Words by Jesse Serwer—
In the South Bronx of the early 1970s, just around the time when Afrika Bambaataa and his Black Spades gang were refocusing their energies into community activism and music, the leaders of a nearby Puerto Rican street organization, Ghetto Brothers, followed a similar path. But where the hip-hop pioneers of Bambaataa’s Universal Zulu Nation took their inspiration from James Brown and obscure breakbeats found in funk and rock records, the Ghetto Brothers’ were inspired by the melodies of the Beatles, doo-wop and the emerging Latin rock sound of the day.
Against this backdrop, the Brothers—centered around a trio of real-life brothers led by Benjamin “Yellow Benjy” Melendez—recorded the Ghetto Brothers’ sole album, 1972′s Power Fuerza, for the small Salsa Records label. While the album had minimal impact at the time of its release, it has become a sought-after collectors item valued as much for its musical contents as its historical significance. This week, Brooklyn record label Truth and Soul issued a collectors’ edition of the long-out-of-print LP (on LP, CD, MP3 and WAV) with an impressive 80-page booklet featuring extensive liner notes and interviews by music journalist Jefferson Mao, and an impressive array of never-before-seen photos and sketches by Benjy. Check out some of the images, courtesy of Truth and Soul and Benjy Melendez, below, and listen to DJ Akalepse’s Power Fuerza album sampler to get a taste of the sounds. Enjoy.: