Editorial, interview, Interviews, Main

Women Crush Wednesday: Sa-Roc

If you’ve fallen victim to a YouTube black hole, where you find yourself watching video after video and all of…

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.

As recently announced, Sa-Roc’s new album, “Gift of the Magi,” exclusively produced by Atlanta-based producer Sol Messiah, is set to drop on October 2nd.

Watch these spaces and check out our Q+A below!

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/SaRocVEVO
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Sa-Roc/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/sarocthemc
Instagram: https://instagram.com/sarocthemc


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!

My name is KC Orcutt, and I’ve now been writing for an Internet-specific audience for more than half my life. Growing up in Upstate NY, I recently relocated to Los Angeles, where I aim to expand my writing career, meet as many interesting people as possible and never forget that the beach is a 20 minute drive away. My work has appeared on a handful of publications, including Beatport News, 12ozProphet, Brooklyn Street Art, Music Times and Keep Albany Boring. I am an enthusiast of happy hour, getting out of the house, supporting my friends’ creative endeavors and listening to the same five songs a dozen times in a row - if they bang.
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Koncept Talks Korea & Premieres New Video For “Never Again”

The Queens MC flipped a two-week tour into a two-year odyssey of success

It’s all about trusting the journey because sometimes following your gut can take you into unexpected territory. Just ask Queens (New York) rapper Koncept — one-time Fat Beats employee and former member of the Brown Bag All Stars. He’d built a bankable brand as a solo act, blazing from the onset of his debut LP back at the top of 2012. Having worked his J57 collaborative project The Fuel and having just about wrapped his next LP (which would become 14 Hours Ahead), he set off on a short tour in Seoul, the capital of South Korea. That was almost two years ago, and Kon has finally made his return to New York City after what became an unexpected odyssey of overseas fame.

RELATED: Read Our 2015 Interview With Koncept [Released In Support Of The Fuel]

“I was only supposed to be there for two weeks … the tour got extended,” he reveals to AAHH. “I ended up partnering with Sony Music [Asia], and it was a domino effect into a bunch of things.” The label made him an offer he couldn’t refuse, but as they agreed to release his 14 Hours Ahead LP, the deal required him to stick around indefinitely. “They said they wanted me to stay over there for the rollout of the album, so I could be face to face in the country, play shows, promote my brand and the album.”

The LP’s success led to a consistent touring schedule. “I tried to come back a few times,” he notes. Each time he attempted to return, bookings would pile one, forcing him to abandon the plans. “This time I was straight up, like, ‘all right, I’m going to go back to New York. I’m going to fly out June 20th. Like there are no bookings after June 15th, you know what I mean?'”

“I just been nonstop,” he continues. “I just finished this new album, and I want to drop these news videos I have … but I just [needed to] regroup and take a little rest, you know what I mean? Chill for a little bit and then get back into everything.” The first of these new videos — there are five in total — “Never Again” is premiering right here on AAHH. “It’s just about not making the same mistakes and learning from your experiences,” he says of the track, “just getting rid of all of the negative things in your life, from relationships to friendships, etc.”

 
Ultimately, he credits his time in Korea with helping him break ground that merely networking online wouldn’t have allowed — which is a big takeaway for any artist considering touring overseas. “I’m constantly booked … I play three shows a week. There’s a real connection with the people, the fans, and with the industry as a whole out there.” Though he’d already tasted some initial success stateside, the same success that led him to Korea in the first place, what’s he’s built over there has been next level. “Going out there and just being the unicorn, just being different, instantly people gravitated towards it.” On top of just a hectic live schedule, he also landed numerous print magazine placements and even commercial placements — notably appearing in Spyder clothing ads that appeared across Asia in movie theatres.

Perhaps most importantly, it’s sparked a whole new wave of creativity for Koncept. “It’s dope because it’s in a different place is just really inspiring. You know what I mean? Walking outside every day and just seeing things that I’m not used to, meeting different people … it’s a whole other inspiration.” As he explains, the outlook has given his music an even more unique vibe than it already had. “I’m not to trying to be pigeonholed as a New York rapper … there’s a big world out here. I’m trying to be a fucking a global artist, you know, global musician.”

