Watts Prophets, The – “Rappin’ Black In a White World” – [ALA Records]
Might have been nice to have this in KFJC’s library a few
decades ago, but all too often prophets wind up far ahead
of their time. Tag team think tank poetry, does it help to
call them a tea party, or throw a very original G smack dab
into the so-called “Watts riots.” The Prophets serve up 1971
griots taken from the tough streets but tougher minds of L.A.
Anthony Hamilton, Richard Dedeaux and Otis Smith O’Solomon are
the prophets proper, but Dee Dee McNeil is their secret weapon.
Her words and piano ofteh help to stitch tracks together,
especially the song suite that closes out side 1, “What Is A
Man.” At other times, she helps gather her brothers into a
sort of Greek chorus to support the lead prophet, gathering
emotion and momentum like a runaway train. Better look out.
Malcolm X marks the spot for Hamilton on “The Master”,
Dedeaux gives a name to his pain, and his luck, in “Fucked.”
Otis Smith holds up a mirror at times, years before Chris
Rock. The voices here capture such strident pride mixed
with deep wounds, and the words unflinching take it even
higher. Has consciousness been raised or razed since this
release? Maybe the Prophets will kick out a new record,
“Rappin’ Black in a White House” trying to stir up today’s
tea leaves from Obama to incarceration rates and see what
truths lie ahead in the future?