Saturday, August 20, 2005

Obscure Song No 4: "Return to Innocence Lost"

My fourth in this occasional series is something rather different: a musical poem one might say. The Roots, Philadelphia's finest hip-hop group ever, delivered on their earliest albums some glorious cluminations to their work by inviting Ursula Rucker to contribute. Things Fall Apart - for my money their finest album - ends (well, kinda: Scratch gets into the whole 'hidden track' thing some minutes later) with the heartbreaking "Return to Innocence Lost."

Ursula Rucker is one of the best proponents of the sort of work usually found at a good poetry slam (and having been to one at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, I can assure you that such events can be inspirational - as well as hugely entertaining). Written out, the words can appear almost blank: spoken, they take on another life entirely.

"Return to Innocence Lost" tells the story of the violent birth, life and death of Rucker's elder brother:
Played a different kind of street game now
First Son plunged deep
Speak street-family vows
Espouse no causes but his own
See, he couldn't protect Mommy's neck from Daddy's grasp
Or...protect Mommy's ass from Daddy's wrath
Couldn't shield her ears from...Daddy's foul-mouthed, liquor-breath jeers
His only defense-served be confidence
Brown bottles housed his swift descent
Phones called cops on block frequent for his shenanigans
Now...Daddy and him twins in addiction
Driven to false-hearted heavens and friends
By liquefied demons
Had become what he despised from Conception 'til End
Rucker's solo work is also worth checking out, but for me, Things Fall Apart - and especially this contribution - remains one of her finest moments.

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