14 Days Ahead
is available everywhere.

 

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Expect Excellence from Fashion Startup [strive/arrive]

To its 21-year-old founder, fashion brand [strive/arrive] does much more than put out dope apparel; it utilizes raw emotion, promotes…

To its 21-year-old founder, fashion brand [strive/arrive] does much more than put out dope apparel; it utilizes raw emotion, promotes self-empowerment, and thrives on community involvement.

The official brand entitled & stylized as [strive/arrive] was created in 2017 by then 20-year-old Anwar Alston in Greensboro, North Carolina. From the get-go, Anwar placed a heavy emphasis on pushing clothes to his community and keeping everything local. Frequenting the Greensboro Cultural Center for runway fashion shows, Strive has become a stylish symbol of the city’s youth culture and garnered an “if you know you know” type of following.

According to Anwar, every article of clothing visually represents his state of mind throughout his design process. This has led Strive to produce a variety of custom pieces like jackets and jeans scribbled with a vibrant sharpie, to professionally tagged and branded collared shirts and sweatpants; each incorporating different meanings and phrases within them. Strive’s garments showcase eloquent diversity in style and function, and continue to evolve in colorways and material. My personal favorite from the Strive catalog is a baby blue t-shirt reading: HANDLE THE PRESSURE, in a simplistic square outline.

While diverse, the main thing you will notice is consistent in Strive’s clothing is the use of bright colors. Anwar notes that this is intended to promote positivity and mental wellbeing; both important factors to his creative process. One upcoming drop stylized as s[PRIDE] will advocate for the LGBTQ community by incorporating the pride rainbow into t-shirts as well as a thought-provoking design reading “love is ____.”

And though Strive makes an effort to push clothes locally, the brand is also making big moves internationally. This summer will mark the brand’s first major collaboration with London based streetwear brand: Amien Ghaker Jomaa. The drop is scheduled for mid-July along with a separate line of athletic wear. s[PRIDE] is currently available for pre-order on strivearrive.com and in the meantime, Anwar will be holding a fashion show periodically in the Van Dyke performance space of the Greensboro Cultural Center.

Stylish, refreshing, and impressively busy— [strive/arrive] is a growing company that fashion scouts must undoubtedly keep an eye on.

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REVIEW: Redemption by Jay Rock

As a follow up to his nostalgia influenced 2016 album 90059, REDEMPTION sounds as if Jay Rock has finally broken…

As a follow up to his nostalgia influenced 2016 album 90059, REDEMPTION sounds as if Jay Rock has finally broken through to his final form of artistry and is forging his way ahead. The project came with two documentary-style visuals, Road to Redemption parts 1 & 2, that show the TDE rapper’s evolution since signing with Warner Bros Records in 2007, to signing exclusively with Top Dawg and Interscope. The visuals also portray the extremely positive impact the rapper has had on his community in Watts, California since flourishing in the music industry. This mini-doc series serves as a visualization to many of the concepts on this album and provides insight into Rock as a person and his perception in Hip Hop. There is truly no slowing down for the TDE spitter, who showcases his striking ambition for life and Hip Hop on this exemplary 13 track album.

1) The Bloodiest

“The Bloodiest” is Rock’s opening track. Perhaps it’s name is a metaphor for his past life as a violent criminal, perhaps a prelude for the album’s rawness, but either way it’s a hell of an opening statement. The Devil thought he had me I was on back burners, are the words that start the song. Emanating chills, he continues with ghostly, technical bars before wrecking the beat with quick & agile rhyme schemes he matches with the dense subject matter. The listener cannot help but focus like attending a college lecture. The beat, while fire, is the least important aspect of “The Bloodiest,” because Jay Rock is able to say so much in so little time.

2) For What it’s Worth

Track two. “For What it’s Worth.” I’m not even gonna front, at first listen I skipped this song because of the background singing that is now a staple of “woke” Hip Hop. But I’m glad I went back and listened in depth because it is by far the strongest song on Redemption. It’s mellow- but if you hone in on what Rock is spitting you will literally get chills up and down your spine. Exploring the problems of having a relationship during the brink of success, the TDE MC explains how dangerous pussy can be. That pretty flower will spoil you then it poisons you, is just one quick outtake of all the truth he spits on this male-centric, relationship anxiety inspired second track.

3) Knock it Off

“Knock it Off” immediately lightens things up by upping its tempo while Jay Rock touches on a new and less serious subject. The track is dedicated to exposing fakes that try to be like Jay Rock and TDE. The groove is spit over the now classic flute enhanced rap instrumental. “You ain’t me n*gga knock it off!” The background vocals on this track are saucy as hell but don’t overpower Rock’s energy; showcasing the tastefulness of the mix.

4) ES Tales

“Back in these projects/back in these projects/ I lost it all…now I’m back in these projects,” is the haunting opener to Rock’s next track: “ES Tales.” The tone of the album switches up at this point to a digital sounding, video game inspired upbeat tempo; though Jay Rock sticks to his Watts inspired storytelling rap style. At this point in the album, he has outdone himself in regards to lyrical capacity and rhyme scheme, and this track is perhaps one of the strongest in showcasing how many different flows the artist is capable of.

5) Rotation 112th

“Rotation 112th” maintains an upbeat tempo with the fire flute samples that complement the lyrical transitions from low sing/rap to high energy yelling. This song is impossible not to nod your head to; it’s a perfect filler track in the sense that it fits the mood thus far in the project but doesn’t too much to progress its major themes. A smoke break to Rock’s relentlessly meaningful content.

6) Tap Out

TDE calls upon Jeremih’s soothing vocals for the mid-album radio song: “Tap Out.” I call it a radio song because its bound to be stuck in your head. Not in an annoying mainstream way, but in a way that you don’t even notice until you’re humming the lyrics at random times all day. Other reviewers called this track the token sex song of the project.

7) OSOM

I was happy that TDE showed J. Cole some love on this next track; because even if you claim you hate Cole you can’t hate on TDE, especially on this track. “OSOM” (outta sight outta mind) is a tribute to paranoia, as shown in the visuals that recently dropped featuring Cole and Rock together fighting off an overwhelming feeling of dread after a botched robbery. Cole always spits with uncharacteristic rawness when featured and this track was no different.

8) King’s Dead

I don’t even have to go into “King’s Dead” since it was Redemption’s first single. But if for some reason you haven’t heard it yet: it’s fire. K Dot freaked it.

9) Troopers

“Troopers” is an ode to loyalty; noting the kinship that comes with drug dealing and crime. “you ain’t gotta question when its brackin’” is a nice line that sums up the unspoken allegiance Rock feels to his closest homies in Watts. The track is ominous in sound and subjects with the chorus continuously warning his momma that he might not make it home from his escapades with the streets. Though not a hype track or a deeply lyrical journey this track is a good Segway between “Kings Dead” & “Broke+-.”

10) Broke +-

Track 10 is the densest of this project. The Black Hippy rapper delves into American history, capitalism, and personal morals before painting a sonic image of what it means to be “broke” in America. B is for the blood/R is for the ropes/O is for oppression/K is for the kush need it just to cope/E is for the evolution. The words are rapped over a slow, gloomy beat and does well to ground the project after taking its listeners up and down.

11) Wow Freestyle

Wooooow. K dot and Jay Rock reminisce on this joint. It’s a fun sounding track that lightens the mood with back and forth from Rock to Dot and back again. Rock also experiments with his voice adding a little crack to his breathier bars; similar to what Kendrick does on songs like “u.” It gives his words an exasperated effect and adds a nice variety to his cadence.

12) Redemption

Aaaaaand the title track where Jay highlights his near-fatal motorcycle crash that inspired a lot of this album’s subject matter and sound. He explains how he imagined his funeral would be while hooked up to various machines in the hospital helping him breathe. The track is also a testament to second chances; which is what Rock felt life gave him after he made a full recovery from a broken femur and pelvis among other severe injuries. The song isn’t pushing itself to be too strand out, but includes beautiful words from TDE’s one and only: SZA, making it an objectively fire and insightful title track.

13) WIN

“WIN” is a perfect closer to the album. It’s almost a corny track with the chorus a repetitive Win, win, win, win trademarked with Kendrick’s backing vocals. It doesn’t have as much lyrical depth as the rest of the album but it doesn’t need that because it’s almost like a summation of what the album felt like. A thin slice of tiramisu after a hearty meal; eaten simply as a compliment.

