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Philly's Supastar Ursula Rucker on George Bush's Zombie Nation

Author: Jonty Skrufff
Sunday, October 5, 2003
"With somebody like George Bush as the head of the nation, do you think consciousness is going to be number one on his list- Uh-huh. It would behove George Bush to have everybody in a zombie like state, so he can dupe everybody and do what he does best."

While the corporate American gangsta rap of P Diddy and his ilk celebrates gun culture, bling bling and the winner-takes-all reality of the increasingly nightmarish American Dream, significant numbers of independent artists continue to use hip hop as a direct means of protest and Philadelphia poet Ursula Rucker is a superb example of what can be done.

Articulate, intelligent and fearlessly outspoken, the mother of three is also blessed with the whispering voice of an avenging angel and uses it to startling effect on her new album Silver Or Bullet, her second long player for independent label K7. Accompanied by appropriately haunting jazzed out musical arrangements from the likes of Jazzanova, 4 Hero, Lil' Louis Vega and Roots, the record is both highly listenable and interesting, Rucker's lyrics provoking the listeners consciousness, whether through politics or swearing (something she could clearly teach Peaches a trick or two).

Sitting in a suite of a West London boutique hotel though, she's friendly if a little fierce, pointing out she's missing her family while travelling outside America.

"It's not easy, it's pretty fucked actually," she laughs.

"Touring is the hardest thing I have to do. I'm going to be away for three weeks when I'm next in Europe and I'm trying to figure out how I can maybe take just one of them, maybe the four year old because he doesn't have to be in school yet. The baby's too young. I'm not Madonna, I don't have a nanny, I don't have people paying me a fortune to come and do a show."

Skrufff (Jonty Skrufff): Starting with the album, where do you usually start when you're song writing-

Ursula Rucker: "I don't follow a formula, it's whatever process works. Sometimes the poem is already there and I'll finally decide how I can use it, with what kind of music. Then sometimes I'll have a block and nothing will be coming out so I'll ask for a track, for inspiration. I don't just write and throw stuff away, it takes a lot for me to reach the point where I can write a whole body of work. I like to follow through. Sometimes I'll write half a song then have to stop and come back to it, but usually I'll write all the way through to the end. I'm a perfectionist too, so I like to get it all done at once."

Skrufff: Do you enjoy the writing process-

Ursula Rucker: "No, it's pleasurable when I actually reach the writing stage but before that I'm in angst about whether I'm going to be able to express these thoughts the way I want. It's the period before writing that's worrisome then when I start it's a relief."

Skrufff: A phrase on your biog talks about you trying to be confident rather than preachy in the way your lyrics come across, are you a supremely confident person-

Ursula Rucker: "No, not especially, though the one place I am pretty confident is with my poetry, it's the place where I can find and gain and exhibit the strength that I may not be able to access on a daily basis. It's the one place I go for solace, for empowerment, for therapy, to tell somebody off, maybe at times when I'm feeling really shy and quiet and don't feel that I can speak up. I used my poetry for lots of thing."

Skrufff: Ross Allen wrote about your album in the latest issue of Jockey Slut and was positive but also fairly critical (Allen wrote 'Ursula's last album was very disappointing'), how did you take his comments-

Ursula Rucker: "I laughed (laughing out loud). I just say 'people are funny' (laughing even more). Not everybody's going to like what I do but the way that he wrote it was so coy. Yeah, I was disappointed and just a tad bit offended that he said something like 'this is how Ursula's records should always ha