The Ursula Rucker Experience at the B.E.A.T.S. Hiphop Expo (A Video)

Being a part of organizing the 2nd annual hiphop expo for B.E.A.T.S (Building Education through the Arts and Transforming Society) this past weekend was a complete and total honor. Last year's expo on hiphop and sustainability was great, especially hearing Majora Carter speak and seeing Invincible perform. This year's expo surrounded women in hiphop. The theme was called When and Where I Enter: Women Beyond Gender Talk, and it featured an amazing keynote from Michaela Angela Davis along with a beautiful performance from Ursula Rucker. Although the expo was streamed live, which I hope will be archived somewhere, I taped Ursula doing her thing with my own little equipment. Not that I'm trying to start up my own little video production for this blog (like it's that serious), but I really wanted you all to get some footage of the experience I had at this year's expo. This video is her performing "The Awakening" off of 4Hero's Play with the Changes, one of my favorite albums by one of my favorite production groups, at OU's Grover Center.

When I talked to her during her poetry workshop, she was so chill with everything. One thing that stuck out to me during that session, something I should have always recognized when differentiating spoken word from music, was what she said about why whenever she speak she purposely separates poetry and music. She said although there are poetic origins in the lyricism of songs, poetry and music is like painting and photography.

So I thought about it for the rest of that day, and what she says is true. Poetry and music, as similar as they may be, are two different art forms. Poetry is aligned with painting in this sense: with painting, an artist gets the canvas AND the drawing tools in grasp for expression. The thought essentially is organic, just like in poetry. In photography, an artist may get a canvas, but it is a canvas with ideas and thoughts on them with little to no room for any outside or other thoughts. An artist's thought is primarily laid out in the presentation of that pre-made canvas. Does that mean it isn't an organic art form? I think so. Because with painting an artist is limitless with the way an artist wants to present the idea - from what colors used to the style of the stroke to where the finished piece will be on display. Although photography has many different techniques people can use, photography is not organic because an artist is limited by what is already there, i.e. the landscape or portrait being shot.

This was just one of the many things I got out of the hiphop expo last weekend. It is important to know that lyrics do not always need a beat to live. In fact, lyrics can sometime stand on its own.

Erykah Badu: Return of the Ankh Review

If you didn't know, since the shooting of her crazy a$$ video, Erykah Badu got charged for parading nude in downtown Dallas. Click here for more details! Below is the review for her album. I may have to add more on her single "Window Seat", but for now enjoy below.

Erykah Badu: New Amerykah Part Two: Return of the Ankh
[Universal Motown; 2010]
Rating: 7/10
By Star Watson, Staff Writer
April 3, 2010

Erykah Badu shying away from exposing different perspectives in her music is as unlikely as the Cookie Monster becoming the Veggie Monster. Badu has always given the audience a new side of R&B music, from Baduizm to Worldwide Underground. Her latest project, New Amerykah, isn’t any different. After a supposed writer’s block, she releases the new series of albums focused on life, love and politics –- piece by elaborate piece.

New Amerykah Part One: 4th World War is socially and politically driven. It is a story of poverty, violence, corruption and cultural identity with this “New Amerykah.” It includes samples of speeches from political figures, and the music is heavily electronic and funk-based with sprinkles of hip-hop and jazz.

Through the second series, Badu unveils a new part of her so-called New Amerykah –- emotions. New Amerykah Part Two: Return of the Ankh is far more personally-driven than the first part because the lyrical concepts center around love, relationships and gender identity.

For the most part, the album has instrumental music including harps, pianos, guitars and drums from her production group/band Freakquency (?uestlove, Kirsten Agresta, James Poyser, Stephen “Thundercat” Bruner and Mike Chav). This also features production by Sa-Ra, Madlib and J Dilla. The result of this star-studded production is a massive soul-bomb on the current state of R&B.

Although the production team is a soul singer’s dream, Return of the Ankh lacks freshness from Badu. Listeners may easily get lost in her album as she allows the flow of her music to outshine her message.

Her renditions of original pieces such as Roy Ayer’s “You Can’t Turn Me Away” are delightful, but they seem like a soundcheck song more than an album cut, sounding thrown together and impulsive. Although “You Loving Me” is the most pointless song on the album because it is unfinished and she even admits the lyrics are too terrible to reveal (according to her album booklet), “Turn Me Away” is the worst.

Overall, Badu manages to generate emotions out of a jam session-type album. As annoyingly impulsive as some of these tracks may seem, New Amerykah Part Two embodies the entire definition of feelings and the desire to be loved with its impulsiveness in the tracks and the identity created by Badu with the lyrics. In this album, she does a crafty job of unveiling Amerykah as a woman and not a place.

“Window Seat," the lead single on the album, is also its high point. Not because of the insane guerrilla-style video where she strips in front of the spot of Kennedy's assassination in downtown Dallas without permission, but because of its emotion. With this song, Badu manages to strike a nerve for all women who know how it feels to be unloved because of how different they are. “Window Seat” becomes the pivotal single for the entire New Amerykah series because of its live, instrument-only production and its phenomenally organic lyricism.

Listening to the lyrics of this album and not allowing the mega-production of the music to consume you will give you better results from Return of the Ankh. The arrangement of the tracks is ingenious. The message in this series is ingenious. The production of the music is maybe too ingenious. In short, the beats outshine the message within her lyrics, and for an artist like Erykah Badu, who should never make albums an easy listen, that is not a good look.