September 6th, 2006
Title: Things Gonna Get Greater: The Watts Prophets, 1969-1971
Artist: The Watts Prophets
Label: Water Records
Catalog No.: Water 157
The Watts Prophets (Anthony “Amde” Hamilton, Otis O’Solomon, and Richard Dedeaux) rose to prominence fresh off the heels of the Watts race riots of 1965. The Watts Prophets took “rap,” or “street poetry” as it was called back in the ‘60s, to the stage. Things Gonna Get Greater is material taken from two previous albums that were almost out of print and very hard to find–Rappin’ Black in a White World (1971), and The Black Voices on the Streets of Watts (1969). These two albums frightened a lot of people when they were originally released and as a consequence the Watts Prophets were labeled as black militants. With titles like “There’s a difference between a Black man and a Nigger,” the Watts Prophets tried to put the civil rights struggle in perspective with “rap” or street poetry using minimal musical accompaniment, while expressing the anger and frustration of the black experience of living in a white America.
Following the example of their Harlem contemporaries, The Last Poets, who in fact were the first commercially successful recorded avant-guard poets, the Watts Prophets decided to record their work in the great oral tradition of black culture and thus planted the roots of West Coast rap music. If anyone wants to trace the origins West Coast rap or, if you are just interested in the roots of hip-hop and rap music, then you must start the digging here. The influence of the Watts Prophets can be seen in the songs of top rappers like Dr. Dre, DJ Quik, DJ Shadow, Too Short and the Digable Planets, all of whom have sampled from their work.
Even by today’s standards of rap music this work is hard to take since it challenges the African American community and indeed all of humanity to look at the way human beings treat one another and how we treat ourselves. This is not a CD for the faint of heart.
Posted by Clark D.Whitlow