The Watts Prophets

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The Watts Prophets
Also known as Watts Prophets
Origin Watts, California, United States
Genres Rap, Hip-hop, Jazz, Spoken word, Poetry
Years active 1967–present
Members Richard A Dedeaux
Father Amde Hamilton (born Anthony Hamilton)
Otis O'Solomon

The Watts Prophets are a group of musicians and poets from Watts, Los Angeles, California. Like their contemporaries The Last Poets, the group combined elements of jazz music and spoken-word performance, anticipating hip-hop music. Formed in 1967, the group comprises Richard A Dedeaux, Father Amde Hamilton (born Anthony Hamilton), and Otis O'Solomon (also billed as Otis O'Solomon Smith) (O'Solomon removed the "Smith" from his name in the 1970s).


Three African American poets that were never involved or affiliated with any militant groups or organizations, used a new Rap concept as an art form to express and dictate their communities feelings and voices, and to promote ['Citizen Journalism'] by displaying a naive young soldier going to war on their Rappin' Black in a White World™ album cover during the Vietnam war era. Hamilton, O'Solomon, and Dedeaux first met and collaborated at the Watts Writers Workshop, an organization created by Budd Schulberg in the wake of the Watts Riots, as the American Civil Rights Movement (1955-1968) was beginning to take a new cultural turn. Fusing music with jazz and funk roots with a rapid-fire, spoken-word sound, they created a sound that gave them a considerable 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 an unfounded reputation for militancy. Despite considerable acclaim, and the fact that they were only American community poets collecting, reporting, analyzing, and disseminating news and information, the group was unable to secure another record deal; a promising deal with Bob Marley's Tuff Gong label fell through after his passing. Sustaining great success through empowering American youth through their non-profit workshops "Watts Prophets Community Education Association, Inc." and the "Talk up/Not down™" summer camps in Prince George's County, Maryland enabling the youth to express themselves through creative writing and culminating into the "Hip Hop Poetry Choir™" established in 2000 in collaboration with University of California Los Angeles (UCLA)].

In recent years, the group's profile has improved. In the late 1990s the Watts Prophets signed with David Lieberman Artists' Representatives to handle their exclusive booking engagements around the world. The 1997 recording, When the 90's Came™, found them in the studio with rapper DJ Quik, pianist Horace Tapscott and others, a European tour reunited the trio with former collaborator DeeDee McNeil. In 2006 the City of Los Angeles dedicated the Watts Fire Station No. 65 in honor of the Watts Prophets and displays Hamilton's poem "Life Is Energy, Wisdom Is How You Spend It". In 2012 the group was part of the exhibition Trouble in Paradise: Music and Los Angeles 1945–75 opened at The Grammy Museum in Los Angeles as part of the Getty’s Pacific Standard Time initiative.

Anthony 'Amde' Hamilton has brought a wide range of artists-in-residency programs to schools across the nation. The core curriculum of these programs consists of his knowledge of oral tradition, including the formal structural elements of the spoken word, theater, and poetry. He has continuing partnerships with the University of Southern California (USC) Theater Department, the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) English and Arts Departments, and the Los Angeles County public schools (LAUSD). In collaboration with Arts Reach UCLA, Hamilton earned the Rand Corporation’s Best Practice commendation in 1998 for the effectiveness of his residency programs as an intervention tool for high risk youth. In 1999 the federal Department of Juvenile Justice selected his work with Arts Reach as one of the best projects in the nation. He and his wife, Shirley, co-founded the Watts Prophets Community Education Association, Inc. which offers in-residency programs for children and young adults. Hamilton, is the third American to be ordained as a priest of the ancient 2000 year old Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Fr. Amde founded the first Ethiopian Orthodox Church in California, St. Takla Haymanot, baptized the great singer Nina Simon and can be seen performing 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', appearing on a track titled "Apprehension" alongside Don Cherry. The album, meant to raise awareness of the AIDS epidemic in African-American society was named "Album of the Year" by Time magazine.

Richard Dedeaux died in December 2013.[1]

In 2015, the group's album - The Black Voices: On the Streets in Watts™ was recognized by Rolling Stone Magazine as one of the forty most groundbreaking albums of all time, and Anthony 'Amde' Hamilton released a "New" album called "Difficultez Technical".



• 1970 - "Victory Will Be My Moan" nominated for a NAACP Image award

• 1982 - Land of Look Behind. Directed by Alan Greenberg.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ {cite web|url= |title=The Passing of Urban Griot Richard Dedeaux - A Watts Prophet & "Original Rapper" | |date= |accessdate=2015-03-27}

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