If you’ve fallen victim to a YouTube black hole, where you find yourself watching video after video and all of a sudden an hour has passed, there’s a good chance you’ve been under the spell of hip-hop enchantress Sa-Roc. This Atlanta-based MC is easy to be captivated by. As a performer, she carries herself with confidence, beauty and grace, and her music is strong, her lyrical patterns, intricate and her vocal delivery a wonderful balance between raw and polished.
Sa-Roc, originally from Washington, D.C., is a spiritual storyteller, and her control on mic and strength with a pen is truly majestic and impactful, yet her commanding presence isn’t overwhelmed by her ego. While her lyricism can be spitfire at times, she is in full command as she changes up her flows. Sa-Roc fills both the student and teacher roles as a musician, in that her perspectives share wisdom gained from her experiences and her diverse musical influences, while also being a true listener, open to learning and soaking up new life lessons.
Some of her experimental music is reminiscent of the stylings of Jean Grae, such as on track “The Little Spaceship,” while other tracks, such as “Industry (End-Us-Try)”, “Fire, Wind Earth” and “True Mastery” are clear nods to old school hip hop, the golden era.
Sa-Roc’s conscious, reflective and metaphysical lyrics are both complex and approachable. Her music is relatable and inquisitive – not only is Sa-Roc able to seemingly effortlessly engage an audience, she’s also able to get listeners thinking while getting lost in the music and vibing out.
Sa-Roc’s challenges are met with motivation to work through them, and her music mirrors the same keep-it-real mantra that Sa-Roc’s personality radiates. And the very best part – you can tell Sa-Roc enjoys what she does with passion.
Watch these spaces and check out our Q+A below!
Focusing on celebrating the female creators and voices has been a big inspiration for me and my enthusiasm for doing so is what led me to discover your music. I would love to hear more about if you have found it difficult to have your voice heard?
It definitely can be challenging. There is a preconceived notion right off the bat before hearing a woman who raps that she is going to be corny or she’s not going to be as skilled or confident as her male counterparts. It’s almost as if we aren’t allowed into the conversation. We don’t fit into the narrative that men in the industry have created for us. There is a hyper-sexualized, Barbie kind of image and I’m not talking about anyone in particular, but if you don’t fit that image and don’t tell that story, it is definitely more difficult to get your voice heard in my experience in blogs, in reading male commenters on the blog, and so on. It’s interesting how dismissive men can be for women rappers. I’ve seen female counterparts in the game who have let that discourage them.
For me, the challenge is to keep focused, to keep working, to keep true to myself as a skilled MC.
How did you get started and how do you remain driven?
I started in 2008. I never had a background in MC’ing or anything like that, but I’ve always been a writer and I’ve always been involved in the creative arts through theatre. It wasn’t until I met Atlanta-producer Sol Messiah that I had exposure to a lot of the artists that he worked with, and so on, and just being in the environment that he worked in made me want to try my hand at it. So I tried and we recorded something, just playing around in the studio, I didn’t know what to expect but the feedback from Sol Messiah was great. (Laughs) So from there, that was a boost to my confidence and I decided I would try it a couple more times and I caught the bug from that point on deciding that it is what I wanted to do.
I haven’t been in the game for that long, especially considering people doing it for 20 plus years and on, so it still feels fresh to me, I still feel like I’m growing, I still feel like I’m learning. I think, as a listener, it gets a little stale for me sometimes and hard to be inspired, but when you get great albums like Kendrick Lamar’s new album that just dropped and J. Cole’s album, that helps to inspire me. And it’s a little friendly competition too.
Tell me more about you and Sol Messiah and your creative process working together.
Sol Messiah is the only producer that I work with. I don’t know if we’d ever be considered a duo, it’s more so a Premier/Guru or Talib Kwali/Hi-Tek relationship, where they crafted a sound and made an album together. Sol Messiah and I have several albums together. It really helps creatively because you start to know each other really well and it becomes a symbiotic relationship where he knows my strengths and weaknesses, as well as he knows what beats and samples and things I strive on and he knows what excites me so we can create music tailored to my style and sound. I also challenge him to grow musically as I grow and stretch and change my cadences and flow.
Our process usually starts with him creating something for me, or creating a skeleton of something and then I take it and write what I need to write. After we will add layers to it, like background vocals or so on, then get into mixing and we create that way. He comes from Atlanta, and that whole 90s scene was very musician-heavy, incorporating a lot of bass and electric guitars, and a lot of those elements you’ll find in my music. A lot of those same family artists and musicians from Atlanta have been featured or provided the background for a lot of the music that I have created, so I am really blessed to have such a lush landscape with my music.
What does your favorite environment to work on a new track or write new lyrics look like?
I actually have an in-home studio so I prefer to work at home. That is comfortable for me. It’s funny, a lot of times we’ll be recording and I’ll have pajamas on. We don’t get to do that too often, but I love working at home. It’s easy and at 2 o’clock in the morning, if I finish a track I can jump in the booth and record it right away. For writing, I need to be off in the corner, in the quiet and I try to have a laid back vibe in the studio, with some incense burning to help create the ambiance I like. With the album we are working on now, we are starting to venture out and go into bigger studios.
What are you currently working on?
We haven’t come up with anything concrete release date-wise, but I am working in the studio. I am writing for a new project, to be released in the early part of winter. We are experimenting with a softer side than I have traditionally been used to. We have a couple of very special guests lined up that I don’t want to share just yet, but I can say I feel like this album will be my “Good Kid Maad City” kind of album. The one that really makes a lasting impression on the hip hop community.
What is some of your favorite advice?
One of my friends told me that as artists, it is our responsibility to share our music with the world. We are holding onto a light that could help someone living in a darkness; it could be that thing that helps them turn their life around or help enlighten them.
It is our responsibility to share our gift and not to be judgmental of that gift. As artists we can be extremely critical of our work. We are perceptible to criticism and not want to produce because of that. But if you look at what you are doing as a gift to yourself and to the world, and you’re being authentic in that, that should be your motivation for continuing to create and to craft your sound. That’s the best advice that keeps me motivated and inspired.
As a creator, what is your mission in creating, especially in today’s music industry?
I think that now people are wanting authenticity more than ever. As an artist I strive to be as true to myself and as true to my perspective as possible. I think that is really important to keep in mind that when you strip away all the layers, at the essence is what impact the music really has, and that impact should be true to why it resonated with you. That is my mission and that is my intention when I am creating and I hope that it can inspire other artists to do the same.
Much love and gratitude to Sa-Roc for sharing her music and her time with AAHipHop!