On the 50th anniversary of the band’s inception at an event in Harlem, NY to commemorate Malcolm X’s birthday on 19 May 1968, influential spoken word artists, poets and commentators The Last Poets are set to make a glorious and relevant return with their first album in over 20 years, ‘Understand What Black Is’.
Produced by Ben Lamdin (Nostaglia 77) and Brighton legend Prince Fatty, whose speciality is traditional reggae and dub production’s, ‘Understand What Black Is’ is a ten-track album which speaks of a revolutionary struggle defined by both race and identity, that has never sounded more relevant. Released on Studio Rockers, there will also be an accompanying single featuring remixes of the title track “Understand What Black Is” by Mala (South London collective Digital Mystikz) and UK Dance music innovators Dego and Kaidi.
Since the initial line-up of Dahveed Nelson, Gylan Kain and Felipe Luciano formed in East Harlem’s Marcus Garvey Park, The Last Poets have produced under various guises over the subsequent years. However, it was their seminal output, namely 1970’s ‘The Last Poets’ under both Umar bin Hassan and Abiodun Oyewole that secured their legacy, becoming one of the most important influences in early hip hop.
Throughout the last 20 years, the band have remained largely on hiatus. But their influence could still be felt with their tracks being sampled by The Notorious B.I.G, NWA, A Tribe Called Quest, Dr.Dre and Snoop Dogg. Umar has recorded various solo albums and featured on Common and Kanye West’s Grammy Nominated ‘The Corner’. Abiodun appeared on the Red Hot Organization’s album, Stolen Moments which was named “Album of the Year” by Time. He also conducts weekly open house poetry readings, where he constructively critiques upcoming poets, helping to nurture them. He has also conducted classes at Columbia University, where he teaches creative writing.
The inauguration of Donald Trump as US President in 2016 inspired Hassan and Oyewole to resurrect the group to create a brand new record, modern and edgy, and deeply relevant and reflective of our times.