|The art of MC'ing has been linked
back to the Griots of Africa. Griots were entertainers who would recite poetry, tell
stories, and relate customs and history to people - things that many emcees today do.
One influence on early emcees were toasts. Toasts were poems that were usually known and recited by those who had been sent to prison. Most dealt with "The Life," which is the lifestyle if a Ghetto Superstar. Someone who pimps hos, deals drugs, drives a Caddy, and has the best cloths. Just like many rappers today. The following toast is entitled "Do You Know What It Means?" It was written down in 1966 and is a short toast.
Do You Know What It Means?
Do you know what it means to wear two-hundred-dollar suits and forty-dollar hats,
Do you know what it means to have a supply of C and a supply of horse, Not to need any connections because you're the big boss?
Do you know what it means to wear silk shirts on your back and hundred-dollar shoes on
Do you know what it means to give every young hustler a break,
Do you know what it means to keep your women in mink and sable
Do you know what it means to have the mob call you King and the cops call you Mister,
Do you know what it means? No, you never could know what it means, and you never will,
In 1973, a group of ex-prisoners called the Last Poets recorded an album of prison
toasts. Their first record contained songs such as "Run Nigger," "When the
Revolution Comes," and "Niggers Are Scared of Revolution." The album sold
over 800,000 copies, despite the fact is got no radio play. Jalal Uridan, the leader of the group, then recorded a
solo album under the name Lightnin' Rod. The title of that album was Hustlers
Convention, and was a large influence on the early MC's. Some songs on the album were
"Four Bitches Is What I Got," Coppin' Some Fronts For the Set," and
Sentenced to the Chair," which were rapped over music by Kool & The Gang, Gene
Dinwiddie and others.