“I’m an acupuncturist, I’m a martial artist, I’m an astrologer, I’m a poet and I’m a musician – I don’t do nothin’ else…I’m in a class by myself because I spent most of my lifetime mastering my art. So therefore I’m only in competition with myself. I’m not in competition with nobody else because nobody can do this.” Jalal Mansur Nuriddin
Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde
The Dood: Who inspired you more, the thoughts of Malcolm X, the Black Panthers or those of Dr Martin Luther King?
Jalal: Malcolm X, hands down!
The Dood: What impact did he make on you, and how old were you at the time?
Jalal: I was twenty-one. He made a complete revision of his lifestyle, his thinking, his actions – he became completely honest after being dishonest. So the honesty and sincerity is what made the impact, not to mention the facts of what he was talking about; that made the impact. Basically we had the same principles; the principal was I was down with self defence under any circumstances – period! Even as a child, you understand, even before I knew how to spell Malcolm X or even my name – I was on it. I was on it anyway, I was on self defence. Because institutionalised racism was attacking me 24/7 – 365…Which means were ever you’re travelling, whether it’s education, whether it was medicine, whether it was the military, whether it was corporate, you’re going to be confined to some kind of hold back, some kind of discrimination, some kind of bigotry; whether it be subtle or blatant – I didn’t tolerate blatant.
The Dood: Who of the new crop of spoken word artist, hip-hop, or otherwise excite you?
Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde
Jalal: If they’re not better than me. I can’t get excited. And to be better than me you have to dedicate a lifetime of self-discipline and study, so that not only do know what you’re talking about, but that you can talk about it.
The Dood: So it’s knowledge, experience and wisdom?
Jalal: That’s right. You’ve got the view and the do – when you’ve got the view, then you know what to do with the view; so you’re not just on theory, you’re on application.
Richmond Trew: Can I ask, are you familiar with the writings of Chester Hines?
Richmond Trew: Ok, I’m sure. Would he have been an influence on you at all, his writings?
Jalal: His influence would have to deal with how to survive in exile; that was his primary influence on me – in addition to the fact that he wrote “When Cotton Comes to Harlem” and other books that he published; he covered that era pretty good.
Richmond Trew: Ok, because I see a similarity in the Hustlers Convention, where you spoke about a black cop. Are you familiar with the characters Ed Coffin and Gravedigger Jones?
Jalal: Yeah, I’m familiar with them, but that didn’t influence me in the Hustlers Convention. The black cop would be the lone black cop who just got on the police force after years of segregation – you understand what I’m saying! He would have been the only black cop on the force who stepped up and intervened.
Richmond Trew: On your behalf?
Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde
Jalal: Not on my behalf, on the hero’s behalf in the Hustlers Convention, not in my real life. In my real life everybody was Gravedigger Jones, d’you understand? In other words, we’re going to get you because you’re a brother…We want to show our boss that we’re on point and that we bust our own.
Richmond Trew: Would you see yourself as being part of what they called “The Harlem Renaissance” at that time and how would you put yourself among that, if at all?
Jalal: The Harlem Renaissance basically is a point of reference of what could be done if my generation would take it to the next step, which is what happened. Now we’ve got generation gaps, the next-generation is not taking it to the next step because they’re on “Automatic push-button remote control, synthetic genetics to match your soul.” (Jalal and Richmond complete the song lyric in unison)
They don’t know nothing about manual control. Once you pull the plug on these machines. They don’t work anymore, so they have to have a source of energy. Now what do you do? If they make a machine that can wipe your behind, then you forget how to wipe your behind, because you don’t need toilet paper anymore, because you’re relying on a robot to do that for you. Your shit out of luck if the plug gets pulled! (Laughs wryly)
Richmond Trew: Are you aware of how many people you’ve influenced, especially the Caribbean and Jamaican artists such as Big Youth. In his album called “Screaming Target” he uses that phrase, “Automatic push-button remote control, synthetics genetics to match your soul,” were you aware of that?
Jalal: Yes, I was aware that.
Richmond Trew: There is a burgeoning spoken word scene happening at the moment. Regarding myself I have taken many nuggets from you, I don’t mind saying. What would be your advice to young up-and-coming spoken word artists?
Jalal: Do your homework, get the facts, and speak the facts.
Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde
Richmond Trew: I have a book here Called “Black Talk” by Ben Sidran…It has a foreword by Archie Shepp and you’re referenced in
this book. How do you believe you influenced, Black talk basically and how African Americans parlance? Because you’ve coined many phrases.
