The Last Poets

At Last

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It was the combination of poetry with almost-frighteningly intense rhythm tracks, mostly done on hand drums, that helped create the Last Poets' reputation for being way ahead of the curve on the entire development of what would come to be called rap music. This album has the feel of an earlier, less-developed session, and the 1976 release date most likely indicates the interest certain record labels might have had in locating any and all projects by these musicians while their fire was blazing so hot. This sounds much more like the typical jazz and poetry project, meaning it is kind of bad -- and that word is not used as a hipster might. The poets fall into the same kind of cadences that just about every poet performing with a jazz group has, which include a strained voice in order to be heard above the racket, a rushed sense of pacing trying to fit the words in somewhere between the arco bass doodles and honking sax, and an overall cadence that rises and falls as mechanically as one of Bob Dylan's most disembodied performances. That the poets have something significant to say and that they come up with amusing and even inspiring rhymes from time to time is a given, but there are much better examples of their recorded art. If this was truly recorded three years after the brilliant This Is Madness, it reveals the group's focus going fuzzy on them.

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