In the early '70s, Umar Bin Hassan was a member of the street-poet godfathers of rap, the Last Poets. He joined the group in 1969 after seeing them perform in his native Ohio. With Hassan, the Poets released The Last Poets, This Is Madness, and Last Poets at Last. In mid-1993, he released his first solo album, Be Bop or Be Dead. Hassan combined rap, house, and jazz elements on the record, which was produced by Bill Laswell.