April 13, 2024

Gylan Kain, one of the Original The Last Poets, dead at 81

2 min read

by Herb Boyd

“God was an only child

and jealousy was a whore

Mama lifted her bosoms

And the stars sang songs of Hosanna

I am not the fool

you bargained for…”

This is an excerpt from Gylan Kain’s poem “Song of Ditta,” published in Black Spirits, edited by Woodie King, Jr., though a lesser work compared to his prominence as a member of The Last Poets. Best known for his collaboration with Abiodun Oyewole, David Nelson, and later Felipe Luciano, Kain and his cohort gained fame and recognition with their “Niggers Are Scared of Revolution” influencing Gil Scott Heron and the hip-hop and rap generations. He died in a care home in Lelystad, Netherlands, on February 7, 2024. He was 81.

Born Frank Gallen Oates at Harlem Hospital on May 26, 1942, he was raised by his mother, Hilda Oates. There was a brief stint at Hunter College before embarking on an acting career, having by then changed his name in tribute to the poet Dylan Thomas, and Cain, from the Bible. In 1968, the Original Last Poets was formed with Kain leading the way with his vibrant staccato intonation that was backed and rhythmically echoed by his colleagues.

Kain’s “The Shalimar,” which was released on their album “Right On,” was later sampled by Dr. Dre, without the author’s consent, and this led to rounds of legal action. The album was also the soundtrack for a video that is rarely shown. Such productions were just the beginning of Kain’s venture into multimedia collaborations, including performances and recordings with other musicians during his stay in Europe. Most notable was his appearance with the Dutch jazz/hip-hop/fusion group Electric Barbarian in 2004. He was also the subject of several documentary films.

His daughter, Amber Kain, is an actress and playwright. Khalil Kain, his adopted son, starred as “Raheem” in the 1992 film “Juice” with 2Pac.

“Kain: The Blue Guerrilla,” and “Baby Kain: Feel This,” are part of his discography.

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