In 2001, over Those Guys' polyrhythmic classic, "An American Poem," the poet and politician Ras Baraka called for "an American poem" that would traffic not in the language of landscapes and lofty ideals, but would instead address the US's true heritage: lynchings, mismanaged natural resources, labor struggles, etc. On AmeriKKKan Poets, Malik Ameer Crumpler, backed by Scott Monk on production and Leron Thomas on trumpet, delivers a poem that assesses the state of poetry from a soured perspective.
Ras Baraka's father, Amiri Baraka, is the only poet mentioned by name in "AmeriKKKan Poets," where Crumpler works in the tradition of poems like "Black Art" and "Against Bourgeois Art," which addressed artists of the white avant-garde who exhibited "fragmented bits of nothingness" in their work. As Thomas's multi-tracked horn copies the track's bassline and winds around itself, Crumpler's critique expands to major US literary institutions and those who benefit from them. It's rendered all the more fiery by a blazing rimshot.
The record also contains an instrumental version that emphasizes the intricacies of Thomas's trumpet, plus an "AmeriKKKapella" that would turn any instrumental into a track for serious reflection. Monk is given the chance to stretch out on the dub mix, where bobbing bass and reverbed piano host a nimble synth melody. Monk also distills the poet's complex thought into a few standout lines. "Whose language is this, anyway?" Crumpler asks.