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Saturday, November 01, 2008

Ursula Rucker - Jazz Cafe


Can one woman speak loud enough to change the world? One woman can certainly try. That woman is Ursula Rucker.Ursula is a fiercely passionate MC/poet who rose to fame with three chilling closers for The Roots first three studio albums.Now she's here, solo, with a second LP 'Silver Or Lead'. It's an eleven-track project born of eleven different producers from at least four different cities. If she invited them down tonight they wouldn't all fit on the cosy jazz caféstage.Instead the gig starts utterly informally. Tim Motzer, one of those eleven producers, wanders on stage. Without barely making eye contact with the audience he picks up his acoustic guitar. Soon Ursula's onstage with him too, with equally minimal fuss. But then she's not here to bring the roof down: this is Ursula unplugged and hip hop unthugged. Armed with an acoustic guitar, some kind of eight track recorder (for loops) and an Air FX pod (you wave your hand over it - it triggers FX), Tim and Ursula rework her two albums, coalescing their disparate sonic palates.This intimate and gentle musical foundation is ideal for Ursula's mesmeric and heavy tones. Much of the gig is spent in locked captivating grooves. Only her familiar topics of oppression, racism, dumbing down and suffering prevent any sense of repetition or monotony.Her rhymes/prose paint vivid metal pictures, but you can't help but be transfixed by the unique tone of her voice. It's almost as if she could say anything and still sound profound. Taken literally, a lot of Ursula's topics are painfully sincere, pretentious even. But what's going on (sic) if we can't listen to one woman rally against domestic abuse, sexism, massmedia-endorsed racism, gun violence and fake huggery without feelings of cynicism? Sorry, but in the week that the Terminator became the California Governor, give me the pretentious over the vacuous all day, every day. Between songs like 'Q&A', 'Supa Sister', 'This' (reworked with into a 4/4 electro-epic) and the awesome 'Soon', she finds increasing confidence to address the crowd. She recounts tales of the misplaced preconceptions of journalists ("Do I live in the ghetto? No, but I can if that makes things easier for you.") and her neighbour's increasing numbness to gun crime victims' suffering. On stage, her presence is remarkably powerful. Her hair is crunched into two huge pigtails. Her at times aggressive body language, particularly through her arms, mirrors both the hip hop culture she grew up with and the explicit and uncompromising nature of her lyrics. There's something in the way she curves her hands towards her groin that should make every macho man reconsider his rhetoric.Some people might find 'Silver Or Lead' depressing. What is depressing is that all her messages still need to be reiterated throughout the "civilised" west. As if her metaphors weren't enough, she ends tonight by breaking it down still further. "I don't come out to hear the sound of my own voice," she says. "It sounds corny but we've got to make a difference." The final track of the night is 'Return To Innocence Lost', reworked powerfully with mantric violins and Oriental percussion. She leaves the stage - and oddly - you hope she doesn't return. It would break the spell.
by Martin Clark

Ursula Rocker - London Jazz Cafe 08/10/2003

LOCATION / VENUELondon jazzcafe DATE08/10/2003
NOTES: From Xfm live hour broadcast


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Blogger bbrock said...

Do you have the song list?

9:53 PM  

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