JAZZ SINGERS used the scat technique – that means using the voice to create notes that are not words so the voice works like a musical instrument - and they also used slang in their music long before Isaac Hayes. Vocalists such as Slim Gaillard, Dizzy Gillespie and Babs Gonzalez were larger than life characters who used strange, funny new words in rhythmically complex phrases.
A skill with language and rhythm could also be heard in historic African-American political leaders and sporting heroes such as Dr Martin Luther King and Muhammad Ali. In many ways Ali was one of the first rappers because he successfully integrated rhyme and colourful metaphors into his speech. Never short of an inventive way of describing his own greatness, Ali wrote some excellent early raps such as this in the 1970s;
I’m so bad I could hospitalize a brick/I’m so mean I make medicine sick.
In the late ‘60s and early ‘70s an important movement of political poets sprang from America’s tough inner cities in both New York and Los Angeles. Groups such as The Last Poets and The Watts Prophets captured the rhythmic energy of figures such as Ali and set them to sparse musical settings.