The Last Poets
On a winter day just outside Philadelphia The Last Poets and Jamaaladeen Tacuma gathered at the Ropeadope Room for an interview in anticipation of their new release, Transcending Toxic Times. The mood was light, a casual gathering over soul food with the label, the producer, and the poets themselves. We cued up the album, brought the sound up and walked through the final recording. It was the first time all three had heard the finished album, and the interview was soon put on hold as three men sat, transfixed and intent, leaning on every note and word as they walked through their memories and even their purpose. Dare we say tears were shed, and as we spoke with cameras rolling it soon came out that THIS was the definitive Last Poets album.
50 years ago Abiodun Oyewole was in the middle of it: vocally challenging both the oppressors and the oppressed. Looking for truth to be spoken at any cost, mourning the loss of Malcolm and Martin among many others named and unnamed in THE struggle of the time. A struggle that is more relevant today than it ever was as African Americans continue to press the nation for truth and equality. Dun met Umar Bin Hassan at a Black Arts event in Ohio, and Umar made the trip to New York to join the group. Baba Donn Babatunde showed up later, adding percussion to the poetry.
The history is strong, much has been written and is easily found. But the spirit of these men in their common creative interaction is the real story. 50 years of perseverance, of bearing witness to the most atrocious of crimes, 50 years of personal challenges and yet still and adherence to the higher principles of love, or respect, and of kindness to your fellow human.
Enter Jamaaladeen Tacuma. It takes someone who understand the essence of The Last Poets better than the poets themselves. A man who knows the history from the inside, but has a foot in the music world as well. Tacuma’s bass playing is refined, yet just as swinging as if it were not. But it is his role as producer here that elevates this album above all others. A knowledge of what people want to hear, an understanding of what the message is and how it MUST be delivered, and the skill and friends to blend the two. This is not poetry set to music, nor is it music made for poets. This is a seamless transfiguration of the groove, the words, and the essential human elements that live between the notes and the words.
Transcending Toxic Times is a broad work of human emotion: Anger, scorn, frustration, challenge, beauty, sorrow, love, and joy are all present. The spoken word is rhythmic, melodic at times. The baselines and the groove are irresistible, and the message is unavoidable.
On that winter day we witnessed the realization of four great artists: that their individual and collective contributions had transcended each of them and ALL of them. That they were in the presence of something definitive and transcendent.
‘…a steady funk groove led by Tacuma’s bass and Babatunde’s hand drums adds a sense of resilience. By the end, Abiodun has moved from a catalog of suffering to a message of pride and uplift’
Transcending Toxic Times
Release Date: May 10, 2019
Abiodun Oyewole | Poet
Umar Bin Hassan | Poet
Baba Donn Babatunde | Poet, Percussion
Wadud Ahmad | Poet We Are The Last Poets, Soul Reflection
Ursula Rucker | Poet Don't Know What I'd Do
Malik B | MC Young Love
Jamaaladeen Tacuma | Bass
Richard Tucker | Electric & Acoustic Guitar
Yoichi Uzeki | Keys, Viola String Arrangement
Khary Abdul Shaheed | Drums
Terry Adkins | Tenor Saxophone | Black Rage
Daud El Bakara | Trumpet | Love
Franz Niedermayer | Viola | Don't Know What I'd Do
Lady Alma | Vocals | Toxic Times
Wolfgang Puschnig | Saxophone | Toxic Times
Jake Morelli | Electric Guitar, Drums | Young Love
Tim Motzer | Electric Guitar | JuJu Jimi
Produced by Jamaaladeen Tacuma for Jam ALL Productions
Associate Producer - Rahima Tacuma
Co Producer - Jake Morelli on Young Love
Tim Motzer | 1K Studio (Philly),
June Lopez | Traveling Colours Music Studio (Philly)
Jake Morelli | JMoTone Studios (Philly) - Young Love
Jamaaladeen Tacuma | TSE Studios (Philly, NYC, Seoul, Korea)
June Lopez | Traveling Colours Music Studio (Philly)
Jamaaladeen Tacuma | Sound Genetics Recording Studio (Philly) -
Don’t Know What I’d Do
Jake Morelli | JMoTone Studios (Philly) - Young Love
Gregg Mann | Iconoclash Studios - (NYC) Soul Reflections
Gregg Mann | Iconoclash Studios (NYC)
Jamaaladeen Tacuma | Sound Genetics Recording Studio (Philly)
Cover Art | Sound Evidence
Photography | Sound Evidence
Packaging Design | Niko Marks | Kaya Marks
The Last Poets most recent recording brings their iconic poetry into a new light with musical accompaniment produced and arranged by internationally acclaimed producer and bass guitarist Jamaaladeen Tacuma. Produced in a live band classic studio recording style with no samples. Soulful grooves backing The Last Poets in a way never heard before. The Poets are bringing new work that reflects their years spent living in this world featuring tender moments as well as blistering bombs of social enlightenment. This album could not come at better time, in the recent past our society has witnessed many horrific events from War and Man Made Natural Disasters to Citizen turning against Citizen it is clear things have not changed much since 1968. The Last Poets words are as relevant today as they were then and even more so. Challenging the listener to wake up.
Who are The Last Poets today?
The Last Poets original members Umar Bin Hassan and Abiodun Oyewole along with percussionist Baba Donn Babatunde are heralded as the true godfathers of hip hop alongside late Gil Scott-Heron. Their brand of politically charged poetry has inspired some of the biggest names in music including Marvin Gaye, Funkadelic, Curtis Mayfield and Quincy Jones, all the way through to hip hop giants such as Dead Prez, Common, Public Enemy and Kanye West. The three core founding members of The Last Poets Abiodun Oyewole, Umar Bin Hassan, and Babatunde, The group recorded groundbreaking albums such as 'The Last Poets' in 1970, 'This Is Madness' in 1971, and 'Chastisment' in 1972. The latter fully introduced The Last Poets' mix of jazz and poetry, doing away with the minimalist percussion of earlier albums. The Last Poets enjoyed a huge resurgence in popularity from the early 1990s onwards, appearing alongside the Beastie Boys and A Tribe Called Quest on the 1994 Lollapolooza tour and collaborated with Common on the Kanye West produced track ‘The Corner’ which was nominated at the Grammy Awards in 2006 for Best Rap Performance. The huge impact made by The Last Poets’ words and music is still strongly felt until today.
“Creating this album was a labor of love. First of all working with Jamaaladeen is special. He allows you to relax and feel comfortable in the environment besides the fact that he is a first rate bassist.The Last Poets are poets reflecting the good the bad and the ugly of Black people. There is nothing more significant than to have an opportunity to produce an album with someone who has the same sentiments. I am very proud of this effort and I only hope those who listen will be proud as well. I want to give a shout out to my lady Judy who has passed ,but she is still guiding my every move and to all of my children Pharoah, Oba Ebon, Aina Sowande and Ade. They are my soldiers and my heart.”
- Abiodun Oyewole
Hip-Hop artist Malik B (Malik Abdul Basit) was a founding member of The Roots. He appeared on the first four albums released by The Roots, and returned as a featured artist on later releases. Malik B was featured on MC Solaar's 1994 album Prose Combat in a duet with the French/Senegalese rapper. Malik B also released a solo project entitled Street Assault which was created by Malik B and F.D.M.E's Emcee Haak Blast. Malik B's recent work includes a collaboration album with New York-based producer Mr. Green and being a featured member of the Philadelphia rap collective Beard Gang which includes fellow Philadelphia artist Freeway.
Ursula Rucker is a Philadelphia born poet, mother, activist and recording artist. She has been performing, recording and releasing works for over 20 years. Ursula has traveled and toured extensively, throughout North America, Europe, Asia, Australia, New Zealand and Africa…sharing her poetry…her heart and soul. She is dedicated to art as/for social change…and committed to freedom fighting, truth-telling and peace-(and a little trouble ;) making through her chosen art form.
Ursula believes in taking her art as far as it can go…whether it be through teaching ,activism, lecturing, conducting workshops, merging it with music and recording or rocking mics and stages.
To date, Ursula has released five solo albums (Supa Sista, Silver or Lead, ma’at mama, Ruckus Soundsysdom, SHE SAID)…as well as collaborated on over 100 songs, in a wide array of musical genres, with producers/artists from around the world (such as King Britt, Jamaaladeen Tacuma, Bahamadia, The Roots, 4 Hero, Jazzanova, Louie Vega, Incognito).
Ursula was awarded both the Leeway Foundation’s Art for Change & Transformation Awards. She is the feature of a documentary short called POET. In 2015, she successfully premiered her first one-woman show/live memoir My Father’s Daughter, and is still touring with it.
Most recently, Ursula is most proud of her Monument Lab piece “Logan Squared”, an epic poetic ode to her beloved city Philadelphia...as well as...Voices of Kensington, the poetry series she curates thru the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program...geared towards healing and giving voice to the Kensington community greatly affected by opioid addiction.
But the latest shining feather in Ursula’s cap...is being named a 2018 Pew Fellow.
Currently, Ursula is working on her 6th solo album, and planning her first book project...and always looking forward to making and sharing art with the people in as many ways as possible.
Wadud is an accomplished and legendary spoken word artist. He is a pioneer in Philadelphia’s spoken word scene and re-defined the spoken word mold with his debut CD entitled “No Additives or Preservatives.” Both the art scene as well as the non-art lover admired this work. His sophomore record, “Between Two Lines,” laid the blue print for how to essentially make a spoken word/ R&B record. The project included the likes of Jill Scott, Jamaladeen Tacuma, John Blake, Jean Paul-Bourelly, James Poyser (from the roots) and many others. Wadud has always pushed the artistic limits and capped off his recording trilogy with “The First Whisper,” which demonstrated the power of in your face lyrical content with ambient new age funk.
Over the years Wadud has performed or has been published with the likes of Sonia Sanchez, Amiri Baraka, The Last Poets, Gwendolyn Brooks, Gil Scott Heron and the legendary Roots crew. Wadud has appeared on several Roots albums and recently completed “Jimmy’s Back,” which is the brainchild of legendary Roots producer Dice Raw. “Jimmy’s Back” tackles the important issue of the mass incarceration of African American males throughout the US. Wadud provides the thematic voice on this project and challenges listeners to question their understanding of the root causes of the prison industrial complex. .
A true renaissance man, Wadud always believes in making the most of his limited time on earth. When he is not touring the world as an artist or recording music, he is a prominent Philadelphia lawyer and former Prosecutor who Co-Founded Ahmad, Zaffarese & Smyler, LLC.