A Brief History
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According to legend, the South African poet little Willie Kgositile, arrived in New York n 1968, where he joined the Harlem based, black writers workshop which was called the "East Wind" and was located in Harlem, N.Y. (the unofficial black capital of America). Little Willie, who had fled from the racist apartheid regime in South Africa, had written a poem, and in the poem, he said: "That this was the last age of essays and poems, and that guns and rifles, would take there place, so therefore, we are the last poets of this age. " The poets who were in the workshop all concurred that they were the last poets, in the figurative sense of the words. Little Willie left shortly thereafter, and reportedly went to Zimbabwe, leaving the poets in their workshop, contemplating and working on how to articulate what it meant to be last. Not that was difficult at all, since as a people, historically, the black population in America had always been "last." But in whatever endeavour they were allowed to participate in, the two most well known professions being entertainment and sports, they excelled and became first and foremost in those or any other particular field that they were permitted to engage in. So from the time that the Africans were brought to the shores of America to the present, they have had to historically struggle for recognition. Competing against the dominant society, as well as each other, they had to "strive to stay alive".
The Last Poets, became wordsmiths and hammered the feelings of their people, and eventually all oppressed people in the world, into the shape and scope of the struggle between despair and hope. After many personnel changes, the longest performing and active members of the group, honed the artform into a vehicle of total expression, which is today called rap and hip-hop. But the price that they had to pay for introducing their artform (Spoagraphics) to the world, would cost them their lifetimes, and for some members their lives.
They were the first rap group to be acclaimed by the people and went on to sell a million records by word of mouth, although they were the last to be acknowledged by the recording industry, who sold their records on the down-low, without the benefit of advertising and promotion, and continue to do so, for thirty years on since the group was first formed.
In addition the Last Poets, were originally a collective, that granted itself the right to come and go as they pleased. The two members who opted to stay together for the longest period of time, managed to record six albums, publish one book, and briefly perform in one movie which starred Janet Jackson and Tupac Shukur, which was entitled: "Poetic Justice"
The Last Poets, though, never intended to get into show business, and considered their commercial popularity to be divine providence.
Thus, the two most active members, continued to evolve the artform, individually and collectively, for twenty-four years, until they became literally and figuratively the "Grandfather's of Rap." In the beginning,The Last Poets consisted of Gylain Kain, Abiodun Oyewole, David Nelson, Felipe Luciano, Omar Bin Hassen, Jalal Nuriddin & Sulieman El-Hadi. Due to conflicts in style and content, they performed in various combinations with each other, or not at all, until such time as a suitable cohesive lasting unit could knit together, in complimentation as opposed to competition, and Jalal and Sulieman emerged as rhyme partners for almost a quarter of a century. Together they developed the science of making sense out of non-sense until Sulieman passed away on October 3, 1995.
Because rap and hip-hop is performed today in rhyme, that unit of the Last Poets, are considered to be the pioneers of today's rap, and the "hip in the hop."
Today, Jalal, the sole remaining member of that unit, has evolved the artform to the bard level, and after having recorded his first rap record with Jimi Hendrix in 1969, he continues to develop his own style of spoetry, which he calls "Spoagraphics" as a separate development in his evolution, and doesn't mind being "Last but not least". In as much as his objective as an artist has always been to master his "axe" a piece of advice given to him by Max Roach, in the early days of his career.