more from
Studio Rockers

Understand What Black Is

by The Last Poets

  • Record/Vinyl + Digital Album

    Includes unlimited streaming of Understand What Black Is via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.
    ships out within 10 days

      £27 GBP or more 


  • Compact Disc (CD) + Digital Album

    Includes unlimited streaming of Understand What Black Is via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.
    ships out within 10 days

      £10 GBP or more 


  • Streaming + Download

    Includes unlimited streaming via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.

    Immediate download of [numtracks]-track album in your choice of high-quality MP3, FLAC, or just about any other format you could possibly desire.
    Purchasable with gift card

      £8 GBP  or more




This is The Last Poets' 50th anniversary year, and they've celebrated it with an album that matters - not just musically, but as a record of the times we're living in. The Last Poets are weathervanes, warning of the future and past sins in poems that are indivisible from the rhythms they're voiced on. Think warriors reporting from the battlefield; but their work is also a test of our own courage, because are you ready to receive what they're saying? And is your heart clean and strong enough to withstand the truth?

These ten tracks speak of their own journey, and that of a revolutionary struggle largely defined by race when The Last Poets first came together at an event commemorating Malcolm X in East Harlem's Marcus Garvey Park during the spring of 1968. That initial line-up, comprised of Dahveed Nelson, Gylan Kain and Felipe Luciano proved short-lived and it was a trio of different voices that would secure their legacy with a debut album, 1970's Last Poets, that sounds just as radical and challenging today as it did nearly fifty years ago. Two of their members from that time, Umar Bin Hassan and Adiodun Oyewole, still wear the mantle of Last Poets. "Back then, I wanted to see everything burned and people hanged. I wanted to see riots," says Abiodun, who's from Queens in New York, and took over from Nelson in 1969. He was missing from their follow-up album This Is Madness, after being jailed in North Carolina for armed robbery. "Each of The Last Poets has their own stories about problems with the law," he reflects. Umar, who wrote the title track of This Is Madness, was next to leave. He was living in Brooklyn by then, and struggling with substance abuse. Speaking on the phone from his home in Baltimore, he makes the point that their poetry wouldn't have the same impact had their resolve not been tested along the way, and there's an unassailable truth to this.

He was replaced by Suliaman El-Hadi, who went on to record a series of albums with Jalal Mansur Nuriddin (aka Lightnin' Rod) as the The Last Poets. The last of them was Freedom Express in 1988. Two years later and Bill Laswell invited Umar to record a solo album called Bebop Or Be Dead, with backing from musicians like Bernie Worrell and Bootsy Collins. In Umar's own words, "there would be no second coming of The Last Poets" without this album, on which he'd revisited This Is Madness and Niggers Are Scared Of Revolution. He and Abiodun, soon to record his own solo album 25 Years, revived the name The Last Poets for the nineties' albums Holy Terror and Time Has Come, again produced by Laswell. Such releases were well received but then little was heard of The Last Poets for another twenty years aside from Claude Santiago's film Made In Amerikkka, which documented a one-off reunion concert in France, commemorating their fortieth anniversary. That's how it is with The Last Poets - unseen forces govern their actions, and it wasn't until Donald Trump was elected US President and a renewed struggle for America's soul began that they stirred once more.

After Abiodun and Umar had resurrected the group and they'd started doing shows together, UK producer Ben Lamdin contacted them about doing some recording and sent them a few rhythm tracks that he'd got from Prince Fatty, whom he knew from their time in Brighton. Fatty's speciality is old school reggae and dub, which he records using seasoned UK session players such as Horseman and Dub Judah, who play drums and bass respectively. That's how the foundations were laid, at Fatty's Brighton studio on Blackman Street. Ben then added horns arrangements with help from his band Nostalgia 77 and set off for New York where he, Umar and Abiodun met for the first of two recording sessions.

"When they listened to the tracks they were really blown away," says Ben. "I think they were surprised to hear themselves in that context basically, because everything they've done before is resolutely American in terms of the sound and what they've been talking about. What we ended up with was a mixture of American poetry and jazz, Jamaican rhythms and African drums. It was as if Mingus and Duke Ellington had got together and stopped over in Jamaica..." Umar confirms that it was the first time the Poets ever voiced on reggae rhythms. "It's amazing how the music has opened up new avenues and taken us somewhere else," he says. "Reggae is such a deep music because it envelops your words; it closes around them and gives them a whole new meaning."

