Album Review: The Last Poets – Understanding What Dub Is [Studio Rockers; March 2019]

The Last Poets need no introduction, yet I find myself being reintroduced to them through their album Understanding What Dub Is (released by Studio Rockers). With their origins in Harlem in the late 1960s and the early hip-hop community, their spoken-word poetry, merged with political activism, is a sound that has defined a generation and been sampled by contemporary artists, from NWA through to Kanye West. With this strictly-dub remix of the album Understanding What Black Is, Prince Fatty gives new insight into each and every song, through his succulent interpretation of an already poignant album.

Understanding What Dub Is no doubt had me bopping around the first time I listened to it, not simply because of the infectious beats of Prince Fatty, but because of the seamless melting of hip-hop and dub. Listen to the drumming on ‘We Must Be Sacred’ to truly hear the mesmerising mix of influences in the music. But what I find intriguing, and what truly stands out sonically about this album for me, is how their American accents sound within the dub tracks. Their spoken-word poetry in their accent seems to make the lyrics stand out all the more and is, therefore, both a reintroduction to The Last Poets and a new take on dub. Their voices have an intonation which mimics the up and down of the dub beat and finds new synchronicity between lyrics and music.

While sonically this album is interesting to listen to, I think the album is especially interesting, as it connects to the Afro-diasporic community. We have a hip-hop group from America, with a reggae/dub producer from Brighton remixing and putting a Caribbean spin on the album. In this respect, it is almost accessible to more demographics and commenting on more politically. But mostly? This album is everything you want from both dub and The Last Poets: something to groove to, and something to groove to, and something to believe in.