The Last Poets have been called many things: the godfathers of rap and hiphop, revolutionaries, and visionaries. They live up to all the hype. The history of the Last Poets is as complicated and convoluted as the history of African Americans themselves. Members have done time and stabbed each other in the neck. Their origin can be traced to a birthday celebration for the late Malcolm X on May 19, 1968. Three poets took the stage in Mount Morris Park, NYC. There had been drumming and dancing, and Abiodun Oyewole asked the performers to stay on the stage, to play behind the poets. What was born that day has changed our musical and poetic landscape forever. However, the words and beats have always been gurgling beneath the surface of mainstream America, waiting for the Last Poets to give them meaning and a new manifestation. So it was with trepidation and awe that I called Abiodun in New York City. It's not every day you speak with one of the gods who created and inspired three decades of music and poetry.

I have to tell you, first of all, that I'm taping this. Are you having sexual relations with the President?

Oh yeah, man, we're having a ménage a trois.

Okay, you'll be in Seattle to participate in the Poetry Festival. But the thing that hooked me, listening to the Last Poets, was the musicality of your presentation. Was the combination of poetry and music a conscious decision from the beginning?

Not only was it the plan, but it was part of the heritage, because we could not at that time do anything that didn't have music. Because we had just given birth to Motown. These songs were like your breakfast cereal. You woke up to that music. You went to sleep to that music. You made love to that music. So when we got together we had to incorporate song.... And what I believe is that the musical merger with the word is inevitable. You can't get away from the music. The monotony of just the voices after a while can be just that: a monotony. The music will give it a different edge, will give it a different flavor. It'll break up the monotony, which will lead us, I hope, to jazz. Because there's a whole generation of jazz artists that are dead and dying.

Your lyrics are astounding -- the way you're able to meld the political situation with the emotional and cultural situation at the same moment. I mean, it's very delicate and elegant but they're able to withstand a great amount of pressure. How did you come to where you are as a poet?

You're killing me, man, you're killing me! My whole point is that I don't wanna say something that only I understand.... As a friend of mine named Elmore once told my son: My son was watching Elmore play the piano, and he played one thing with his right hand and an opposing thing with his left hand. And my son asked him, "How did you do that?" And Elmore said, "Desire." So when you ask me how did I come to the lyrics, it was desire. I wanted to write well. I still think I'm learning. I want to be able to communicate. I know everything has already been said, but I honestly believe that there's a way to say it again that'll make you get it a little better.... And you don't have to be extravagant; you can be simple and get that done. You have to give your thoughts a chance to live, you know, give yourself a chance to exist on the page, the way you really believe and feel. Allow yourself to live in another dimension.

And to remember. To remember how things got to be where they are today.

Yeah, making those connections. That's very important. And once you do, you see the whole picture. You see the whole circle. Because the thing about it is that, as you grow and you learn, too, the circle keeps on turning. It takes on different attitudes, but it's the same circle. The circle doesn't change; it has different variations but it's the same theme.

Like in your line in "Trapped": "Can you remember or did you ever know how beautiful you were?"

Yes, yes, yes. Somehow, ugly has become fashionable -- you know, on a lot of levels -- and we get too afraid to be beautiful now.

You guys have seen a lot of ugliness.

Oh man, too much ugliness. And it's caused us to turn inward on ourselves and each other, and that's something that Umar [Bin-Hassan] and I are so happy we have just about overcome -- we're still overcoming it; we have our moments, you know. Sometimes I could kill him and sometimes he could kill me.... But we have grown tremendously. We've been together now longer than any set of the Last Poets, under good circumstances. And it's been unbelievable.