The first track they worked on was a statement voiced with absolute certainty by Abiodun, who'd previewed the same lyrics at that fortieth anniversary show in Paris ten years earlier. "America's a terrorist, killing the natives of the land," he intones. "Killing and stealing has always been a part of America's master plan to control the earth and everything on it. To divide and conquer is all they wanted." It's a vivid expose of America's collective psyche and if his words cause hearts to flutter, it's in recognition of the truth although the real danger would be to disregard what he's saying, and not act whilst we can still make a difference. The other tracks voiced at that first session - held at the studio of a friend in lower Manhattan - include How Many Bullets which bridles with defiance as Abiodun works through a litany of injustices suffered by black people in the US. "You tried to blow my brains out with bigotry. Chopped off my wings so I couldn't fly free. Took my drum, broke my hands, yanked my boots right up out of the land and riddled my soul with Jesus." A repetitive chant of, "You can't kill me. Can't you see?" mocks his oppressor, but with no loss of dignity. Tracks like this go beyond social commentary, just as the opening Understand What Black Is transcends ethnicity. "Understand what black is," he urges. "It's the source from which all things come." He explains that it's not a colour, but the basis of all colour, and it's nothing to do with complexion either. "Black is a hero, not a villain. Black is the essence, sealed with a kiss."

Abiodun also wrote What I Want To See, which describes a utopia - a refuge from hurt and those who'd make "our vision blurred, and our faith obscure." As the music builds in intensity, horns and chanted harmonies arrive together, "No prisons, no locks, no keys..." "I know the music I want to hear," he continues. "I know the air I want to breathe. I know the love I want to feel." He uses imagery like that found in old time spirituals for The Bridge - a song of transition that he wrote for the Poets' second recording session with Ben. Label boss Tony Thorpe, who'd previously worked with KLF, joined them on that occasion.

For the most part, the Poets voiced over readymade rhythm tracks although this wasn't always the case. Umar's North East West South happened the other way round because he voiced it first, and then the horns were painted in afterwards. A little-known album of Prince instrumentals called News inspired the words and prompted Umar to draw parallels between their respective childhood experiences.
"That poem took me about a year to write," he says. "I just kept writing and writing but not getting too far and then I heard that album and the musicianship was amazing. I was left wondering if it was jazz, classical, rock or maybe something new but all those images that I write about came to me from listening to that album. I loved Prince in that movie Purple Rain because my father was a talented musician but he was into brutalising Mama at times and in the movie there's a Jerome and my name is Jerome, so it was like he was telling my life story as well."
Umar was raised in North Akron, in the Elizabeth Park projects. His father spent time in jail, leaving him and his seven brothers & sisters in the care of their mother and grandparents. Umar dedicated Bebop Or Be Dead to his father, who he says was born in "the wrong family, in the wrong place and at the wrong time."

"My father and I were constantly arguing. As a matter of fact one time I nearly killed him when he was taking his anger out on my mother. I went and got this hatchet and I was going to take him down but I knew that if I did that, I'd surely kill him. My mother saw me and stopped me because she was scared that I'd do it for real, but Prince also had issues with his father because his mother was white and in the movie, his father was always blaming her for not believing in him. He'd beat her and one day Prince got in the middle of it, just like I did except I’ve come to realise that I am my father the musician, and I am those sounds that he never got to bring to the world.”

Umar's father played trumpet, and he'd often sit in with visiting musicians whenever they came to town. His quartet played local clubs such as Roxy's Cafe in North Howard Street, where his son also worked. Umar used to shine shoes there from the age of eight and he'd be out until midnight, hustling small change from the patrons at Roxy's, the Tropicana, the Hi-Hat and Joy's Lounge... It was after leaving the projects at fourteen that he became an avid reader, which then led to him meeting Fred Ahmed Evans and joining the Black United Front. He first met The Last Poets in 1968 at the Black Arts Festival in Yellow Springs, Ohio, whereupon he underwent an epiphany of sorts. Several months later and he arrived in New York "with just twenty-two cents, a book of poetry and a pair of jeans in a brown paper bag." The three original members had left by then. Abiodun found him a place to stay and invited him to become a Last Poet, along with Jalal. Their aim was to politicise the black community, and raise people's revolutionary consciousness. "Wake up niggers or you're all dead," they warned. Abiodun, speaking in Claude Santiago's film, says that the Poets set out to "de-nigger" black people, and free them of their slavish mentality. "We were raw. We didn't give a damn. We just came at you raw!"

When Umar joined them, they used to meet at a place in Harlem on the corner of 125th Street and Lenox Avenue called East Wind. A Black Arts movement had formed in New York made up of activists, musicians, artists, fashion designers and writers like Amiri Baraka, who Abiodun describes as "a major influence and a true mentor of The Last Poets." It was 1969 and jazz, like poetry, was an integral part of the struggle. The Last Poets hosted workshops and events at East Wind featuring jazz musicians such as Sun Ra, Pharaoh Sanders and Archie Shepp, who shared the same cultural and political aims. Umar and Abiodun have continued to celebrate music in their poems ever since. It's a love that's deepened with age and encompasses every stage of black music's development, from ragtime, jazz and blues to artists like Prince and Jimi Hendrix - music that "gives credit to who we are and where we come from." She Is traces the development of that music from its inception in New Orleans' Congo Square, which is renowned as the birthplace of jazz. "It's a place where the slaves could go and enjoy a free day," Umar explains. "They'd come together, play music and dance... The music then spread to places like Chicago and Detroit and took on different forms as people went from being slaves to sharecroppers and then factory workers. Music has been part of our lives as black people from the beginning and it's played a vital role in our survival as well." His story begins with "the rage of the overseer, ripping and shredding" before the music emerges as a healing force, and spawns "secret songs of the Mississippi delta." The rhythm's based on Don Redman's thirties' jazz tune, Chant Of The Weeds, complete with shifting textures and colourful harmonies. It's an unlikely candidate for a reggae treatment, but then few rules apply at a Last Poets' session.

