Tag Archives: Roger Robinson

A Guide to Spoken Word on Bandcamp

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Tanesha the Wordsmith

In May 2018, The Last Poets celebrated their 50th year with a new LP, Understand What Black Is. Back in the late ’60s, the group used politically charged raps and militant rhythms to raise black consciousness and spread awareness throughout Harlem, Manhattan. At the same time, in a different part of the city, Gil Scott-Heron was using his own barbed verse to attack consumer culture, mass media, and systemic racism, setting spoken word poetry to steady-boiling free jazz. And while spoken word verse had been around for centuries—think back to the storytelling of 13th century griots in the Mandé Empire of Mali, West Africa, or even further back to the original wordsmiths of Ancient Greece—Heron and the Last Poets were among the first to see its value as a popular art form, and a way to comment on the turbulent world around them.

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