The Last Poets—This is Madness LP 1971
Txt: Daniel Salas
Proto rap? The second album by the Last Poets, This is Madness, is a straight forward attack on the social political issues of the time. Formed in 1968 on Malcolm X’s birthday in Harlem, New York, their name was taken from a poem by revolutionary/poet from South Africa Keorapetse Kgositsile.
Strong followers of the civil rights movement’s Black Nationalist sect, the group were a fierce voice with an agenda to create and incite a fire of awareness of the injustices to African Americans and social issues in America, culminating up to that point in the late 60s and early 70s into literally, madness. The Social climate was unstable riddled with violence and racism, and African Americans were fed up.
Known for being one of the earliest forms of what hip-hop would become, The Last Poets had a heavy message that mainly spoke to African Americans specifically, with song titles “Black Is,” “Black People What Y’all Gon’ Do” and “White Mans Got a God Complex.” The message was clear—kill whitey.
Armed with a steady groove of percussive instruments, the poets in the group rhythmically speak their mind with cynical themes, raising awareness in the African American consciousness. Laying down the groundwork for what would become hip-hop, the album has heavy beats that stay consistent, much like hip-hop would later structure out, layered with a rhythmic attack on strong poetry. The songs are passionate and angry.
The Last Poets influence on hip-hop and music as a whole is immense. They were huge on 80s outspoken rappers NWA and Public Enemy in lyrical approach to social consciousness and explosive delivery. They paved the way for a lot of hip-hop artist in the 80s and 90s that took the same approach; intelligent self awareness of your environment.
Although the album is fairly obscure, their music seeps in the samples of future hip-hop artist—the song “Time” was sampled by Tribe Called Quest on their song “Excursions” and Digable Planets sampled “Black is Chant” on their song “Escapism (Getting’Free).” The long list of artist that have sampled The Last Poets include old school alumns 2 Live Crew, X-Clan, Intelligent Hoodlum and Snoop Dogg, along with more modern artist such as Madlib, Krumb Snatcha and Showbiz & AG.
As a whole, modern day music lacks depth, and real substance is hard to come by, dug deep in the underground. It still exists, not to say that there isn’t any entirely, but the oversaturation of mediocre and bland music prevails and overshadows the good stuff, dummed down to sell more. Music along with other mediums is no longer a source for inspiration or artistic adventure; it’s what’s on in the background while life is passing by. But that’s where This is Madness came from anyway and pretty much stayed, was in the underground, but it is always there ready to be discovered.
Although they are virtually unknown to the mainstream listener, true hip–hop heads and record snobs know who they are and give the group much respect for setting the template. This record would have had a parental advisory sticker if it would’ve been released in the 80s.
Visit Fusion Magazine´s Spotify profile and listen to this full album.