Abiodun, who grew up listening to his parents' gospel and jazz collection and has a good singing voice, also writes powerfully about music. Take the lyrics of The Music for instance, in which he refers to the drum as his "heartbeat."
"I started out with the blues, because I had been abused so I created medicine to ease the pain, so I wouldn't go insane. I found a way to heal my soul, in spite of what I was being told. I created a new world of sound, to pick me up when I was down."
Abiodun, formerly known as Charles Davis, attended a Yoruba temple in Harlem from the age of fifteen, and forged a deep, spiritual connection to its teachings that have continued to serve him ever since. Umar has studied Islam and urges us to rediscover our capacity for love in Certain Images, despite warning how "the stink of conspiracy fills the air." He wants us to believe this simple act of faith can save humanity, and talks about a "resurrection of our minds" in We Must Be Sacred, promising that "the phoenix will come from the flames this time."

"We can't change without love," he insists. "Love is the most important thing in the world but first of all we must understand how to make love a fact, because it's not there to play with. Love is everlasting, and you have to hold it and protect it and keep it strong because you can't quit. You've got to believe in what you're doing and try and make the world a better place because when I was a little boy, I'd see the bar room brawlers, the pimps and the prostitutes... Basically, what I learned is that people just want to be appreciated and that's what I try and hit upon in my poetry. I try and see what they're searching for and then I have to hope that whatever comes out of my mouth helps them to feel good, and I'm giving them the respect they deserve."

John Masouri


released May 18, 2018

A Nostalgia 77 & Prince Fatty Production. All tracks Produced by Benedic Lamdin & Mike Pelanconi. All tracks written by Umar Bin Hassan, Abiodun Oyowele, Benedic Lamdin, Mike Pelanconi, Dub Judah, Winston "Horseman" Williams & Riaan Vosloo.

Mike Pelanconi Published by Because Music. Umar Bin Hassan, Abiodun Oyowele, Benedic Lamdin, Dub Judah, Winston "Horseman" Williams & Riaan Vosloo Published by Copyright Control.

Rhythms recorded at The Ironworks, Brighton. Horns Recorded at the Fish Factory, London. All arrangements by Riaan Vosloo. Horns conducted by Riaan Vosloo. Vocals recorded in NYC at Moon Studios & at 68 Jay St. Engineers: Eber Pinheiro & Sean Amery. Mixed at Evergreen Studios, London.
A&R'd by Tony Thorpe.

Mastered by Frank Merritt at The Carvery, Leyton, London.

Artwork by New Analog Design ( Layout by Rich Elson. Liner notes by John Masouri.

Thanks to Lisa Mead at Apples And Snakes for helping out.

Umar Bin Hassan would like to thank:
I want to thank the Creator of all the Worlds and my ancestors for allowing me to stay around to get this done.

Abiodun Oyowele would like to thank:
Thank you to my mother - Mattie Mae Dawson, my niece Juanita, my sister Anita and my children Pharoah, Obadele, Aina, Ebon, Sowande, Donjiman and Ademola. I would also like to thank all the mother's of my children – Biji, Ayisha, Pepsi, Nayo and Kathy - they did the work.

Thanks also to Donn Babatunde, the heartbeat of the group.

The Musicians:

UNDERSTAND WHAT BLACK IS / HOW MANY BULLETS / SHE IS / WHAT I WANT TO SEE / CERTAIN IMAGES: Drums - Winston "Horseman" Williams. Bass - Dub Judah. Guitar - Kashta Menilek Tafari. Piano & Hammond - Carlton "Bubblers" Ogilvie. Piano - Ross Stanley. Percussion - Lenny Edwards & Afla Sackey. Trumpet - Alex Bonney. Flute - Gareth Lockrane. Clarinet - Lluis Mather. Bass Clarinet - George Crowley. Tenor Saxophone - James Allsopp. Baritone - Sam Rapley. Trombones - Trevor Mires, Tom White & Adrian Hallowell.

NORTH, EAST, WEST, SOUTH: Drums - Winston "Horseman" Williams. Bass - Dub Judah. Guitar - Kashta Menilek Tafari. Piano & Hammond - Carlton "Bubblers" Ogilvie. Piano - Ross Stanley. Percussion - Lenny Edwards & Afla Sackey. Trumpet - Percy Purseglove & Rory Simmons. Flute - Gareth Lockrane. Alto & Baritone - Jason Yarde. Tuba - Andy Grappy. Tenor Saxophone - James Allsopp. Trombone - Trevor Mires.

