Last Poets | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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This show should bring some historical perspective to the current rap-music furor; it may also refamiliarize contemporary audiences with the affirming message of liberation that lies at the roots of the form. The Last Poets were, along with Gil Scott-Heron, among the most important chroniclers of the urban revolt of the 60s and early 70s. Buoyed by a propulsive African polyrhythmic base, their readings were unabashedly revolutionary--fierce yet laced with profound love and hope for the future. They fused incendiary rage ("Die, Nigga!!!") with a tender solidarity forged in the anguished fire of day-to-day ghetto experience ("Little Willie Armstrong Jones"). These, by the way, are the "original" Last Poets, not the aggregation that recorded on Douglas Records circa 1969-'70, although lyricist Abiodun from this second group, whose "Wake Up, Niggers" was featured in the film Performance (with Mick Jagger), will be on hand to provide historical continuity. The Poets bill themselves these days as the Fathers of Rap; their reemergence is a hopeful sign that this modern urban folk form may yet live up to its potential and become a vehicle for meaningful social change. Saturday, 8 PM, International Room, Kennedy King College, 6800 S. Wentworth; 559-1212 or 324-0494.

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