Black Power/Proto-Rap

The Black Power movement in the late 1960s and 1970s has much in common with the previous decade's Beatniks, right down to the stereotypical bongos, berets, black turtlenecks, and protest poetry. This time, however, spoken-word and "concept" albums were in their heyday. Besides the obvious (fear and suppression of the Black Power movement), what kept this countercultural phenomenon marginal was the distraction of many other movements and events of the period. But, as with soul jazz, free jazz, and so on, time allows for correction and retrieval.

Whatever one thinks of race and militancy in America, Black Power rap is merely an art form, nothing more and nothing less. It never posed any real threat, yet its influence cannot be dismissed as minimal or dated. It is proto-rap, the primordial verbal stew, as well as forward-looking "African Visionary Music." For its origins, look to the same ones as for vocal jazz and calypso: patois, slave speech, the dozens, spirituals, work songs. For its legacy, look to Sun Ra, Gil Scott-Heron, rap and hip hop, and great speeches by African-American leaders.

Black Power rap, really an attempt to raise consciousness and inspire courageous action (at least promote awareness, pride, and free expression), begins with New York's Last Poets. Of the relatively few Black Power rappers to record, the Last Poets were the first to develop and hone the idiom, the only very successful one, and the only one enjoying longevity and even a renaissance in later decades. These iconoclasts deserve to be heard indefinitely and, if anyone does, treated as icons.

No less influential may be Melvin van Peebles, who defied the "blacksploitation" tag through films and records. Spike Lee and others have continued the tradition (e.g., Ossie Davis drum-rapping in "Get on the Bus"). Another source for Black Power rap, surprisingly, is Motown. Its Black Forum label has perhaps the closest thing to a Black Power series, and these records are some of the heaviest and best of the idiom. And Roland Kirk and others telling stories and jokes between tunes practiced a form of it. Pan-African Nationalism, ghetto indignancy, out jazz, science fiction, Egyptology, the Dozens...Black Power rap contains multitudes.

Revolutionary/Black Power/Proto-Rap LPs

8Dan Armstrong/Various: The Sound of Dissent; Mercury SR-61203 (original funky music w/speech samples; Eartha Kitt, Dr. Spock, George Wallace, Paul Krasner, Stokeley Carmichael, JFK..)
6The Bama (The Village Poet, George McCord): Ghettos of the Mind; Chess CH-50032; 1972
8Imamu Amiri Baraka: It's Nation Time; Motown/Black Forum B-457-L; 1972 (spoken w/music--mainly free jazz w/Gary Bartz, Lonnie Liston Smith, Idris Muhammad..)
8Amiri Baraka w/David Murray & Steve McCall: New Music--New Poetry; India Navigation IN-1048; 1981 (spoken w/music; live)
8The Black Voices: On the Street in Watts; ALA 1970
5Elaine Brown, Black Panther Party: Seize the Time; Vault 131
7Stokely Carmichael: Free Huey!; Motown/Black Forum B-451-L; 1970 (live; spoken)
7Lincoln Chase: Lincoln Chase 'n You; Paramount PAS-6074; 1973 (spoken w/music; w/Idris Muhammad, Al Pazant..)
7Stanley Crouch: Ain't No Ambulances for No Nigguhs Tonight; Flying Dutchman FDS-105; 1969 (spoken)
7Nikki Giovanni & the New York Community Choir under the direction of Benny Diggs: Truth is On Its Way; Right-On RR-05001; 1971
7Nikki Giovanni & the New York Community Choir under the direction of Benny Diggs: Like a Ripple on a Pond; Atlantic/Niktom NK-4200; 1973 (funky gospel w/spoken poetry)
7Nikki Giovanni: The Way I Feel; Atlantic/Niktom NK-4201; 1975
8Jason Guy w/the Contemporary Jazz Society: Jason Roars--The Works of Famous Black Poets; Radnor R-2500 "Stereo-4" (comp. Bill Lewis; bongos, vibes, works by Baraka/Le Roi Jones, Sylvia Vaughn, Clarence Reed, Larry Neal..)
7Langston Hughes & Margaret Danner: Writers of the Revolution; Motown/Black Forum B-453-L; 1970
7Jim Ingram: Drumbeat; Stax/Respect TAS-2606; 1974
7Melvin van Peebles: Ain't Supposed to Die a Natural Death [Tunes from Blackness] Original Broadway Cast Album; A&M SP-3510 (2-LP)
9The Last Poets; Douglas 3
8The Original Last Poets: Right On!; Juggernaut JUG ST-8802; 1968 (prod. Juggy Murray; Collectables COL-6500; 1990)
8Kain: The Blue Guerilla; Juggernaut JUG ST/LP-8805; 1971 (Gylan Kain, one of the Last Poets; Collectables COL-6501; 1990)
8The Last Poets: This is Madness; Douglas 7; 1971
8The Last Poets: Chastisement; Blue Thumb BTS-39; 1972
8The Last Poets: At Last; Blue Thumb BTS-52; 1973
8The Last Poets: Time Has Come; Mercury 149 (compilation)
8The Last Poets w/Bernard Purdie: Delights of the Garden; Casablanca/Douglas NBLP-7051; 1977
8Umar Bin Hassan: Be Bop or Be Dead (Acappella); Axiom PR-12 (Last Poets member prod. by Bill Laswell)
6Lightnin' Rod: Hustlers Convention; United Artists Douglas Collection UA-LA156-F; 1973 (Last Poets member w/Kool & the Gang & all stars)
7Rosko [Narrates]: [Ramparts Editor Robert Scheer's] A Night at Santa Rita; Flying Dutchman FDS-131; 1969 (spoken w/music)
8Gil Scott-Heron: Small Talk at 125th & Lenox; Flying Dutchman FDS-131; 1970
8Gil Scott-Heron: Pieces of a Man; Flying Dutchman FD-10143; 1971 (BXL1-2834; AYL1-3819)
8Gil Scott-Heron: Free Will; Flying Dutchman FD-10153; 1972
8Gil Scott-Heron: The Revolution Will Not be Televised; Flying Dutchman BDL1-0613; 1974 (compilation)
5Gil Scott-Heron & Brian Jackson: Winter in America; 1973
6Bobby Seale: Gagged and Chained; Certron Special Series CSS2-2001; 1970 ("The Sentencing of Bobby Seale for interview with Bobby Seale recorded while imprisoned in New Haven, Connecticut Jail"; 2-LP)
7Jean-Claude T.: The Bicentennial Poet; CBS/Philadelphia International PZ-34246; 1976
8Wallace Terry [interviewer]: Guess Who's Coming Home--Black Fighting Men Recorded Live in Vietnam; Motown/Black Forum B-454-L; 1972
8The Watts Prophets: Rappin' Black in a White World; ALA 1971; 1971
8Various: Black Spirits--Festival of New Black Poets in America; Motown/Black Forum B-456-L; 1972 (live at the Apollo; The Last Poets, Stanley Crouch, LeRoi Jones..)
9Various: Super Bad Super Black--Can Ya'll Dig That?; Waste Management/Black Label WM-3091 (2-LP compilation of radio spots for 54 "blaxploitation" STs)

