One of the things that I always loved about coming of age in Columbus, Ohio is running into Umar Bin Hassan of the Last Poets randomly at the now-defunct Monkey's Retreat Bookstore. He hung out with Carl who owned Roots, and Adrian Willis aka DJ True Skills, who ran a Hip Hop boutique called Thieves World in the late 90's/early aughts.

I bumped into Umar in late November at the New Harvest Cafe & Urban Arts Center and we had a conversation about Isis, how he got down with the Last Poets, and Kanye West.

Umar had this to say about Isis, “The greatest Jihad is called the Jihad al-nafs. That's the struggle with your own demons. Your own gins. Anyone can go out talking about killing other people.Beheading other people. It's about who you are. What position are you coming from?”

A few weeks later, the shooting occurred at the Eagles of the Death Metal show in France.

So he turned out to be prophetic as a poets often are.

Umar is the guy who wrote “Niggas is Scared of Revolution” “Whitey on the Moon” and so many important proto-rap poems of the 60's and 70's Black Liberation Movement.  You might know Umar from the Last Poet's appearance Common's 2005 song “the Corner” which was nominated for a Grammy.

Umar is from Akron. He met the Last Poets when they performed in Antioch. “We were the young nationalists at the time. We were walking around with guns and camouflage...I ran into Abiodun Oyowele of the Last Poets at the desk. He said ‘I'm from New York. I'm from New York.’ I pulled up my jacket. Because I had a 45 and 38. I told him ‘you either checking in or you checking out’…So when the Last Poets hit the stage they were like ‘who is that crazy mother fucker at the security desk.’”

Although, Umar was strapped and ready to overthrow any power stopping him. He was mesmerized by the Last Poets music.

“It just overwhelmed me. The force of the drums and the words.” recalled Umar.

“After the concert we talked. I said, 'I want to do what you’re doing.'”

The Last Poets invited him to New York to read at a loft called the East Wind.” This was in 1969. He went home, and a riot occurred in Akron. So Umar knew it was time to leave.

Umar pawned his sister’s record player and took a bus from Akron, Ohio to New York with no money, a pair of jeans, and book of poetry.

Abiodun Oyowele of the Last Poets told crowd Umar had just come up from Ohio and it was up to the to decide if Umar would become a Last Poet.

Umar said the poem went, “Malcolm was a motherfucker. Martin Luther King was a motherfucker.”

Dun said, “You can be a Last Poet. But you ain't doing that motherfucking poem again.”

In 2016, Umar's still continues to record music, hang out in Columbus, and has influenced some of Hip Hop's bright stars always.

I asked him Umar his take on his influence of hip hop: “These young kids. They were from Chicago. Their parents were into the movement at the time. Some were Nationalists. Some were involved with the Black Panther Party.”

Umar went to Chicago and linked up with Kanye and Common.

“Kanye is a brilliant boy. He has so much stuff going on at one time. Kanye is out there. And Common is just a nice guy. They showed a lot of respect.”



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