THE BRIDGE: Drums - Winston "Horseman" Williams. Bass - Dub Judah. Guitar - Kashta Menilek Tafari. Piano & Hammond - Carlton "Bubblers" Ogilvie. Piano - Ross Stanley. Percussion - Lenny Edwards & Afla Sackey. Trumpet - Percy Purseglove & Rory Simmons. Flute - Gareth Lockrane. Alto & Baritone - Jason Yarde. Tuba - Andy Grappy. Tenor Saxophone - James Allsopp. Trombone - Trevor Mires.

WE MUST BE SACRED: Drums - Winston "Horseman" Williams. Bass - Dub Judah. Guitar - Kashta Menilek Tafari. Piano & Hammond - Carlton "Bubblers" Ogilvie. Percusion - Lenny Edwards & Afla Sackey. Bass Clarinet - James Allsopp. Additional vocals - Shniece Mcmenamin.

RAIN OF TERROR: Drums - Winston "Horseman" Williams. Bass - Dub Judah. Guitar - Kashta Menilek Tafari & Graham Coxon. Piano & Hammond - Carlton "Bubblers" Ogilvie. Piano - Ross Stanley. Synthesizers & Rhodes - Matthew Bourne. Percussion - Lenny Edwards & Afla Sackey. Trumpet - Alex Bonney. Flute - Gareth Lockrane. Clarinet - Lluis Mather. Bass Clarinet - George Crowley. Tenor Saxophone - James Allsopp. Baritone - Sam Rapley. Trombone - Trevor Mires, Tom White & Adrian Hallowell. Additional vocals - Shniece Mcmenamin. Backing Vocals - John "Segs" Jennings.

THE MUSIC: Drums - Winston "Horseman" Williams. Bass - Dub Judah. Guitar - Kashta Menilek Tafari. Piano & Hammond - Carlton "Bubblers" Ogilvie. Piano - Ross Stanley. Percussion - Lenny Edwards & Afla Sackey. Trumpet - Percy Purseglove & Rory Simmons. Flute - Gareth Lockrane. Alto & Baritone - Jason Yarde. Tuba - Andy Grappy. Tenor Saxophone - James Allsopp. Trombone - Trevor Mires.

P 2018 Studio Rockers
C 2018 Studio Rockers


all rights reserved



The Last Poets New York, New York

contact / help

Contact The Last Poets

Streaming and
Download help

Redeem code

Report this album or account

Track Name: Understand What Black Is
Understand what Black is
The source from which all things come
The security blanket for the stars
Understand what Black is
It is not a color
It is the bases of all colors
It is not a complexion
It is a reflection
Of all complexions called human
And out of this Blackness
Passion flows like a river
Feelings tell the truth
Song and dance
And making you laugh
Are family members
Understand what Black is
The breath you breathe
The sweat on your brow
The cheers and the tears
Balancing the world on your head
Faith is the glue
That holds us all together
This is your Blackness
Not some horror story
Of lost souls drifting
Into the land of perversion
Blackness is love
Is a light shinning on a path
Leading to the Sun
Or caressed in the bosom of the moon
Understand what Black is
Power you must yield to
A force so strong
We try to sleep it away
A jolt to your circuits
That say you must be electric
And plugged in to the sockets of the world
Black is humanity
That beautiful chord
On a twelve string guitar
That makes you smile
That offers comfort
In turbulent times
Provides food
When there’s nothing to eat
A shelter when there’s no where to live
Black is humanity
Making hope stand tall and not wilt
Because Black knows
Did it before
Tested by fire
Washed in the waters of life
Black is hot
Black is cool
Black is wise
And could never be a fool
Understand what Black is
Black is a hero not a villain
Black is the essence
Sealed with a kiss
Black is the stone
We build our dreams on
A shadow at evening’s mist
Bigger than reality
Blending into the night
To let the Sun chill
And watch the stars dance
In rhythm to the music in our souls
Track Name: North, East, West, South
The news…. North, East, West, South.
Hard core Honky tonk of St. Louis
Jimi Hendrix soundings and rebounding
The cool slick slide of Chicago Bop
The suave and sexiness of Motown
The soft winds of a desert breeze.
The horns, the piano and drums.
Feeling astronomical, intergalactic.
The sound of sounds charming snakes.
The news… North, East, West, South.
The swiftness and elegance if a magic carpet ride
Veiled women teasing and tantalizing from the
outer fringes of the market place.
A sharp crisp military strut
Little drummer boys playing with big drums.
Innocent flirtations of the big band sound.
Some astral traveling. Blues and funk gone amok
Some Broadway and Hollywood sound
tracking down… the truth of this beginning.
How did it come to be.
The News… North, East, West, South.
Was it Jazz Prince? Was it classical?
Or was it just some of that Razz Matazz
from the upper tiers of your mind.
Back to the beginning...

