Thursday, September 25, 2008

Playlist: Last Poet, standing

Umar Bin Hassan may be the best spoken-word artist in America.

With the legendary Last Poets in the early 1970s, Umar cut such incendiary tracks as “Niggers Are Scared of Revolution” (click here to listen) and “This Is Madness.”

During the 1980s, he got caught up in crack addiction. As Umar told me in a 1993 interview: “[A] little selling here, a little smuggling here. I was dancing to the piper, I had to pay the price.”

Emerging in the early ’90s with a revived Last Poets, Umar recorded under the auspices of star producer Bill Laswell. The rage of youthful discontent was replaced by an aching maturity. Rappers now treat him as an elder statesman.

Umar Bin Hassan (born Jerome Huling) has created “street poetry” of tremendous passion, honesty and grace over the last 15 years... often for other people’s projects.

If you’re into funk, jazz, hip-hop or poetry, please take the time to hear the tracks below.

1. “Dark Matters” – Duminie DePorres/Theo Parrish

One of Umar Bin Hassan’s best pieces ever can by found on the 2007 album “Et Tu Brute” by Duminie DePorres (a Detroit funk guitarist) and Theo Parrish (a house DJ from Washington, D.C.).

2. “Bum-Rush” – Leon Mobley & Umar Bin Hassan

This track is from Umar’s 2005 album-length collaboration with percussionist Leon Mobley, who has studied and taught drumming all over the world.

3. “Always the Drums” – Slagerij Van Kampen feat. Umar Bin Hassan

I don’t know how he hooked up with the Dutch drum band Slagerij Van Kampen. But this short piece from SVK’s 2005 live double-CD illustrates Umar’s worldwide rep.

4. “Inevitable” – Watusi Tribe feat. Umar Bin Hassan

In 2007 Umar was a guest on “The Knuckle Up LP” by the Cincinnati hip-hop crew Watusi Tribe.

5. “Sacred to the Pain” – Axiom Funk

From the 1995 release “Funkcronomicon,” produced by Bill Laswell, this track features Funkadelic guitar god Eddie Hazel. The music was recorded shortly before Eddie’s death in 1992. Umar’s poem is a séance, a communication with the departed. It is sorrowful. And beautiful.


Dollar Bill said...

Cool,hadn't heard some of these.

Jalal Nuriddin(Lightnin' Rod) still is my top ranked L.P. for his other work,but all the poets are foundation figures for me.

Undercover Black Man said...

^ I have a fantasy of turning "Hustler's Convention" into a movie... with actors performing those toasts as if it were Shakespeare's iambic pentameter.

Dacks said...

I remember when Ed O.G & the Bulldogs w/ Umar came out with "Easy Comes Easy Goes" in the mid 90s. It was that rare track that actually stopped people from bouncing and forced them to listen hard to the lyrics. Even KRS could never do that at his peak.

And yeah, Hustler's Convention as a movie or a stage production would be incredible.

Dollar Bill said...

We've had this conversation before David as we both had parallel and mutual dreams regarding Hustler's Convention.

However,getting the rights,seems to be in vain for someone low level like myself.

But it's good to dream still.

Undercover Black Man said...

^ Oops. Pardon my memory lapse, Dollar.