Jalal: I’m still coining phrases, but the thing about it is when it comes to black thought, you have to start with the universe. First of all the universe is black and you can’t see the end of it, and its expanding. Everything in the universe that has light is like lamps, so black thought is that lamp coming on where you’re thinking, “Well, I’m black. But I’m not in the dark!”
So if I’m black and I’m not in the dark, then that means I’ve got to be in the light! And if I’m in the light, then I need to be enlightened as to what was lost, what was stolen, what was the costs, and what it looked like. What it looks like, what it is, and what it’s gonna be – the past and the present simultaneously.
Richmond Trew: So what books did you read Jalal to point you in the right direction?
Jalal: I only read classics.
Richmond Trew: Such as?
Jalal: “The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine” by Huang Di that’s one of them. Then there’s a Chinese version, because I’m an acupuncturist you see.
Richmond Trew: Do you know the works of Frantz Fanon?
Jalal: Frantz Fanon, “The Wretched of the Earth”, “Black Skin, White Masks”, yeah, yeah, I read that. I read “Invisible Man” by
James Baldwin. I met Baldwin, Baldwin gave his time; I met him in Paris.
The Dood: What year are we talking here?
Jalal: We’re talking 1984
Richmond Trew: He was exiled there yes?
Jalal: Yes he was exile there.
The Dood: And you yourself were exiled in London/Europe I believe?
Jalal: Yeah, but I wasn’t in exile at that point. I went into exile as a result of futile. In other words, if I’m lending my efforts to something then we have a collective consciousness, and then we stay at it until we achieve our collective goals. If you allow yourself to become individualised, then you’re in division.
Richmond Trew: Can you please expand on what you mean by “individualised?”
Jalal: What I mean by individualised, is the “Me Principle,” and later for everybody else. No man is an island; one hand washes the other. So therefore everything is relevant, everything that is created is related.
Richmond Trew: Are you familiar with the writings of J. A. Rogers, did you read any of his books?
Jalal: Yeah, I’m familiar with J. A. Rogers. I was reading his works, when I was younger than you.
Richmond Trew: Okay!
Jalal: That’s just for openers.
The Dood: Are you one hundred percent self educated?
Jalal: Yeah, I’m self educated one hundred percent. I have no diplomas; I only have a hip-ploma. (Laughs)
The Dood: What musical influences were prevalent in your family home growing up?
Jalal: Gospel music.
The Dood: Was that from attending church as a family?
Jalal: No, from my mother’s side – Carol Ward, Mahalia Jackson, Alabama Blind Boys, Dixie hummingbirds; all of that music was being played in my house as a child.
The Dood: So your subconscious was soaking all this up?
Jalal: Yeah, then my generation invented Doo-wop. You see Doo-wop taught you harmony, plus Doo-wop was about intonation. You could vibe off your lungs by hitting the scales. So, if I hit a scale like this (Jalal proceeds to sing the scales doo-wop style)
Richmond Trew: He’s doing the scales: one, three, and five.
Jalal: So we put the Doo in the Wop.
The Dood: You had groups like The Platters to inspire you?
Jalal: You had The Platters, you had Frankie and the Teenagers, you had The Channels – In fact, I’ve got a whole rundown of all the Doo-wop groups in my autobiography in rhyme.
Richmond Trew: So you’re linking all of these names in one narration?
Jalal: In one narration, the top Doo-wop groups of all time.
The Dood: The running time of that is how long?
Jalal: When I run it down it would probably about two minutes.
The Dood: Could you give us a little sample?
Jalal: I can’t, because I’m going backwards right now. The Hustlers Convention is backwards for me okay, and I’m on another page. I’m doing this really because my friends want to see this manifested, they want me to get justice, because the record company ripped me off for the royalties for The Hustlers Convention. And the record company president will be in the (at the jazz cafe). And he’s a fence, and a fence is someone who handles stolen goods – and I get a chance to look him in the eye and say why?! You don’t even know me man! You’re lucky I don’t do something! But I tell you what I won’t get mad I’ll just get even. I’ve got a lawyer now; I’ll see you in court, you can pay me now or you can pay me later.
The Dood: Or you’ll pay for IT later?
Jalal: Or pay fit it to later yes. I want justice, as well as just- ice!
The Dood: I have direct links within the legal profession.
Jalal: You do? You’ve just gained a brother (Jalal clasps The Doods hand) Mike, when you shook my hand did you feel how powerful and sharp my nails were?
The Dood: Yes, I did.
Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde
Jalal: That’s because I’m an Eagle Claw Master.
The Dood: That’s kung fu?