Partly Black Power/Proto-Rap LPs

6John W. Anderson: KaSandra; Capitol ST-2957 (w/Shorty Rogers)
8Dan Armstrong/Various: The Sound of Dissent; Mercury SR-61203 (spoken w/music; original music & famous speakers)
6Frekoba Africans Presents Voices of Black Angels & Drums of Thunder; Recorded Publications Company RPC; 1972 (LaDeva M. Davis, James L. Lewis, Afro-American Drum & Dance Ensemble of Philadelphia's Bartlett Junior High School)
7Wendell Harrison: An Evening with the Devil; Tribe PRSD-2212; 1972 (soul jazz/spiritual soul jazz/black power/proto-rap)
8Timothy Leary: You Can Be Anyone this Time Around; Douglas 1 (w/Jimi Hendrix; mentions Black Panthers)
8Gil Scott-Heron: The Revolution Will Not Be Televised; Flying Dutchman BDL1-0613; 1974 (compilation)

Proto-Rap 45s

8John Barfield with the Truth Ensemble: The Blacks/The Truth Ensemble: Lift Every Voice & Sing; Shakat SH-707; 1974 (A-side spoken tribute/plea for inverse racial recognition)
7Nikki Giovanni & the New York Community Choir under the direction of Benny Diggs: Conversation--How I Get Over/To My Father's House; Atlantic/Niktom PR-NK-189; 1973/1972 (funky gospel w/spoken poetry)
8John KaSandra: Mose Part III/mono; Respect TAA-2504; 1973 (spoken w/music)
8Jimmy Kay/Mary Boyd: Weuzi Ni Uzuri (Black is Beautiful) Parts 1 & 2; Leo MB-104; 1973 (vocal & spoken w/music; arr. & prod. Doc Bagby)
7Yaphet Kotto: Have You Ever Seen the Blues/Have You Dug His Scene; Buddah/Chisa CH-11-11 (golden throat/black-power rap)
8May Day Singers: In the '80s/Five Alive; Blackbeard CWP-1980; 1980 (7" 33rpm, picture-sleeve; Communist Workers Party; music, partly spoken)
9Phil Phillips: It's All Right/The Evil Dope; Lanor 559 (B-side anti-drug preaching; superb narrative & background music/effects)
8The Last Poets: O.D./Black Thighs; Douglas ADS8 (A-side alternate version w/Buddy Miles on organ; picture sleeve)
8The Whatnauts & the Whatnaut Band: Message from a Black Man/Dance to the Music; A&I 001 (A-side)
8His Majesty the Mighty R.J.: Fungus Among Us [Parts 1 & 2]; Soulville SV-1021 (mock-preaching funk brag)
7Vernon Steve Weakley: The Saga of Kunta Kinte/Is It Love or Is It Lust; V.S.W. Productions 100; 1977 (psyche funk/Afro-rock/black power/soul; from LP "The Saga of Kunta Kinte")

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