine hog
Dressed very fine in a mohair silk vine
But Jim Dale’ll die next
Cause the white man’s got a god complex

Hey, my man, uh, I wanna cop a nickel bag
You say all you got is skag
Wow that’s a drag, cause uh
I don’t wanna cop no
Dope is…death next
Cause the white man’s got a god complex

I’m making guns!
(I’m god!)
(oh god!)
I’m making bombs!
(I’m god!)
I’m making gas!
(I’m god!)
I’m making freak machines!
(I’m god!)
Birth control pills!
(I’m god!)
Killed indians and discovered him!
(I’m god!)
Kill the Japanese with the a-bomb!
(I’m god!)
Killed and still killing black people!
(I’m god!)
Enslaving the earth!
(I’m god!)
Done went to the moon!
(I’m god!)
Oh god!
Oh god!
Oh god!
Oh god! oh god!
Oh god!
Oh god! oh god!
Ohgodohgodohgodohgod
Oh gggggggggggaaaahhhhhhhhhd!
(spelled backwards is DOG.)

The White Man Has A God Complex

Disk # 2 is titled The Real Rap Masters

This is the period where the move was away from the sparse percussion backing to a more full-on rap sound.

This involved developing a more involved instrumental backing!

It does work despite my preference for the early style. By now the Last Poets were relying very much on the writing of Suliaman El Hadi and Jalaluddin Mansur for most of the lyrics.

The track Mean Machine was originally released on their second album, but was revised for this “Rap Period”.

Having listened once again to this revised version I had to acknowledge that it is very well done.

Just how impersonal can life get when you are not inside “the circle” – the circle that is under the dominance of those with the resources.

To those, and there are many of all colours, who are dominated by those with resources and power, life is presented as a fete accompli. Nothing should be questioned, nothing should be challenged. Free thought should be killed!

Automatic push-button remote control, Synthetic Genetics, Command your Soul!

John Steinbeck, in East of Eden understood!

Once in a while there is a man who won’t do what is demanded of him, and do you know what happens? The whole machine devotes itself coldly to the destruction of his difference. They’ll beat your spirit and your nerves, your body and your mind, with iron rods until the dangerous difference goes out of you. And if you can’t finally give in, they’ll vomit you up and leave you stinking outside–neither part of themselves, nor yet free…They only do it to protect themselves. A thing so triumphantly illogical, so beautifully senseless as an army can’t allow a question to weaken it.

Check it out!

Mean Machine

Look it’s hard to argue with value when it comes to a CD that has 38 tracks.

Certainly this is the case when the majority of those tracks are excellent. Remember, they come from a period when anger was not a manufactured commodity. These lyrics really hit home.

Like a number of albums I have reviewed, this group – The Last Poets, is not for everyone’s taste.

But if you want a very good selection of material from a true ground breaking group that said it as it was (still is?) without missing the best tracks, or having to collect multiple albums, then this is the way to go!

Fifty years after they were first recorded it is still an intense experience. Born in the ephemeral worlds of the street comer and the popular record, their passion, anger, wit, irony and style have survived entirely unscathed.

It’s availability, or lack of surprised me. I could only find a few copies, mostly in the USA, and they are from about Au$35.00 upward (inc postage). 


VIDEOS:

Sadly there appears to be almost no live footage of the Last Poets from those early years in the 1970’s. It wasn’t until many, many years later when it became de rigueur to approve of the Last Poets, that the fame came and with the fame, video footage.

 

Made in Amerikka

 

A Snippet from the 1st album “When the Revolution Comes”

 

The Last Poets ‘Niggers are Scared of Revolution’, live at Band on the Wall


 

Previous Cream of The Crate Albums:

 

To view/listen the first 50 vinyl album reviews just click the image below –

cream of the crate cd review #2 : robert johnson – the complete recordings

 

Click to open the following CD reviews:

#1. The Fugs: The Fugs First Album

#2. Robert Johnson – The Complete Recordings

#3. Bob Dylan – Biograph

#4. Robin Trower – Essential

#5. Various Artists – Sixties Down Under Compilation

#6. Various Artists – The Big Ol’ Box of New Orleans