Here's an excerpt from an interview with Douglas about finding and working with the Last Poets. The interview is by Michael Davis and appeared in BAM magazine in 1995. The full interview is here.
HOW DID YOU BECOME THE FIRST ONE TO RECORD THE LAST POETS? I heard a snatch of material on television one night, and it stopped me short. It was on PBS, so I called the station, and I got an address and a telephone number. I called the next day and got a very hostile voice on the phone. I told them who I was and that I had heard a little bit of their material on television the night before, and I would like to talk to them about making records. So he said, "Well, if you want to hear it, man, you gotta come up here, and you have to be alone." Real hostile shit! So I said, "Where's up here?" and he made a date with me at 137th Street and Lennox Avenue. So, I went up there, and it was a schoolyard with two old, funky basketball courts with rims and no nets. I looked over at one of the courts, and there was a whole bunch of black guys - must have been 25 of them - standing there. I got out of the car and walked over, thinking, "This is either suicide or a great sign." As I got there, the crowd kind of separated, and these four guys were left. There were three rappers and a conga player standing underneath a basket. They pointed at the foul line and said, "You stand there," and they did the material that ended up on the first album with me. So I said, "Come to the studio with me right now, and we'll record this. If you like the tape, we'll do a deal; if you don't like it, you take the tape with you." They thought that was reasonable. They all jumped in my car, and we went down to a friend of mine's studio on 66th Street, and we recorded the whole thing in one afternoon. They liked it. I got whatever money together I could - $1,000 or something - and we did a deal. I put the record out, and the rest is history. WHEW! The, one of them ended up in the joint, so I did the next record, This Is Madness, with just two of them. I had to use more recording techniques on the second one because we had less power from the group itself. YEAH, BUT THE PRODUCTION WORKED, "O.D." PROBABLY BEING THE BEST KNOWN EXAMPLE. Yeah, it worked because of the material. They were all good rappers, but those first two albums contain the most interesting material. The only other album I did with one of them, Jalal, was one called The Hustlers Convention... ...WHICH HAS A REP FOR BEING A BRIDGE BETWEEN THE LAST POETS AND HIP-HOP. Right, because that was gangsta rap from an objective, rather than a subjective, point of view. The Hustlers Convention was, essentially, a toast, which was the original art form that rap came from. The Poets came out of the old black prison tradition of jail toasts. Jalal wrote that whole thing from pieces of things he'd been hearing for years. We also did more stuff, like the toast about the famous hooker, Doriella Du Fontaine, with Jimi. I was recording Jimi one day and Jalal walked in. I had him do it for Buddy [Miles], and Buddy got all involved with it and started playing with him. Jimi came in and said, "Wait for me," and he jumped in on it. They improvised 13 minutes straight; it was beautiful.