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Fri, 08.11.1967

The Watts Prophets are Formed

*The Watts Prophets were founded on this date in 1967.  They are an African American group of musicians and poets from Los Angeles (Watts), California.

Like their contemporaries, The Last Poets, the group combined elements of jazz music and spoken-word performance, making the trio a forerunner of contemporary hip-hop music.  Initially, the group comprised Richard Dedeaux, Father Amde Hamilton, and Otis O'Solomon.  They collaborated at the Watts Writers Workshop, created by Budd Schulberg two years after the 1965 Watts Riots.  At the time, the 20th-century American Civil Rights Movement was beginning to take a new cultural turn.  

Blending music with jazz and funk roots and rapid-fire, spoken-word poetry, they created a sound that gave them a local following. They released two albums, 1969's The Black Voices: On the Streets in Watts and 1971's Rappin' Black in a White World, which established a strong tendency toward social commentary and a reputation for militancy. The group could secure a promising deal with Bob Marley's Tuff Gong label and has performed only sporadically since the mid-1970s.  

Hamilton performed a spoken-word piece at the 1981 funeral service of Bob Marley in Jamaica in the 1982 film Land of Look Behind.  In 1994, the group appeared on the Red Hot Organization's compilation CD, Stolen Moments: Red Hot + Cool, on a track entitled "Apprehension" alongside Don Cherry. The album, meant to raise awareness of the AIDS epidemic in African America, was named "Album of the Year" by Time Magazine.  

A 1997 recording, When the 90's Came, found them in the studio with pianist Horace Tapscott, and a European tour reunited the trio with former collaborator DeeDee McNeil. In 2005, Things Gonna Get Greater: The Watts Prophets 1969-1971 combined the group's first two efforts, bringing them back into print.  Richard Dedeaux died in December 2013.  


Image: Ed Colver


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