Trudging through deep, deep snow
and blizzard like winds smashing up against your face.
Trying to get to somewhere, anywhere soon.
The sounds and rhythms of the machines in the factories
booming out there concertos to our receptive ears.
And we walked with that and we talked with that. It was our
swing and then our bop. The way we hipped and the way we hopped.
Our clothes, our style. That Motown Wile.
Those Midwestern challenges, that Midwestern funk.
Brothers and sisters huddled together. That burden of anticipation.
Your mother. My mother. Cowering behind fractured moments
And the illusion that blind devotion could solve the unsolvable.
Genius struggling against the brilliance of itself.
My father ... Your father ... musicians.
Talented creative ... productive ... and highly frustrated by the dead ends
and dead stops that impeded and curtailed their progression.
The future looking for someone to take it forward.
You took up that mantle and I took up that mantle.
and we never ever forgot where we came from .
A soft kiss of wine emboldens the passion.
A dimmed Red light eases the apprehension and doubt.
The Delfonics make their presence known.
The heat of the moment is so right up against the wall,
under the stairs, in between the washer and dryer where it
all becomes so juicy and wet. A promise. A proposition. A phenomena when those
basements started to grind. Those Midwestern challenges. That Midwestern funk.
That Church piano . . . on why don't you call me anymore. You could be church
Prince. That Sunday Morning solo. That voice that could bring the congregation
to the best of themselves. You could be that doo wop singer on the corner
holding and preserving the highest note of our pleasures and fantasies.
Was Warner Music a challenge? No ... Just a matter of time .
Was Purple Rain a challenge? No… Just your poetic rhyme.
Was all ... the music you created a challenge. No…Just the essence of your sublime.

The 2017 MTV awards. Sheila E coming down the aisle
Prince already at the altar. This night, this time,

This union will become a force. A direct assault upon our senses.
The audience had better check their immune systems.
They could catch cold. Because it’s about to become very ... very ... cool... up in here.
That soaring, guitar. Those scorching timbales.
See mommy, see Papi. You Brother ... Yoh Sister ... We
can do this, We are this. That High Order of Afro Cuban. African American
Musical collaborations. Thank you Dizzy. Thank you Chano. A marvellous
rendition of call and response. The meringue, the salsa, That Piano. The Horns
giving a shout out to their cousins of the Blues… the Jazz and the funk of
the dancers on stage giving credence to who we are and where we came from.
Music ... is the sound of Beauty... and you displayed and dispensed that beauty
as well as anybody Prince. A new symbol for your fans. Avid followers. Deeply
devoted believers in your talent and humanity.
Wherever you were was where they wanted to be. By bus by car by train By Plane.
And you mesmerised... you tantalised... you romanticised them with death defying acts of musical
genius. The speed... velocity... and depth of your splits and turns...
The acrobatic joyous atmosphere you brung to every corner of the stage. You were
that whirling dervish that baptised us in the name of feeling good about ourselves
while being at ease in the presence of others. You had that magic of
transforming Adults into gleeful little children. And we were okay with that
we could handle that. Because we could feel the love and respect you were sharing
with us as much as we were sharing it with you. You made us feel like
family. The Human ... family.
The women in your life loved you trusted you.
They allowed you to explore their passions ... their doubts ... their
moments of joy. And every moment that you were accepted into their presence
you always tried to make them feel ... big ... about themselves. They adored that
they cherished that. Because they knew that as long as you were trying
to love and accept them. Then you would truly learn how to love yourself.
Sleep well... Brave Prince ... for your deed and proclamations shall be forever
renowned throughout the land. And I pledge to you that with all my heart and
worth. I will try to make sure that no Purple Rain gets stuck in the clouds again.
Track Name: How Many Bullets
You Can’t Kill Me
You Can’t Kill What You Can’t See
Oh How You’ve Tried
To Blow My Brains Out With Bigotry
Chopped Off My Wings
So I Couldn’t Fly Free
And Dared Me To Be Me
Took My Drum
Broke My Hands
Yanked My Roots Right Up Out Of The Land
And Riddled My Soul With Jesus
You Who Filled The Mind With Dreams
And The Heart With Desires
You Called America
Called New York
Called California
Called Mississippi
Or The West
You With Your Red White And Blue Dress
Long Straggly Beard
Popped Belly And Soggy Eyes
Pulling Rabbits Out Of Your Top Hat
And Rats With Welfare Checks
Between Their Long Yellow Fangs
Play In Your Hair
And Your Disease Is Spreading Everywhere
But You Can’t Kill Me
You Can’t Shoot What You Can’t See
You Thought You Shot Malcolm
But All You Did Was Multiply His Power
You Thought You Shot Martin
And Black Folks Got Stronger By The Hour
You Thought You Blew Away
Four Little Girls In Birmingham
The Sweet Spirit Of A Lamb
Cannot Die Or Be Denied
Of Life Eternally
And We Shall Live Through All
The Barrages Of Madness
That Try To Shoot Us Down
In Full And Living Color
We Will Live Inspite Of It For
Clifford, For Mark, Fred, Otis
Zayd, Arthur, Mrs. King, For
George And Jonathan
And All The Brothers And Sisters
Who Were Sacrificed For The Price
Of Our Freedom
And Love For Living
And Dancing On Clouds
Sipping Sun Rays Through A Straw
We Live In Awe Of Ourselves
You Can’t Kill Me
You Can’t Kill What You Can’t See
Track Name: She Is
She is the Jaliyaa
She did not leave us to die in the burning and ransacked
Villages. The Mandinka and Fula.
She did not leave our souls to rot in the bellies of sharks.
The Tiliboo & Tiligi,
She picked us up and out of the bile and vomit and the blood of our prayers
streaming profusely down the sides of our faith.

