Sa-Roc Says There Doesn’t Need To Be One Queen In Hip-Hop

September 28, 2020

Read the full interview on AllHipHop.com!

Sa-Roc is the second lady to be signed to Rhymesayers Entertainment, in their entire decade and a half-long lifespan. While female rappers have been slaying the numbers and taking over the charts, there’s still something so refreshing about a real, hard, gritty female MC who can drop bars and punchlines like the big dawgs. 

Born Assata Perkins, the Washington D.C. native lets her rhymes speak for themselves. For hip-hop lovers as well as the socially conscious generation, Sa-Roc exudes positive energy, articulate punchlines, elevated lyricism, confident delivery. Growing up in the peak of the crack era back home surrounded by poverty and violence, Sa-Roc takes her experiences and channels them into the music — spitting nothing but the truth and the real. 

While many artists have only recently started making music about systemic racism and the current state of the world, Sa-Roc’s been doing this the majority of her lifetime. 

Twelve years in the game, she first got her start rhyming in the independent hip-hop community in Atlanta, which she calls the “home of the greats.” Working with DJ/producer Sol Messiah, she fell in love with that musicality, instrumentation, and sound.

With her forthcoming project, The Sharecropper’s Daughter, she pays homage to her father who grew up sharecropping tobacco. With this being her debut album, the “Forever” artist continues to push the narrative for change and heal people with her bars.

AllHipHop caught up with Sa-Roc, who was posted in Atlanta. 

Read below as we discuss her journey into Rhymesayers, her new visual for “Deliverance,” the inspo behind her new project, and her own brand Goddess Gang.

AllHipHop: I love that your IG handle says @saroctheMC, talk about being a real spitter in today’s age of ever-changing music.

Sa-Roc: It’s always been super important to me to emphasize that because my influences are lyrical. From 3000 to Black Thought from the Roots to even I’m inspired now by Kendrick Lamar. So many people who create music and have substance in their music. Bar for bar, their delivery and their cadence is unmatched. That’s the school I came up in so it’s real important for me to be real dope with the pen.

AllHipHop: Being from Washington D.C., what was the household like growing up? 

Sa-Roc: It was interesting. I grew up on the south side, southeast Washington D.C. The part of D.C. that hasn’t been gentrified yet, the part of D.C. that cabs wouldn’t go to. I came up during the crack era, my family didn’t have much so there was a lot to navigate as a young person. I grew up in D.C. when it was called the murder capital, you can imagine how bad the environment was. It informed a lot of who I am and how I think about the world, the importance of being able to use my voice and my platform to being able to change the social inequity I saw growing up.

AllHipHop: Which lyricists were you studying growing up?

Sa-Roc: Black Thought for sure. [Andre] 3000. I loved Jay Electronica in the early part of my career. He was a big influence on me, and still is. 

AllHipHop: He came back two decades later and dropped an album.

Sa-Roc: Right, but he’s so dope people are still listening to his mixtapes. Lauryn Hill of course.

AllHipHop: When did you realize you could do music for a living?

Sa-Roc: Twelve years ago, I met my producer. It was really unexpected for me. I’ve always been a real left brain person, really into science. I dabbled in the creative arts. I’d done some poetry back in the day, was playing around with some beats. You know how everybody wants to get on the track when they’re at the studio? 

I ended up asking him if I could lay down one of my poems to his tracks, he heard my potential. I’m not doing nothing else, why not try this again? We ended up recording 5 songs. I released my first EP, and got thrust on stage. Somebody put me on the spot, called me on the stage when I wasn’t prepared to rap, and I spit. People responded to me! People were hyped. Hmm, we got something here.

AllHipHop: Were you nervous?

Sa-Roc: Hell yeah! I was super duper nervous but I came up listening to MCs so I knew enough about the culture that if somebody calls you on stage, there’s no time for you to freeze. You got to go out there and do it. It took me years to overcome that initial stage fright, but I did it. The rest is history.

AllHipHop: Do you feel real hip-hop is hard to be seen nowadays?

Sa-Roc: On the mainstream, yeah. There are tons of brilliant MCs doing their thing on the independent level, but they don’t necessarily get that platform all the time. People want a bop, they want that fun music these days. I believe if we give these MCs the shine and the platform, people will respond to it. The industry latches onto things that are going to make quick money. [snaps] We know that sells.

AllHipHop: How’s it feel to have the “Forever” visual hit over 4.3 million views? 

Sa-Roc: It’s amazing! When it hit the first million, I was floored. I’m an independent artist, I didn’t conceive of what numbers it might do. When you’re putting out something so personal, you never know. You release it with fear, anxiety, and hope that people will receive it with the amount of love you poured into it. Most amazing to me was the feedback from the song. People were hitting me up saying “thank you for talking about this. My daughter or I experienced those moments of not loving myself, not knowing how much I was worth, self-harm. Thank you for creating this song.” That feels incredible, it’s inspiration to keep doing work like that. 

AllHipHop: You just released the “Deliverance” visual, who or what inspired this record?

Sa-Roc: Evidence produced this one, that’s the homie. He’s my labelmate as well. Since I’ve been signed to Rhymesayers, we’ve been chatting and running into each other all around the world at different shows. We were in his studio one time in Cal listening to some music, we said “let’s do a track together.” He sent beats after we left, I immediately responded to that one. I liked the grime of it, the texture of that beat. I knew I could do some real fly s##t so I ended up vibing. 

