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.