Ursula Rucker : The Knitting Factory, Los Angeles

Rucker takes the hiphop adage keeping it real and makes it her own...

Ursula Rucker takes the stage of the Knitting Factory with little fanfare. But none is needed; her own words are more powerful than those any hype-man could muster. A critically acclaimed spoken word poet, Rucker has graced albums by 4Hero, King Britt (who is chilling in the audience) and fellow Philly natives, The Roots. She recently dropped her accomplished debut full length ‘Supa Sista’ and tonight in front of a crowd that is clearly feeling her every word, Rucker brings that album to blistering life. Words are the weapon, the inspiration, the message and the balm in Rucker’s complex world of intellect and passion.

While the term ‘spoken word’ conjures up images of verbose bohemian poets spewing forth stream-of-consciousness waffle though clouds of incense, Rucker’s poetry is pertinent and powerful. On the dynamic ‘What???’ she takes on the hiphop nation and serves up a severe dressing down to the culture’s proliferation of wack MCs. She prefaces her flow with a coy, “If I f*** up its just because I get really, really angry.”

Not one to shy away from uncomfortable topics, Rucker deals with drug abuse, rape and racism frequently, with a seemingly shocking vocabulary that arrests attention and illuminates her messages. Her voice, crystal clear and wielding a quiet power on vinyl, is infused with raw but directed passion in her live show.

Rucker’s is an intense, focused performance that effectively channels her natural stage presence. When she speaks to the crowd, she displays a shy charm that belies her steely delivery. Her realness is tangible and inviting, evidenced by the freedom with which members of the audience frequently shout out encouragement. Rucker responds with good humour, creating an intimate atmosphere. Her performance reinforces the artistry of her album and brings it to life, allowing her audience an insight into her personality. With her roots in hiphop poetry, and her mind in places far more complex than most, Rucker takes the hiphop adage keeping it real and makes it her own.

Lucy Beer