REDEMPTION is one of my favorite albums thus far in 2018. It contains the quintessential components of what makes a Hip-hop album fire; from concepts to storytelling to hype tracks. And for Jay Rock specifically, the album represents his growth and development through life and as an artist. If you listen to Hood Tales and Redemption back to back you can really grasp these changes and see how much ground a rapper can cover with a lucrative career. The crew at Above Average is hyped for what TDE will follow this project with!

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#IndieSpotlight: Meet Chicago MC Hunnid

Leaning back in a vintage Bryant Park Chair with a ‘life is good’ smile, award-winning Chicago MC, Hunnid was in…

Leaning back in a vintage Bryant Park Chair with a ‘life is good’ smile, award-winning Chicago MC, Hunnid was in great spirits for our interview in New York City. Now back at his childhood home in the Southside of Chicago known as the Wild Wild 100’s – where he was born and raised – he tells me in depth of what is was like growing up in a poverty stricken environment. “First off, It’s fun, but It’s wild being exposed to a lot of things that you really shouldn’t be exposed to so young. – like crime. Nonetheless, it just embedded a lot of principles in me I wouldn’t change for nothing. That type of struggle you just have to experience and learn from it. Made me strong, aware, and  intelligent,” he notes.

In just a matter of years, Chicago has become the home city for a lot of the hottest hip-hop talents out right now since the early 2000’s. Chance The Rapper and a dozen of hungry new acts are making a way for themselves coming out of Chi-Raq. Hunnid, being one of the emerging talents, tells me staying grounded and passionate is the key to his way into the game. Hunnid is a person who is going to get it by any means necessary. “It’s no pressure [coming from Chicago] because I’m in my own lane, I don’t do drill rap – I don’t categorize myself,” he states. Music been in Hunnid’s life since an early age; he played drums and written poetry. “God chose music for me.”

Coming off his Love V.S. Lust EP, which dropped last June, Hunnid makes sure to drop buzzing tracks for his fans until his next project. Hunnid’s “Money Up” single, which its video premiered on AAHH, racked up over 50k plays to date. This is an anthem about hard work, endurance and dedication – which are what his career rooted from. As he is known for his lyrical flow, “Money Up” takes a less complexed style. Hunnid clarifies why he released it. “I really put value in connecting with the crowd and understanding my crowd. I feel like you got to dumb it down if you want to appeal to masses to some degree,” he says. His upcoming single, “Bust That,” has a different kind a vibe; afro-beat and R&B. “I describe a women’s body movements to firearms,” notes Hunnid.

 
Hunnid and I started discussing the state of hip-hop and where it’s heading in the near future. We both agree that it is changing due to lack of talent. “I feel like a lot of this music is fast food now because it lacks passion. If you passionate about a lot of things and it can be felt — its real, it will never die.”

Like a lot of hip-hop heads, there’s a lot to say or not about the newly released XXL 2018 Freshman List. Does the list still matter?  “I don’t pay attention to it anymore,” says Hunnid. “I don’t. Were in a different age where popularity can make you whatever you want to be. There are so many dope individuals. But they’re just not out here selling their souls. People can take it how they want it – I feel like you have to sell yourself in some way [face tats, color hair] to draw attention to yourself because you lack skill.”

Towards the end of our conversation, we touched on the violence going down in his hometown. “Long Live Streetz is the last thing I want to say,” he says. His cousin, Streetz was an emerging hip-hop mc that was murdered alongside Chicago journalist/blogger Zach TV just a few weeks ago. “I want to make it to that platform where I can say something, and it’ll literally happen. The only person with that type of platform [making a change] is Chance the Rapper, but everybody else is not doing much.”

Hunnid plans on making it big in the game because music is indeed his passion. While on his way to stardom, he wants to take action in his community on gun violence and wants to tell the rest of his story to change the world.

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Sean Price – Songs in the Key of Price

"Backhandler, manhandle, Imam Sean; peace to Mandela and Farrakhan... The best con in flesh, Sean's here, metal fragments on face,...

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