Freedom of speech is something that has been promised to Americans since the American Revolution. At one point in time, however, African Americans were not given that same right. During the 1960s and 1970s, a group of men in Harlem, New York, decided to voice their opinions in the form of poetry.

The Last Poets said what few other African Americans would say. They told stories that reflected on the urban political consciousness of the Black Power movement and tackled issues everyone in their community could relate to. Started by Jalal Nuriddin (also known as Lightnin’ Rod), the group created a sound that opened the door for a new genre of music: hip hop. They inspired a generation of pioneers such as KRS ONE, Mc Lyte, Ice T and Chuck D.

With different rhyme schemes and effects such as rolling dice, gun shots, laughter and slamming doors, The Last Poets’ 1973 album Hustlers Convention provided a soundtrack that told a story without any visuals. It painted a picture in your mind, a picture that was vivid and that could take your imagination on a joy ride.

Throughout director Mike Todd’s documentary Hustlers Convention, which gives background information on Jalal Nuriddin and the rest of the group, you see various animations that bring the sounds to life and show a different outlook on the music from what you might have envisioned. This is one documentary that hip hop fans of all ages should see.


Watch Hustlers Convention this Sunday as part of Reel Harlem, the Historic Harlem Parks Film Festival — July 19, 6:30 PM ET at St. Nicholas Park, 135 St. Plaza & St. Nicholas Ave, New York, NY.  Co-presented by Maysles Cinema, the People’s Film Festival and NBPC!