The Last Poets became instrumental in shaping hip-hop, a debt acknowledged by artists like Public Enemy, NWA, and A Tribe Called Quest. “People say we started rap and hip-hop, but what we really got going is poetry,” group member Abiodun Oyewole has said. “We put poetry on blast.” In the years since the film’s release, the Poets’ legacy has grown, enriched by an evolving company of outspoken, politically engaged voices including Oyewole, Umar bin Hassan, and Jalal Mansur Nuriddin. They have explored jazz, funk, and hip-hop on over a dozen albums, collaborating with Common, Kayne West, Nas, DST, the Welfare Poets, and others.
Right On! has rarely screened after its original release in 1970, when it played largely on festival and university film circuits, and was often thought to have been lost. We are presenting MoMA’s new restoration, made from the recovered 35mm negative, which premiered at the Museum in 2013. This restoration was completed with support from the Celeste Bartos Fund for Film Preservation and Paul Newman (San Francisco).
On the occasion of this special screening, Felipe Luciano offers an introduction at the beginning of the video. Right On! will screen through Thursday, June 18.
Film at MoMA is made possible by CHANEL.