Jalal: Yeah, that’s kung fu, that’s right. Thirty-five years! I’m an acupuncturist, I’m a martial, I’m an astrologer, I’m a poet and I’m a musician; I don’t do NOTHING ELSE! I can’t fix cars, I can’t fix computers, I don’t give a tiff about nothing else but freedom and justice, equality and liberation. Because economics, education and medicine pay for transportation, communication and habitation, and that equals liberation. And once you got liberation, now you can move on freedom, because freedom is two words, “Free” and “Dom,” so “Dom” is domain, just like domain name – only that’s in cyberspace; so free the mind and the behind will follow.
Richmond Trew: Can I also throw in that you’re also a social scientist Jalal?
Jalal: I was told by a French professor, “I knew you were a great poet, but I didn’t know you were a philosopher.” I said, “Well that’s just an evolutionary thing.”
Richmond Trew: From an objective point of view you would come under that category, because the information you are giving out, you are actually making the connections.
Jalal: Identify the dots, draw the lines. Once you get the picture, you say, “Okay, now what needs to be altered in this picture?” Even with everyday financial things – the stock market is up 2.5; you say, “Okay, here’s the trend, we started in January and we were here, and then all of a sudden it dipped down there, and then it went back up there.” How about even Stephen, straight ahead?
Richmond Trew: The generation today needs to know who can join the dots basically, and you’re obviously the man in the position and in the know is to make those connections, so hence why we’re here.
Jalal: The lips of wisdom are closed except to the ears of understanding.
Richmond Trew: Can I ask one question here to clear up an alleged folktale – We heard that back in the eighties the American government wanted to buy the rights to The Last Poets album to save it from being released. Is that true?
Richmond Trew (Abstract Word) & Jalal
Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde
Jalal: I wouldn’t be surprised. I don’t put nothing past them; it’s just that I’ve reached a point where I don’t give a dam anymore, you understand. We’ve got a Mexican stand-off; I ain’t bargaining no more… I ain’t doing nothing to you, you’re doing to yourself, I’m just trying to get away from you. I’m just putting some distance between me, you and your foolishness; because I ain’t into cutting your nose off to spite your face. You only got one lifetime to figure it out, and you don’t need to burn that up figuring it out, all you need to do is just get out! So you just need some figures of the latitude and longitude to guide you on how you’re going to deal. The best that you can cop now is self autonomy; so I’m autonomous. I don’t have no credit cards, it’s just cash and carry. If I got it (money) and I need it (goods) then I buy it, if I got it (money) and I don’t need it (goods) then I don’t buy it.
Richmond Trew: Is this a conscious decision of yours to stay out of what we call the shits-tem; to not get pulled, sucked or plugged in?
Jalal: Right! Because once you’re in, you know, then you’re in the game, and I’m not in the game.
The Dood: It’s like the Matrix, observe the masses and do the opposite?
Jalal: Yeah right! Whatever they say; if they say it up, I know it’s down, if they say is left; I know it’s right, if they says it’s on, I know it’s off. I just watch what they say and I just do the opposite.
The Dood: Were there or are there any artist living or past that you would have liked to collaborate with?
Jalal: Mostly from the past, you know I did that collaboration with Jimi Hendrix? And I’ve done quite a few collaborations with unknown artists that I might lend my name to to help with their careers; like in this case with Malik. He is a spiritual student of mine, but he’s not my poetry student, he’s Gil Scott’s poetry student.
Richmond Trew: But he’s still learned from you indirectly?
Jalal: Well, indirectly maybe, but then again in a class by myself. I spent most of my lifetime mastering my art, so therefore I’m only in competition with myself. I’m not in competition with nobody else because nobody can do this.
The Dood: How do you push yourself then, how do you keep your axe sharpened?
Jalal: I’ve got nothing else better to do (laughs). Anything that’s going to keep me free, I’m in that key. Whether it’s Do, Ray or Me, i’m in that key you dig – If it’s going to lead to being free! Free means unencumbered; the sky ain’t your limit, death is. Whatever I can conceive, I can achieve if I believe, as long as they get out the way.
Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde
The Dood: They being “The Man?”
Jalal: The governing men.
Richmond Trew: Do you do any kind of exercises for your vocal projection, pronunciation, diction, or is it always kind of conversational?
Jalal: No, my poetry dictates my exercise.
Richmond Trew: Can you elaborate please?
“Brothers, others, lovers, mothers, sons, friends
On the set − ain’t none of y’all been freed yet!
Trying to pin what’s happening
what you’re coming from and going to
Communicating with me and you
internal feeling is spiritually healing
When I’m dealing with jazz
that has turned me on
Blow that horn!
