Credit: David Corlo Getty
Jalal Mansur Nuriddin, one of the founding members of The Last Poets passed at age 74 on Monday after struggling with cancer. Nuriddin was originally credited as Alafia Pudim when he, Umar Bin Hassan and Abiodun Oyowele emerged with their self-titled debut album in 1969 and This Is Madness in 1970. Alan Douglas, who was Jimi Hendrix’s producer, had signed them to his Douglas Records. The Harlem based group brought fiery poetry about Blackness in America with rhythm and no restraint. Miles Davis and Quincy Jones always remembered them and Gil Scott-Heron as their first time hearing rap.
Nuriddin served time in prison after running with a gang from his Fort Greene, Brooklyn neighborhood and took an offer to leave early if he joined the military. He did not stay in the army long before he was dismissed with an honorable medical discharge and returned to New York. A job working as a stenographer on Wall Street-inspired his 1973 Hustler’s Convention solo album. The 2015 documentary named after the album explored its influence on rap with commentary from Chuck D, MC Lyte, Nelson George and Ice-T.
Nuriddin’s music with The Last Poets and his Hustler’s Convention album is why he is called The Grandfather of Rap. Several artists from the world of hip-hop have given them credit for innovations. They have appeared on albums from Common, Nas and Public Enemy. John Singleton gave The Last Poets a cameo appearance in his 1993 film Poetic Justice. Nuriddin broke away from the group in ’93 after recording six albums with them. He reunited with them in 2008 and they all appeared in the documentary Made In Amerikkka. After living in Europe for many years he returned and was living in Atlanta and working on his autobiography written in rhyme at the time of his death. Abiodun Oyowele, Umar Bin Hassan and Baba Donn Babatunde just released The Last Poets’ 2018 Understand What Black Is.