Abiodun Oyewole

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Abiodun Oyewole in Harlem

Abiodun Oyewole (born Charles Davis, February 1948), is a poet, teacher and founding member of the American music and spoken-word group The Last Poets, which developed into what is considered to be the first hip hop group.[1] Critic Jason Ankeny wrote, "With their politically charged raps, taut rhythms, and dedication to raising African-American consciousness, the Last Poets almost single-handedly laid the groundwork for the emergence of hip-hop."[2]

Early life[edit]

Abiodun was born in Cincinnati, Ohio and he moved with his maternal aunt and her new husband at age three to Queens, New York. At the age of 15, he attended a Yoruba Temple in Harlem. It was there that he was given the name by which he is best known.

As a youth, Abiodun was influenced by jazz and gospel music played by his parents and the poems of Langston Hughes.

The Last Poets[edit]

The group was born on May 19, 1968, Malcolm X's birthday, when Abiodun and two others, David Nelson, Gylan Kain, read poetry in tribute to Malcolm X. The group was based in black nationalism and quickly became known throughout the African-American community. They are generally credited, along with Gil Scott-Heron, as being major influences on the development of hip hop.

At one point, Oyewole was forced to leave the group as he spent four years in a North Carolina prison, convicted of larceny. After serving two and a half years of a three-year sentence, because of good behavior he was eligible for study release during the day. Oyewole continued his education at a nearby college (Shaw University, Raleigh) and earned his undergraduate degree. He subsequently went on to earn a doctorate from Columbia University in New York City, where he once served as a member of the faculty.

Later years[edit]

In 1994, Oyewole appeared on the Red Hot Organization's compilation CD, Stolen Moments: Red Hot + Cool, appearing on a track titled "This is Madness" alongside Omar Ben Hassen and Pharoah Sanders.[3] The album was named "Album of the Year" by Time.

Recently, Abiodun has been touring the world giving lectures on poetry and politics.

Most recently he has taught at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem.


  • "(Malcolm X) was our pathway to revolutionary understanding. Malcolm X went through a series of rites of passage - from Malcolm Little to Detroit Red to Satan to Malcolm X to El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz. All this because the man never stopped trying to develop and recognize the best of himself. He was self-determined. Malcolm was saying we need to be more. And we heard that. And he said it better than anybody ever said it. He made it clear to us. So all we wanted to do was to be disciples of Malcolm, in a sense, using poetry to illuminate the same values that he planted in our head." On Malcolm X's influence on the Last Poets (2001).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "This Far by Faith . Abiodun Oyewole". PBS. 1968-05-19. Retrieved 2014-07-20.
  2. ^ [1] Ankeny, Jason, Allmusic.com profile of Last Poets; URL accessed February 01, 2007
  3. ^ "Stolen Moments: Red Hot & Cool: Music". Retrieved 2014-07-20.

External links[edit]