A Prophet Speaks : Poetry Is at the Root of Rap Music, Says a Member of the Groundbreaking Watts Prophets. It's a Form of Free Speech That Should Be Protected, Not Attacked.

The language of rap is nothing new in the black community. If you remember Rudy Ray Moore, old Redd Foxx albums, old Richard Pryor albums, they make 2 Live Crew look like babies. It wasn't mainstream, but it always was here. It always was a slice of black life--it wasn't all of black life.

As for the violence in rap lyrics, look at other artists, like Arnold Schwarzenegger. If you look at some of his films, I've seen him kill a whole squad of police, and kids love him--and then we talk about Ice T. Why don't we talk about everybody? It's like the black artist is being used as a scapegoat to abridge our First Amendment rights.

First of all, I don't think there should be any censoring at all of this work. But the question is, who is putting it out, who's distributing it, who's pushing it? Who's putting it on TV, who's putting it on the radio? Who has the power to do that? Those are the people who need to be talked to. If Ice T or Ice Cube or any of the rappers made a million dollars, somebody else made $15 million.

One artist, any artist, cannot do it alone. It takes a lot of people, it takes a machine to make a Madonna, to make an Ice Cube, to make an Ice T.

But I have to say I don't like the way some rappers are portraying or talking about themselves, because when they talk that way about black women they're talking about themselves.

I was a dope fiend who came from the streets and changed his life. When I wrote my poems, I said survival is my thing, I'm just trying to survive. But what has been done with these topics today is that they've been glorified. They're not being overcome, nor are they being challenged.

But like I said, it's like black artists are being used as scapegoats, because when you listen to Guns N' Roses and some of the different rock groups, what they're saying is often horrible, but nobody's attacking them. They're just attacking the black rapper who, a lot of times, is just trying to make a living. One told me one day when I was talking to him about the content of his work, "Amde, what would you rather me do, say MF on a record 12 times and get a million dollars or rob you? Which one would you rather?" What could I say?

In the ghettos, they're trying to survive. Everybody wonders, why are they self-destructing--because they're coming from the ghetto! But when you leave the ghetto, you leave with all that you had there. If you were using drugs there, when you become a star you're still using drugs. Whatever you were doing, positive or negative, you take that with you. If you were buying one gram of cocaine, now you're buying 50.

That's what's happening to a lot of these kids. There's no guidance in the industry.

A lot of the rappers, I don't like the content of their work, but what they do with their voice is amazing. There are also a lot of good writers out there. I hope the door doesn't close on the gangsta rappers. I hope they have an area of expression, to talk about their way of life, and what they're going through, because not all gangsta rap is negative.

We did the first album on earth called rap, but we weren't the fathers of this art form. Rap music didn't grow out of a void, it came from poets.

Basically, what these kids are doing today, the foundation of that is poetry. The first message all the way back to Africa was usually about the culture, about the earth, about the social conditions, and that's how rap music started out in the United States.

Breed What You Need

An Elder Man

told me children today

are raised like chickens--

thrown into the world to grow

not knowing what they need to

know.

*

Or which way to go.

"Son," He said, "Lend me your

ear and I will make it clear

planting seeds in the garden of a young brain

is a deep deep thing.

*

"You've got to breed

what you need or evil

will plant its seed.

Man is fertile like earth--

What seeds are planted determine

his worth.

*

"The cultivation of your

child's mind must be done

on your time. . . . A chicken don't let

a duck raise its chicks

making chickens act like ducks.

*

"Man must protect and

educate the fruit

of his own vine, or leave a generation

blind.

*

"Fish run in fish schools

and learn fish rules.

Ducks quack, roosters crow--

a fact we all must know.

Copy cat is a fact

when it come to

things like that.

*

"When a Man sows his seeds

he can be sure he ain't

getting weeds.

Plant God first

deep into the soul

of a new birth

throw righteous seeds

when you see a need.

Plant respect and that expect.

*

"Sprinkle the seeds

of faith, love, courage

and work early in

the garden of a young child's

mind and divineness shall occupy

its time."

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