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Last Poets, their legacy, Obama and rappers like Nas

by Daniel Brown

Article published on the 2009-01-16 Latest update 2009-01-17 17:15 TU

Omar Hassan

Omar Hassan

World Tracks continues its exploration of the world according to The Last Poets. This pioneering collective from Harlem talk about the challenges of forging their musical poetry in the 60s and 70s. Omar Hassan, Abiodun Oyewole, Jalal Nuriddin and Babatunde outline their exchanges with rappers like Mos Def. And they map out their hopes for Barack Obama.

The Last Poets and their legacy

16/01/2009 by Daniel Brown

The founders of the Last Poets - Omar Hassan, Abiodun Oyewole and Jalal Nuriddin, came together in Paris to watch the world premiere of Made in Amerikkka. The documentary is a powerful reminder of the Last Poets and their lasting influence on hip hop.

Abiodun Oyewole

Abiodun Oyewole

Forty years and over 20 albums later, they were re-united at a festival in the Paris suburbs - Banlieues Bleues. The veteran film-maker Claude Santiago, who previously entertained us with portraits of Compay Segundo and Carlinhos Brown, mixed in concert extracts with moving exchanges, to demonstrate their poetic verve and engaging visions.

In last week’s programme, World Tracks discovered what kind of emotions the new documentary invoked in the Poets, who were joined in Paris by percussionists Babatunde.

Abiodun Oyewole

Abiodun Oyewole

This time round, the four artists tackle issues such as Barack Obama's victory in the US presidential elections, the Latin influence on their music, and the new generation of rap artists who have been inspired by their work - artists like Nas, who they've collaborated with.


But music is not their only job. Oyewole continues to teach at Columbia University, and is a consultant for New York’s Board of Education.

Omar Hassan lives mainly in Baltimore where he continues to work as a poet, but also looks after his grandson.

Babatunde has been teaching music at the Harlem School of the Arts and working with various New York bands.

Jalal Nuriddin, meanwhile, is regularly spotted in Aix en Province where he is developing a new form of poetry called spoagraphics. He hopes to write a book about his career.

Hopefully its release will concide with the 40th anniversary of his first rap album, recorded with Jimi Hendrix in 1969.

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