The Last Poets

The Prime Time Rhyme of the Last Poets, Vol. 2

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The Prime Time Rhyme of the Last Poets, Vol. 2 compiles a smattering of tracks from the Last Poets' mid-'70s and '80s albums, and it serves to unearth some unfairly neglected cuts from the group's less famous era. "E Pluribus Unum" is as scathing an excoriation of American society as anything in their catalog set to minimalist African beats, while "Tranquility" has a thick massive wall of jazzy pianos and saxophones to back its message of self-empowerment. Also included is the three-part "Beyonder" suite from Delights of the Garden, an impressive showcase of both the band and guest drummer Bernard Purdie. The real gems, though, are the cuts rescued from the Poets' Oh My People and Freedom Express. Recorded long after the band's commercial fortunes (such as they were) had waned and the group was viewed as relics in the wake of the hip-hop explosion, the albums were ignored, unjustly since the Last Poets had lost little in the intervening years. "What Will You Do?" musically and lyrically could easily fit on the classic This is Madness album, and the ferociously jazzy "Tough Enough" actually benefits from the group's advanced age, since the usual rage about social injustice is tempered with enough hard-won wisdom to strip away any of the self-righteousness that sometimes marred earlier Poets cuts. The last song, 1988's "Unholy Alliance," is a very long history of Europe's colonization of Africa that never seems boring even at 12 minutes. Prime Time Rhyme uncovers some ignored classics from the Last Poets, and fans who don't already own the albums containing these selections should seek it out.

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