Rap Pioneer Jalal Mansur Nuriddin Of The Last Poets Has Passed Away At 74

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Jalal Mansur Nuriddin, one of the members of the Spoken Word group The Last Poets, has passed away yesterday (June 4). The native of Fort Greene, Brooklyn was 74.

The Last Poets have released a statement on Nuriddin’s passing:

“It is with extreme sadness and a heavy heart that the family of Jalal Nuriddin announce the passing of this great pioneer of the recording industry. A member of the Last Poets, and also known as ‘The Grandfather of Rap’, Jalal slipped quietly away this evening into the arms of Allah. The family asks that you respect their privacy at this time, and refrain from all calls and contact. Details regarding his jananza (funeral) will be forthcoming shortly. They ask that you make dua for Jalal especially during these last 10 days of Ramadan. Thank you.”

The Last Poets are a collective of poets, artists and musicians from Harlem’s Writers Workshop who blossomed out of the late 1960s Civil Rights movement, contributing countless social and political pieces concerning Black nationalism. The group was started by Felipe Luciano, Gylan Kain, and David Nelson in 1968, but eventually broke off into different iterations and subgroups, sometimes led by Umar Bin Hassan, other times with Jalal Mansur Nuriddin. The Last Poets are named after poet Keorapetse Kgositsile, the father of Earl Sweatshirt who passed away earlier this year, who was convinced he was part of the last era of poetry before guns would take over.

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Jalal Mansur Nuriddin’s most notable contribution is his spoken word album, Hustlers Convention, released under the pseudonym Lightnin’ Rod. The album blended, Funk, Jazz, poetry, and toasting, and told the harsh tale of two hustlers named “Sport” and “Spoon,” and their untimely fate. Released in 1973, the record’s instrumentals were backed by Kool & The Gang (according to Rolling Stone), and featured Nuriddin delivering a rhythmic, monotonic vocal style called “jail toasting.” The record was a major influence on artists in the Black community who saw the technique as a potential way of making music that depicted the real-life experiences of youth in New York City.

Since its release, it has been sampled, referenced, and influential on artists such as Wu-Tang Clan, Beastie Boys, A Tribe Called Quest and Kendrick Lamar. In an interview with The Guardian, Fab 5 Freddy recalled how seminal the Hustlers Convention record was for him. He told the publication: “I memorized it and would recite it to friends on my block, then someone told me it was based on a record. I stumbled upon that and passed it on. Hip street guys like [Grandmaster] Melle Mel would know about it. I could hear the influence in their raps.”

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Fab 5 Freddy described Rap “as a long, broad road with a wide group of contributors, going back generations. Hustlers Convention is one of the little-known pieces in the puzzle that deserves to be heard.”

In 2014, 40 years after its initial release, Jalal Mansur Nuriddin performed the entirety of Hustlers Convention live on stage at the Jazz Cafe in London, alongside The Jazz Warriors. Director Mike Todd and executive producer Chuck D created a documentary film on the forgotten roots of Rap, starring Jalal Mansur Nuriddin, and describing the history of The Last Poets.

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Jalal Mansur Nuriddin was a devout Muslim, practitioner of acupuncture, and an advocate for the martial arts – specifically practicing Bak Mei. He was a seminal figure in pioneering the sound of Hip-Hop as we know it today. Ambrosia For Heads extends condolences to The Last Poets, as well as friends and family of Nuriddin.