To find out about the roots of the music we hear on radio today, you have to go back, way back and what a way to find out more about the true birth of Hip Hop than by talking to the originator of the spoken word/rap form from the Grandfather of Rap himself Jalal Nuriddin.
Many of you may not have heard of Jalal, but this man is a legend in the eyes of many hip hop artists from its golden age of the 80’s. It’s time we heard this man’s story and this comes in the form of documentary Hustler’s Convention, which is also the name of his album which is hailed by Grandmaster Flash and Chuck D, been sampled by the Beastie Boys, Wu Tang Clan, and Nas, Hustlers Convention was the foundation for today’s hip-hop scene. The film tells the story of one of music’s buried masterpieces: the missing link between soul power and hip-hop, which gave its creator the right to claim his title as the ‘grandfather of rap’.
Tell our readers what Hustler’s Convention is all about?
Basically, it’s about the underground, common criminals, it’s about the trials and tribulations and various aspects of that underground, people who work all night sleep all day. The lives of ordinary people going through psychological hard times you know, by use of drugs, guns, having to go through prostitution and things like and how not to emulate them deeply but to understand why they do what they do. So it doesn’t have to be done that way. But because of work, school, capitalism, depression and all of that can contribute to technological society that we live in these people can’t cope.
Obviously it was Mike the Director idea to put the documentary together but was the decision behind that? Is it anything to do with the state of Hip-hop these days and it seeming to have lost its direction?
Hip Hop lost its direction a long time ago. When they took Hustler’s Convention off the market that’s when it lost its direction. It lost its direction because the record company executives got together and decided they didn’t want anything intelligent said in this offering and they wanted to invest money in this offering as it was selling underground. They wanted to be able to capitalise on that but wanted to control what was being said. They wanted to bankroll someone who was talking stupid and anything that was intelligent they wanted to marginalise and that will be the Hustlers in Hustlers Convention.
Tracks from Hustler’s Convention have been sampled by the likes of Wu-Tang Clan and Nas, but you haven’t made any money from it.
No. I haven’t. I have the copyright, but to take it to court costs a lot of money and I don’t have that kind of money you know. I live like a dedicated artist, I’m devoted to my work, and you can’t do this work if you spend too much time in pursuit of material things and pursuit of legal matters and things like that. I don’t have a lawyer to take this case on its merit.
Doesn’t it make you angry that people are taking your work, using your talent and making money from it?
Well the film will compensate for that, any proceeds will go to my family, I have the sequel and the prequel you see (this is in terms of the follow-up to Hustler’s Convention), and eventually I’ll kick some bad ass but I don’t like interfere in my evolution as an artist. I don’t deal with the emotion as it’s too self-destructive. So I go to righteous indignation so that’s a bonus. Being angry as an artist could lead to serious trouble, I like to stay focused.
Considering Hustler’s Convention is quite an underground album, it’s actually seen by a lot of people as the birth of Hip hop, how does that make you feel?
It makes me feel good, a real story has a beginning, middle and an end, Hustler’s Detention is the middle and Hustler’s Ascension will be the end. The standard will be high and anybody who has really got anything to say as far as rap is concerned has got to be a scholar OK. They have to be from the school of hip hop, They have to present and inform people no matter where they is you know what I’m saying.
Last year was actually the 40th Anniversary of Hustlers Convention and saw you perform it live for the last time at London’s very own Jazz Cafe (which is also in the film), Why did you choose to perform it here for its anniversary?
Well firstly because it had the name Jazz in it, and secondly Malek booked it as he knew the people who run it. You always know something hip is going to be going on there.
You was in The Last Poets? Tell our readers who you were and why you came together in the first place.
Well we got together by let’s call it divine destiny, everyone was working individually, it was a poetry workshop, a Blackman’s workshop in Harlem. They are still here, in the movie you see the mentor of the black ops. My real mentor was a jailbird whom I mention in the movie was a toastmaster. We came together and just connected and combined.
Your stage name was also Lightin’ Rod, Why?
First of all lightning rods conduct energy and it grounds you. Another is a lightning rod warns the community of danger.
You actually recorded you first rap record with Jimi Hendrix back in 1969, we can imagine this was a pretty big deal for you back then?
He heard the first The Last Poets album before it was released, he wanted to work with me because I was saying what he was creating, he chose me, he said he wanted to meet me and he wanted to do something with me. We got together and did something and he said listen, I don’t want to make no money from this, I want you to have this you can use my name as a referee.
I think today’s Hip Hop is nowhere near as good as it used to be, It seems to have lost its message in a way. What advice would you give to today’s Hip Hop artists?
Get the mess out of the age. We’ve got automatic age, electronic age, space age, nuclear age whatever, you understand? Get the mess out of the age, realise we are in a mess and we are in an age.
Hustler’s Convention opens in UK cinemas from 26th June.