She landed us gently on our
new beginning while clothing our nakedness in the shadows of her smile. She
was our death and resurrection of Jesus began
a strange and difficult existence in the crack of the whip. In the rage of the overseer.
In the lashes shredding and cutting into his Virgin birth.

The primitive, The primitive and crudely crafted
drums throbbing and pulsating, and contradictions dancing,
and she is chanting whose children are· these?
Moving and feeling through the high register and
subtle words of New Orleans.

And the Red, And the Green, And the Yellow
Bandanas flowing and strolling High in the Wind.
Some called it Spanish. Some called it Creole. Some called it French.
She called out Bamboulal.
Congo. Calindal. Ju Jun
The Ring shout. The Circle dance. A free day.

Some free time, Some free time to call on our science.
To call on our Mathematics. To construct our Cipher to genius.
To self-image. To memories. Moving in and out of this counter clockwise motion.
Swaying in Rhythm. Feet stomping the earth. Swaying in time.
Feet stomping the earth.
Answers back: in the voices of our choirs
Our Churches, Our Gospel is where she baptised us in the harmony,
in the melody of Field songs, work songs
and secret songs of the Mississippi Delta and the blues,
Striking a familiar chord in the
Clickety clack. Clickety clack. Clickety clack of the train wheels moving
us up North to Memphis and the honky tonks.
To Kansas and the boogie woogie.
To St Louis and the rag time.
And to Chicago and the funky sound
of our circular breathing that taught us how to swing
and to sing in the scat of jazz and the Razz matazz,
of be bop and the developing magic of Hip Hop.
And the Blood of Biggie. And the tears of Tupac forever resting in her sound.
She is our Music. She is
She is our Dance.
She is our Art.
She is our Freedom.
She is,
She is,
She is.
Track Name: What I Want To See
What I Want To See

Having seen the afterbirth
Of an aborted soul
And the blind eyes
Of a volunteer slave
Lost in the obedience of their worth
Having felt the hurt
Of hearts not beating as one
Tossed around like rubber balls
Only to bounce back in our faces
Making our vision blurred
And our faith obscure
Having heard the screams
And the frantic sirens of a cry for help
For a child on fire
A drowning man
And a woman consumed by hate
Having smelled the stench
Of a rotting heart
An infected mind
And contaminated thoughts
Of how we treat each other
Having tasted the stale bread
The spoiled milk
The rancid meat of a meal
Not fit for a dog
I know what I want my senses to feast on
I know the music I want to hear
I know the air I want to breathe
I know the love I want to feel
For all good people and things I see
I want to see touch taste hear and smell
The freshness in the air
The integrity in our hearts
The determination in our will
To make this world a better place
To make the rain wash clean our souls
And quench the thrust of a dried out existence
And make us believe
All things are possible
And God however you call him or her
Has never left your side
I want to see the sun smiling
And watch him caress the moon
And give her stars to wear in her hair
No prisons no locks no keys no killings no laws
To control the free of us
But a paradise a heaven on Earth
Where everyone can sing and dance
To their own music
And we live only to bless each other
Track Name: Certain Images
The stink of conspiracy fills the air. Devious eyes open in
the park. Searching, groping, looking for ways to enslave.
Shoot them, stab them, choke them, kill them. These traits,
these values, these fantasies that have left us wallowing in
the realms of distortion. Look at all the wildflowers smiling
secretly from the cracks of their souls. Looking at life
through one way mirrors. Guarding their tenderness,against
attacks from themselves. Gaming in the eyes of
dissatisfaction. Finding comfort and compassion in the
sanctuary of Mastercharge. Three cheers for the almighty
dollar! Dark clouds on the horizon. Understanding is being
dashed against the rocks. The ripples of the sea are bringing
forth blood. We must cling to the sun blades of the past. We
must find ourselves in the warmth of a lover's kiss.
struggling to feel. Struggling to breathe. Struggling to stay
a human being. Long live the truth! Long live the truth!
Where is the wind? Who has taken the wind? I can't breathe
this foul air. An air that reeks with the stench of death.
come back Mali come back Songhay! We need you. We need lovers_
who can smile the sunlight into our own darkened futures. We
need lovers who can kiss the strength into our own wasted
bones. We need lovers who can calm the raging nights with the
softness of their sighs. There is music playing somewhere I
can hear it. There is music playing somewhere I can hear it.
A moan. A cry. A scream. There is music playing somewhere I
can hear it. The children patronize a flaming merry-go-round.
Many are riding the white horse. They nod so divinely at a
lost paradise. Their ghostly playmate has left their
innocence in shambles. A whirlwind has stolen their humility.
What smile is this upon their face? A smile that mourns the
obscenity of their youth. No flowers for them to smell. No
grass to sing the praises of nature. No blue skies for them
to bathe their hopes in.

