1971, Music

This Is Madness (1971) by The Last Poets

I don’t have the context for this record: I’ve never heard their debut album and the only other contemporary spoken word I’ve heard is Gil-Scott Heron, and I’ve only heard records that came out a little bit later. So I really, really don’t know how to judge this.

It’s crazy to me that nobody knew what to do with this stuff and so some people labeled it “jazz.” Sure, there’s some mild similarities to the backing music to some of these tracks and what was happening in jazz at the time. (And this is much stronger in Heron’s music.) And I guess there might have been some kind of symbiosis between the jazz community and what these guys were doing. (Maybe they were performing at jazz clubs. I have no idea.) But it’s still fascinating that poetry backed music had to be categorized as “jazz” because we as a society lacked the language to give it a new name.

The lyrics are full of good lines and it’s easy to see why people were drawn to this stuff. I can’t comment on how similar they are to the debut, as I’ve never heard the debut. But I do understand the criticism that this is just “more of the same.” I just don’t know.

It’s still a long way to rap – it’s considerably less musical most of the time and it does feel like the music is incidental a lot of the time. There’s clearly a long way to go.

But it’s still enjoyable for the lyrics and it’s a fascinating historical document. It feels like it must be before the time when this kind of thing merged with sound systems (or whatever) to actually produce hip hop. (Or, perhaps, that was already happening, but only in a few places.) Yet another reminder I need to read a book or watch a documentary about the history fo hip hop.


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