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Ursula Rucker: The High Priestess of Hip-hop

Author: Skrufff
Saturday, August 25, 2001
Starting her career in 1994 Philadelphia born performance artist Ursula Rucker is one of hip hop's most credible and charismatic players, having collaborated with the Roots, 4 Hero, King Britt and Josh Wink. Fiercely intelligent and deceptively seductive, she operates within hip- hop's socially conscious arenas, covering womanhood and the state of black music rather than the cartoon sex and drugs and violence that dominates so much rap. Unusually for a hip hop artist, she's also fully versed in house music and club culture, having developed long standing relationships with characters like Josh Wink and Space Time Continuum's Jonah Sharpe. Her new album Supa Sista features collaborations with Jonah, King Britt and 4 Hero (and others) and is out on Studio K7 on September 3rd.

'House music was what got me through my college days and early 20s. I used to go to the club every single week before I met my mate, when I was single and I'd go to try and get lost in the music- to forget about the fact that I was so lonely. It gave me a great escape. I love house music and I'll always love it."

That hip-hop poetess Ursula Rucker found love in a crowded house club makes perfect sense, given the acute intelligence that seeps through her work. Musically open-minded and culturally curious, her self directed life has brought her a label deal with highly rated independent label Studio K7, and this week she chatted to Skrufff's Jonty Adderley about the first fruits of the deal; her new album Supa Sista

Skrufff: The first phrase on your biography refers to a 'new sound from Philadelphia infused with poetic vision, did you have a clear musical vision-
Ursula Rucker: "I knew the kind of musical feel I wanted for each thing and I'd communicate that to whoever who was producing each track. There were thoughts that I had that I knew I wanted to talk about but it wasn't so planned out."

Skrufff: Obviously, you're writing all the lyrics, what kind of input do you have on the musical side-
Ursula Rucker: "4 Hero and Alex Kidd made whatever they made, then sent them to me but the other tracks involved me saying what I wanted, them putting the music together then when we made the tracks, I'd have more of a say changing things here and there."

Skrufff: You went to journalism school and were also known as a poetess previously, why do you favour music over writing-
Ursula Rucker: "I didn't originally plan to use music, but I started doing an open mic type thing at a jazz club in Philly (Philadelphia) , did a couple of my poems and I was hooked. It just so happened that some friends of mine made music and asked me to get involved and it all happened from there. I didn't have any plans to do that at all. I wanted to do a book or poems then, which is something I still want to do."

Skrufff: How much do commercial considerations affect your music-
Ursula Rucker: "When I was creating I didn't think about that at all, then when I'd finished I looked at which tracks might be commercially popular. There's a couple of tracks on the album like that but most of them won't get played on the radio, which is fine. I have a big issue with artists compromising their work. I've had discussions with artists about whether it's possible to be commercially successful without compromising your work and I think it is. I figure I have people who listen to me for various reasons, mostly the kind of people that listen to music and are on the edge a little. I hope there's enough folks to buy the album. I have high hopes for the record - if you aim high you'll fall down somewhere in the middle."

Skrufff: Where do you see yourself fitting within the overall hip hop scene-
Ursula Rucker: "I see myself as the mother who's always saying 'don't do this, be careful, don't fall into the wrong group of people' - that's how I feel. I haven't given up on hip-hop which could be easy to do right now. I try to seek out the people who are dedicated to it because they're devo