I wanted to talk about being with your real ones, your real family, outside of the world where you have hanger-oners and people gassing you up or tearing you down, stressing you out. Having those moments with people who you want to break bread with, tat’s the real deliverance. That stress-free zone. We shot the video in Venice Beach, California. It was dope.

AllHipHop: Was the sun out?

Sa-Roc: It was actually real cold. California be buggin’. [laughs] I had on a coat in California, we shot it in January.

AllHipHop: “It’s a stress-free zone, I’m just trying to elevate.” What inspires you to remain positive during these hard times?

Sa-Roc: It’s a matter of remaining focused. It’s important for me, I have to have a daily schedule of pouring into myself. We hear that all the time: self-care, self-care, self-care. It should be as part of our schedule like brushing our teeth. We don’t realize until it’s too late when we’re low energy or sad. It takes a moment for that to register. I make sure I’m doing my yoga and my meditation. Even if it’s not as disciplined, doing things I like. Taking a moment to read a book. Call my friend, call a loved one. Keep ourselves level, balanced, and focused on the future, because this will pass.

AllHipHop: What can we expect from The Sharecropper’s Daughter arriving in October? 

Sa-Roc: I’m super proud of this album. It’s really personal, talks a lot about my experience growing up in D.C. Talks about my journey from a place of not really knowing who I am, not knowing my potential, my power to coming to a place of acceptance and grounding. It’s all the emotions of that. It’s reflective, I’m taking s##t. 

Every song is barred up. I got really dope features I’m really excited about: Black Thought, Styles P, Chronixx, Saul Williams. I’m excited about the content of it. It’s especially timely because it talks about the cycle of injustice we experience in this country, the cycle of emotional baggage in genetic transfer of that emotion, how it’s important for us to analyze that and make sure we’re addressing that to understand how it affects the way we view the world. 

How it frames our perspective and what we can do to reshape a legacy and future for ourselves outside of that trauma and pain we inherit from history, our ancestors, our elders. It’s reflective, it’s substance, it’s spitting. The track with me and Black Thought, we’re going back and forth bar for bar. I’m excited for y’all to hear it.

AllHipHop: What’s your relationship with your father?

Sa-Roc: I love my father. It was inspired by my father, but it takes a while for you to sometimes come to that place of understanding with your parents. We’re very different. He’s a visual artist but he never really got to realize his dream. Thinking back to myself and reflecting on the fact that I was blessed to be able to do this full-time. I talk about how much of a subconscious influence his history and his background as a person who was born on a sharecropper farm in Jim Crow America, it weighed on me. Even though our experiences were so different, me growing up in the crack era, it still talks about these black experiences in America. That’s a plus for me to address the reconciliation of those 2 things.

AllHipHop: What books do you read because you’re so lyrical?

Sa-Roc: I read a little bit of everything. I’m a huge fan of the classic Black authors. Toni Morrison. I love James Baldwin. I love Maya Angelou. Octavia Butler. I’m a huge sci-fi fan so anybody who knows about Dune that’s coming out soon. Frank Herbert’s my dude. I love reading metaphysical, spiritual stuff to Ancient Secret of the Flower of Life, The Alchemist. I love to read about everything.

AllHipHop: What does it mean to be the second lady signed to label Rhymesayers Entertainment?

Sa-Roc: It’s a good partnership. If I were going to reach out to another entity that’d be responsible for furthering this career, I needed it to be a contract that understood what my thing was. What attracted me to them is they respect the individuality of artists. They allow artists to lead and shape promotion, the art, the branding. It’s not this team that’s removed from it and they have this pre-fab idea of what it takes to promote an artist, it’s very individual to the artist. They’re really supportive of what I do, it’s a really beautiful thing. There’s Nikki Jean on the label too, she’s another dope artist. She sings.

AllHipHop: What’s it like being labelmates with legends like Atmosphere & Brother Ali? 

Sa-Roc: Now, everybody feels like fam. It’s funny because before I signed to them, I went to their festival Soundset. They ended up asking me to perform, I’m looking around seeing all these players in the game. It was crazy to share the stage with them and potentially be added to that roster. It’s dope, I get to call a lot of them personally and get feedback from them. Evidence actually directed the video for “Deliverance,” Him and this dude Stephen Vanasco. Relationships are real dope. You get the ear of someone who’s been in the game forever, still dropping dope music.

AllHipHop: When did you create Goddess Gang?

Sa-Roc: I wrote “Goddess Gang” in 2018, but the concept was formulated 2014. I wanted to have a movement in direct opposition to this idea that there can only be one woman in hip-hop. There can only be one fly dope woman, this idea that we’re jealous of each other. We have to compete with one another because there’s limited resources, there can only be one queen of hip-hop. I wanted to promote this idea we can all shine together. We can grow together, we can pull each other up together. We’re so powerful, we’re more fly as a collective.

AllHipHop: Goals for yourself at this point of your career?

Sa-Roc: I want my music to reach as many ears as possible. Hopefully my music won’t only entertain, but also inspire people to change this landscape we’re in. Inspire people to feel empowered to speak up, to make change not only their personal lives but in the world. I want to tour next year when things open back up, I want to tour South Africa super bad.

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