Of course it’s boss, get on your horse
And ride with pride jazz and poetry side by side!”
So it’s music; It’s bebop. All i’ve got to do is know where the ‘B’ is and then get in the key of the Bop, because Bop is a continuous rhythm. So when you’re bopping, it’s a body movement, it’s a head movement, it’s a hip movement. It’s like cab Calloway talking to Bojangles in “Cabin In the Sky!” “Yo man! Hey daddy! Give me some skin! You’ve got to get with the times bro!” In other words it’s what the Duke said, “It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing.” So hipness is a state of general awareness. Now you can be specific; you can go from one hip on the left side to another hip on the right side, and those hips carry your upper body! So it all rests on the hip. A good martial artist has strong hips.
The Dood: Richmond asked the mind question. I’m going to ask the body question. As you mentioned the martial art, do you get up early in the morning and do various stretches etc?
Jalal: I do what I need to do, I do what’s necessary, I make a round robin from art to art.
The Dood: Mind, body and soul?
Jalal: Yeah, if I spend too much on one part then something is going to get neglected, and all of these arts complement each other and help sustain the primary art, which is the delivery.
Richmond Trew: Do you see your voice as being an instrument?
Richmond Trew: Would it be similar to the solos of John Coltrane and Charlie Parker in its delivery?
Jalal: Oh yeah! One third of my work is Jazz. In fact I wrote the lyrics to “Night In Tunisia,” and I wrote the lyrics to Birds solo in “Night In Tunisia.” When computers first came on the scene they put birds solo through the computer to see if they could clock how many notes he was playing, and the computer couldn’t clock it. Now the computer may be sophisticated enough to clock it, in terms of how many notes he was playing, whether it was a half note, quarter note or a whole note.
The Dood: Did you say you put words to that?
Jalal: Yeah! Jalal reels off the lyrics to “Night In Tunisia” – “Paraphrase little; put your soul in the middle, blowhard in the yard; put a beat on the bottom, bottom on the top, to the sound going down, bop non-stop.” That’s the words to do this solo in “Night In Tunisia, ” Paraphrase little; put your soul in the middle, blowhard in the yard; put a beat on the bottom, bottom on the top, to the sound going down, bop non-stop.”
Richmond Trew: There are a couple of versions to “Night In Tunisia.
Jalal: Chaka Khan, Eddie Jefferson, but I took them out because I’m a better lyricist. I write lyrics to jazz or I get the music and I write lyrics to my own music, or I just write lyrics and let somebody else do the music.
The Dood: Like with Hustlers Convention, you wrote the lyrics and left the music to next man?
Jalal: Right! Because I was on another page, I had to take my attention and put it on the group, The Last Poets and their album “The Light of the Gods.” You see the deal was with making the Hustlers Convention, I wrote the Hustlers Convention but I didn’t have recording it in mind per se; I just needed to see how I was viewing street life, and what I needed to avoid. So I had to write myself a warning: “Listen man, all of this stuff here is going to lead to that, and you’re going to be on death row, and you’re going to get iced. So write it out now, before it happens, so that it don’t happen to you.”
The situation was such man, that everybody was a tinderbox. Oppressed people have a tendency to turn on themselves, why? because they can’t turn against the oppressor. Frantz Fanon made that real clear in, “The Wretched of the Earth.”
Basically he was a practising psychiatrist in Algeria at the time, and he noticed that before the revolution the Algerians had serious mental problems.
“Paranoid, schizophrenic, diverse and avaricious; suicidal, genocidal, Francocidal, feigning vicious, psychotic, idiotic, neurotic and malicious, egotistic, pessimistic, sadistic and superstitious.”
So they had serious mental problems. After the revolution, their mental health returned, the only problem was they couldn’t pick up the pieces where they had left off at, because it happened too long! One hundred and fifty years of French colonialism. So when they said, “So, where were we before we were so rudely interrupted?” And they concluded, “We were drawing on our ancestor’s knowledge of how to build a civilisation, where everything is cool, and everybody got what they need. That’s where we were at.” “Okay, how do we get back there?” “It’s too late, we speak French now.” (Jalal laughs)
The Dood: Whose voices are heard narrating the characters throughout the Hustlers Convention album?
Jalal: Mine. They’re all mine; every character.
The Dood: Where was the album recorded?
Jalal: I think it was mixed at the Power Station in New York City.
Richmond Trew: Do you see documenting your experiences as therapeutic in any way?
Jalal: Yeah, give me some medicine; free the mind and the body will follow. When you said earlier, “I’ve got a couple of nuggets from you,” I didn’t say, “Are you plagiarising me, are you stealing from me!” I said to myself, “Good! That’s what I want you to do. I want you to get the message; I want you to understand the mess in the message.” So when you said I’ve got a couple of nuggets from you, it means you’re starting to understand how to separate garbage from paper and glass and plastic, do you understand – but it’s all a mess! In order for that to get recycled to represent something positive, you’ve got to understand what goes where. So they itemised the mess, and we have to itemise the mess, so that we don’t get into the mess again.
Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde
Richmond Trew: For sure. We need someone such as yourself to validate where were going basically. We have an idea on how it should be, but we can’t possibly know. But with someone such as you being a source or blueprint, it helps us to kind of over-stand what was said. You have actually clarified much for a generation of spoken word artists in this country (UK) now who wish to share and pass on your knowledge.
Jalal: That’s good!
The Dood: Would you consider doing seminars/lectures at University campuses if offered?
Jalal: I’ll blow the snow if they pay the tow. (Laughs)
The Dood: So you will explain the story further in Hustlers Detention in Hustlers Ascension?
Jalal: Oh, the best is yet to come, it’s gonna be gas man! You gonna get a blast man! You’re going to teach kids, your grandma is going to understand what’s happening.
The Dood: How do we make this happen in your lifetime, so that you’re not another brother who gets his dues once he’s passed on?
Jalal: All you got to do is tell Malik don’t overwork me! (Laughs) If you tell Malik that I’ve got a chance! (Laughs again)
The Dood: What about Jay-Z?
Jalal: What about him, I know his father.
The Dood: I can’t fathom why the hip-hop community cannot come together and put the money on the table so you can put these two albums out? Jay-Z could do that in a heartbeat.
Richmond Trew: They give it verbally, but nothing tangible happens. Why do you think that is?
The Dood: Fear! Fear that your lyrics will supersede anything that they’ve released?
Jalal: Everybody will get exposed; people will realise that they’re nursery rhyming. Imagine someone recording “Humpty Dumpty” or “Mary Mary Quite Contrary”.
“Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall; Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.”
And the audience goes: “Ahhhhh!!!!!” (We all laugh) If I was to record something where you’ve got to think about it, that’s food for thought – so you’re getting fed. Now whether or not you think about it or you say, “You know what, I don’t want to hear that!” So you ask, “Why don’t you want to hear it?” And they responded, “Because that means I’ve got to work, I’ve got to re-evaluate everything I was taught, I’ve got a de-program, I’ve got access my subconscious mind, I’ve got to understand what went down, I’ve got to understand what’s going down, and I’ve got to understand what it looks like at the end of the day.”
“There was a conflict in time of space and rhyme, and the lady placed some time and space between the present, the future, and the past, to hold a conversation about their occupation and how long they thought it would last. The present was already present; the past was right behind, the future was coming, but the present had presence of mind. The present look left and said to the past, “Your history is very very vast, so tell me of the things that happened last; tell me of the things that I don’t know so that my knowledge, wisdom and understanding can grow.” The past said, “You have lost more than you’ve gained, your animal spirit is still not tamed. I gave you a lesson every step of the way, right on up to this very same day.”
The present said, “You mean the lessons that were taught about adventures, evolutions, and the wars that were fought.” The past, said, “I’m not talking about what mankind has done; they have done every evil that’s under the sun.” The present said, “Well, those of my time haven’t learned yet, they have no intention of paying off your debt, those in your time passed on the bill, which my generation’s got against their will.” The past said, “Don’t blame my time, said the past, my generation built things to last.” The present said, “But they’re not here anymore!” The past said, “They didn’t think ‘til later what they should have done before.”
Richmond Trew: Is that documented in anyway?
Jalal: Yeah, it’s recorded. That’s on my solo album, “The Fruits of Rap.” I’ve got four solo albums chock-full of information under my name Jalal.
Michael J Edwards
Big Mike and ukvibe thanks to Malik Al Nasir from Malik & The O.G’s for arranging access to interview Jalal.
Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde
NB* In Part 3 – Jalal talks on drugs & Jazz musicians, Miles Davis, Q-Tip and much more.
Essential un-released albums:
Essential Biography: Coming soon…
Frantz Fanon – The Wretched of the Earth
Frantz Fanon – Black Skin, White Mask
Ilza Veith – The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine
Chester Bomar Himes – A Rage In Harlem
Chester Bomar Himes – Cotton Comes To Harlem
J.A. Rogers – World’s Great Men of Colour, Volume 1