The Last Poets

Marcus Garvey Park, East Harlem, New York. May 19, 1968. The late Malcolm X’s birthday. And The Last Poets first joined forces to become the founders of hip-hop and rap. Before rap had found its name, there was this group of idealistic, angry young men, reflecting the harsh spirit of their times with work that remains prophetic and inspirational to this very day. The Last Poets, as they became known, started out in the late-sixties in the United States, and spoke up about racism, poverty, and other predominant issues in the African-American community during the rise of the Civil Rights Movement.

Throughout the years, as the group’s members traded places, they always remained true to their identity as poets rather than musicians – both because of their mastery of language and their lack of financial success. The essence of the group seems to go back to spoken word and drums, to sociopolitical statements guided and intensified by
musicality and rhythm – in a way, back to the most ancient forms of musical expression.

The Last Poets paved the way for today’s hip-hop culture, and many rappers and musicians have been influenced by them and their work, to put their shoulders under the groep’s misson: Public Enemy, Mos Def, Erykah Badu, Kanye West and Common – to name but a few. Today, the “Godfathers of Rap” (as they are often called by those who acknowledge their legacy) are still active and continue to perform and inspire all around the world.