Truth smiles its glory to us. Can't you see
that it is time for us to move on. For there must be
struggle. There must be striving. The chill in the wind is so
terrifying. Why is it getting so cold in the valleys of our
struggle. Do not think it will be easy. For it will not. For
we are talking about bringing humanism back into the world.
There will be lies. There will be traps. there will be
opposition from all sides. Do not think it will be easy, for
it will not. But there must be struggle and striving.
Struggle and striving. Struggle and striving and Peace!
Track Name: The Bridge
The way over,
The way out,
The bridge.

I’m In The Jungle
Going Through The Bushes
Stepping Over Rocks
Passing By The Animals
Resting Against Trees
In Search Of The Bridge
That Will Take Me To The Other side
I Was Told There Was A Bridge
Made Out Of Wood And Rope
They Say It Is Safe
Strong Enough To Withstand My Weight
It Leads To The Other side
A Place Unlike This Place
A Place Of Peace And Promise
Of Calm Tides And Bright Sun
Where People Greet Each Other
With A Smile
Where Children Can Play
Without Being Hit By Stray Bullets
There Are No Guns There
Money Does Not Exist
There Are No Gadgets
People Look Into Each Other’s Eyes
When They Speak
Everywhere You Go
You’re Greeted With A Warm Smile
I Must Find The Bridge
So I Can Leave Where I Am
So I Can Save My Life
And Live Without Barbwire Fences
Without Walls And Pitfalls
And Attitudes With The Stench Of Hate
I Need To Find The Bridge
So I Can Breathe Fresh Air
And Drink Clean Water
And Meditate To The Music
Mother Nature Has Composed
Track Name: We Must Be Sacred
Trapped in the skylines of florescent charms, Warm and timid
touches being forced into unnatural acts. Tears turning into
delicate muscles that caress the night wind telling it of the
truth, telling it of the pain. Aren't we all so very human.
Look, look here comes the baddest dude on the block. And I
turn around and see neatly dressed Death walking down the
street. Charming all the grownups with a terrified smile
while handing out chocolate-covered crack lollipops to the
children. Where have all the down studs gone? Long time
passing. Jive whispers from neon lips. Eldorado dreams in
stagnant colors. Rich men dancing with limp dolls in the
luxury of their shame. Their mouths foaming with dead
languages while democratic lies bay at the moon. Why must the
dark ages still play games with us? Blind sprinters lost in a
moment of a peaceful masquerade. Evil is an intruder but why
do we let it in? We have no one to blame but ourselves. We
listen to the rhythm, but we never hear the musicians. We
elevate and praise the wise men but get lost in their wisdom.
We feel the passion and truth of the poets but kill them with
thunderous applause. Is there anything not sacred anymore? Is
there not anything not sacred anymore? Honesty, justice,
freedom. Freedom, justice, honesty. All being devoured by
western imitations of life, liberty and the pursuit of
happiness is drowning out the tears of deception. If I ... If
we ... had a power so tender as time maybe then we could wipe
this savage onslaught from our minds. The children dream from
the twilight of indecision. We must make their dreams come
true. Let us begin to talk to the brighter days with our
eyes. The night belongs. to the softness of our hearts. The
new circle is beginning. Will we be there when it ends? We
used to wonder why the ocean danced so childishly before the
eyes of expression. We used to understand why the grass
sighed so mysteriously from the days of winters gone by. Look
back fallen lovers. How far have we come? How much further do
we have to go? Life will never be the same. It may never
again be perfect. It may never again be beautiful. But we
must try at least to make it normal. To be poets and sing
out the joyous resurrection of our minds. To be poets and
charm the emptiness of this anticipation. To be poets and
comfort this gentle grief of our souls. To be poets and bring
sunshine to the mutiny of these meagre days. Peace will dance
with creation in the sadness of our beings and everyone's
uniqueness will fall like rain from the eyes of God is a
friend. The phoenix will come from the flames this time.
There will be no ashes to ashes. Love must be there when the
dust clears! Ally ally outs in free! Ally ally outs in Free!
Track Name: Rain Of Terror
You are a terroriser
That's why you're the terrorist,

America is a terrorist
Killing the natives of the land
Killing and stealing
Have always been a part of America’s master plan
To control the earth and everything on it
To divide and conquer is all they wanted
America’s a terrorist
Killing the buffalo that roam the plains
Killing and slaughtering animals was turned into a game
Giving blankets contaminated with small pox
To the natives who were here
The beginning of germ warfare
The beginning of white fear
No respect for the land the trees or the air we breathe
And Christianity was an excuse
To bring others to their knees
America’s a terrorist with a slave system in place
To take away the humanity of a darker race
Put people in chains
Then beat them with whips
Made them give up their names
Those who survived the slave ships
America’s a terrorist
Chewing tobacco and eating swine
Being mean and nasty to those who treated him kind
Take a pregnant Black woman
Cut her belly open and let the fetus fall out
Stomp the baby in the ground
To instill fear is what that was all about
Gang up on a Black man
Hang him from a tree
Cut him down then set him on fire
For everyone to see
America’s a terrorist
With a Howdy Doody grin
Using the bible to keep others in check
While America commits all the sin
Thou shall not kill
That’s not part of the American dream
Because to kill is a thrill
They love to show on your TV screen
Romance the gun just for fun
Drop a bomb just for charm
This is the American way
And all of this talk about equality justice and peace
Spewing out of the mouths of theses governmental beast
But every time Blacks tried to find a way to do for self
American terrorist weren’t having it
And fear is all Black folks felt
Rosewood was a town where Blacks tried hard to thrive
White folks burned it down and many Blacks lost their lives
Now there was town in Oklahoma called Black Wall Street
Blacks had homes a bank lots of money
And stood strong on their own two feet
But now you see the Whites nearby were jealous
And just couldn’t stand seeing Blacks do so well
So they drop not one but two bombs on the town
And created a living hell
America’s a terrorist
Feeding off racism and greed
Not caring not sharing
But enjoying watching people bleed
Every time Jack Johnson fought and beat a White boy in the ring
White mobs would kill Blacks at random
Because a Black man was boxing’s king
And all the wars we fought
To try to win respect at home
But when the war was over Blacks where never treated like they belong
But rather the subjects of experiments
At Tuskegee and other places
For over four hundred years
Blacks have lived in fears of the vicious cruelty of the racist
Tried to march for justice
And the civil right to be treated fair
Attacked by dogs and fire hoses
Beaten by police
Forced to live a life of total despair
Bombed a church in Birmingham
While the children were in Sunday school
Took the lives of four little girls
Yes this terrorist was just that cruel
American terrorism is like a virus
That’s home grown and spreads across the planet too
Selling guns and chemical weapons
Gift wrapped in red white and blue
Soldiers boys selling guns
For hard drugs in exchange
It should be obvious by now that this country is deranged
Yet we stand and pledge allegiance
To a flag that brings lots of grief
And singing that war song every day
Is Americas only belief
America’s a terrorist
And no one wants to admit
Pointing the finger at others is the ironic part of it
Dropped a bomb in Philadelphia
To wipe out an organization named MOVE
Killed unarmed women and children
Because the police had something to prove
And all the Black Panthers trying to help their community
Wiped out by the FBI for trying to create Black unity
Put drugs in the hood
Set folks up for no good
Kept unemployment high
Education is laced with lies
Turned the people against each other
Made money more sacred than your mother
Caused an avalanche of grief
By trigger happy police
Locked the Black man up in jail
Made him think he was born to fail
And no place are you safe
If you have a darker face
Henry Dumas, Amadou Diallo Michael Griffin Yusef Hawkins Anthony Baez
Clifford Glover, James Bird just to name a few
died at the hands of American terrorist
No terrorism here, Ain't a damn thing new,
The CIA The FBI the Michigan militia the KKK
And the police from coast to coast
Are the real American terrorist
And the government is the host
So now America is ready to engage in world war 3
Because what goes around has come around
But you can’t kill what you can’t see
Track Name: The Music
Backing {the music, the sound of life all around}

I am the master of song
I am the music,
No you can’t use it

I started out with the blues because I had been abused
So I created medicine to ease the pain,
So I wouldn’t go insane
I found a way to heal my soul,
In spite of what I was being told
I created a new world of sound,
To pick me up when I was down.
You see I have a relationship with god.
So creating spirituals isn’t odd,
It is as natural as the land
For me to try and understand
Why every day I’m crucified.
But my dreams won’t be denied.
I sang and prayed the day would come
When I’d be shining like the sun
I gave the world a song
That everyone could sing along.
I am the living faith.
Dreams come true,
You don’t have to wait.
Everyone wants to sing like me.
I guess they think it will set them free.

So I created rag time, when money made us poor.

Then I created jazz, and opened a brand new door.
I was Joplin and Satchmo,
Creative geniuses of my day.
Creating sounds to enhance the moment
Of what where trying to say.

I am the master of sound.
The whole world hears me well.
The love I shares clear.
I’m the soundtrack of heaven not from hell.
Through my music
I can take to a place where life is bliss
And all that I’ve created I have sealed it with a kiss

I can scat and rap, sing gospel, reggae,
Rock n roll, bebop and hip-hop too.
Salsa, samba or rumba,
Is what I was born to do.
You see I put some rhythm with my blues,
Because the drum is part of it too.
I come from Mother Africa,
Where music is how we speak.
The drum is my heart beat.

I am the music
No you can’t use it

If you like The Last Poets, you may also like: