Dope – Amiri Baraka

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read by Amiri Baraka; Folkways, Before Columbus Foundation

uuuuuuuuuu uuu ray light morning fire lynch yet
uuuuuuu, yester-pain in dreams
comes again. race-pain, people our people

our people

everywhere . . . yeh . . . uuuuu, yeh

uuuuu. Yeh

our people

yes people

every people

most people

uuuuu, yeh uuuuu, most people

in pain

yester-pain, and pain today

(Screams) ooowow! ooowow! It must be

the devil

(jumps up like a claw stuck him) oooo

wow! oooowow! (screams)

It must be the devil

It must be the devil

it must be the devil

(shakes like evangelical sanctify

shakes tambourine like evangelical sanctify

in heat)

ooowow! ooowow! yeh, devil, yeh, devil


Must be the devil must be the devil

(waves plate like collection) mus is mus is

mus is

mus is be the devil, cain be rockefeller

(eyes roll

up batting, and jumping all the way around

to face the

other direction) caint be him, no lawd

aint be dupont, no lawd, cain be, no lawd

no way

noway, naw saw, no way jose — cain be

them rich folks

theys good to us theys good to us theys

good to us theys

good to us theys good to us, i know, the

massa tolt me

so, i seed it on channel 7, i seed it on

channel 9 i seed

it on channel 4 and 2 and 5. Rich folks

good to us

poor folks aint shit, hallelujah, hallelujah,

ooowow! oowow!

must be the devil, going to heaven after i

die, after we die

everything going to be different, after we die

we aint gon be

hungry, ain gon be pain, ain gon be sufferin

wont go thru this

again, after we die, after we die owooo!


after we die, its all gonna be good, have all

the money we

need after we die, have all the food we

need after we die

have a nice house like the rich folks, after

we die, after we die, after we

die, we can live like rev ike, after we die,

hallelujah, hallelujah, must be

the devil, it ain capitalism, it aint capitalism,

it aint capitalism,

naw it aint that, jimmy carter wdnt lie,

“lifes unfair” but it aint capitalism

must be the devil, owow! it ain the police,

jimmy carter wdnt lie, you

know rosalynn wdnt not lillian his

drunken racist brother aint no reflection

on jimmy, must be the devil got in im, i tell

you, the devil killed malcolm

and dr king too, even killed both kennedies,

and pablo neruda and overthrew

allende’s govt. killed lumumba, and is

negotiating with step and fetchit,

sleep n eat and birmingham, over there in

“Rhodesia”, goin’ under the name

ian smith, must be the devil, caint be vortser,

caint be apartheid, caint

be imperialism, jimmy carter wdnt lie, didnt

you hear him say in his state

of the union message, i swear on rosalynn’s

face-lifted catatonia, i wdnt lie

nixon lied, haldeman lied, dean lied, hoover

lied hoover sucked (dicks) too

but jimmy dont, jimmy wdnt jimmy aint lying,

must be the devil, put yr

money on the plate, must be the devil, in

heaven we’all all be straight

cain be rockefeller, he gave amos pootbootie a

scholarship to Behavior

Modification Univ, and Genevieve Almoswhite

works for his foundation

Must be niggers! Cain be Mellon, he gave

Winky Suckass, a fellowship in

his bank put him in charge of closing out

mortgages in the lowlife

Pittsburgh Hill nigger section, caint be him.

(Goes on babbling, and wailing, jerking

in pathocrazy grin stupor)

Yessuh, yessuh, yessuh, yessuh, yessuh, yes-

suh, yessuh, yessuh, yessuh, yessuh,

put yr money in the plate, dont be late, dont

have to wait, you gonna be in

heaven after you die, you gon get all you need

once you gone, yessuh, i heard

it on the jeffersons, i heard it on the rookies,

I swallowed it

whole on roots: wasn’t it nice slavery was so

cool and

all you had to do was wear derbies and vests

and train chickens and buy your

way free if you had a mind to, must be the

devil wasn’t no white folks,

lazy niggers chained theyselves and threw

they own black asses in the bottom

of the boats, [(well now that you mention it King

Assblackuwasi helped throw yr ass in

the bottom of the boat, yo mamma, wife, and

you never seed em no more)] must

a been the devil, gimme your money put your

money on this plate, heaven be here soon,

just got to die, just got to stop living, close yr

eyes stop

breathin and bammm-O heaven be here, you

have all a what you need, Bam-O

all a sudden, heaven be here, you have all you

need, that assembly line

you work on will dissolve in thin air owowoo!

owowoo! Just gotta die

just gotta die, this ol world aint nuthin, must be

the devil got you

thinkin so, it cain be rockefeller, it cain be mor-

gan, it caint be capitalism

it caint be national oppression owow! No Way!

Now go back to work and cool

it, go back to work and lay back, just a little

while longer till you pass

its all gonna be alright once you gone. gimme

that last bitta silver you got

stashed there sister, gimme that dust now broth-

er man, itll be ok on the

other side, yo soul be clean be washed pure

white, yes. yes. yes. owow.

now go back to work, go to sleep, yes, go to

sleep, go back to work, yes

owow. owow. uuuuuuuuuu, uuuuuuuuuuu,

uuuuuuuuuuu. yes, uuuuuuu. yes.


a men.

text from The LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka Reader

18 thoughts on “Dope – Amiri Baraka

  1. Kirkham

    At first I was wondering if it was necessary to include the audio of the poet reading his work, but it was definitely needed in this case. I didn’t really understand the bass-toned “uuuuuuuu” at the beginning and end of the poem. Someone enlighten me.

  2. admin Post author

    re: audio – some poems benefit from the reading more than others – but I’ll try to include it whenever possible. i enjoy being able to interact with the poem in multiple contexts.

    re: “uuuuu” – no real answers here, but some ideas – they seem to be transitional (coming at the beginning and the end). at the beginning of the poem the narrator doesn’t truly launch into his sermon until the end of those noises – when he exclaims – “it must be the devil!”

    and at the end of the poem “uuuuu”‘s are preceded by the mantra – ‘go back to sleep, go back to work’ and the speaker begins to fade away. I almost imagine some inflatable person – at the beginning of the poem he’s inflating and at the end he’s deflating.

    the other thing the “uuuu’s” made me think of was meditation and the monotone “oooohm” that can accompany meditation. the speaker’s noises here (and his whole sermon) could be seen as an inversion of that.

  3. shmike

    when first I heard the poem I figured the uuuuu’s were the sound a dope fiend makes when he’s either fiending or in his dopified stupor. I figured the whole poem takes place during a very exciting (but in reality destructive) drug binge, which serves as the obvious metaphor for opiatic religiousness

  4. admin Post author

    No problem. His performance is impressive and is instrumental to the poem (well, in my opinion!).

  5. rich quatrone

    I’ve known Amiri a very long time and have heard him read this to a small class I was teaching back in the 80s at Passaic High School. The uuuuuus are the sounds of ecstasy a man makes when shooting up. The entire poem is about religion (the opiate of the people) and its nefarious collaboration with the oppression of the people.

  6. David

    Brilliant reading. I feel that the uuuu almost sounds like a monkey noise in the beginning of the poem, and crying near the end. It makes sense that it would be the sounds of ecstasy as has been described but it also seems to enforce the view that the “rich folk” referred to in the poem have of the speaker.

  7. Leeanne

    I had the privilege of interviewing Baraka regarding this poem when I was in college (2000/2001) the above responses regarding the monkey sound (monkey on your back) and the ecstacy of a user getting a hit are good answers. I would add that it could also be “whooping” of a pentecostal style preacher. When I asked him what the significance was he said, “Ain’t you been to church?”

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  9. Annie

    Leeanne that interview sounds really interesting- have you published it online or anything? I’m doing my dissertation on the Black Arts Movement and would be really interested to see it.

  10. bp Post author

    Annie –

    If you click on Leanne’s name it will take you to her website, which has some contact information. I certainly encourage you to contact her and follow up.

    And please do come back here and share your work.

  11. Rose

    Need to know which anthology this can be found in, and what date it was originally published, anybody know? Would be much appreciated x

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