by JR Valrey, the People’s Minister of Information
Right in line with Queen Latifah, Ladybug Mecca, Lauryn Hill and the other great conscious femcees of Hip Hop history, Washington D.C.’s Sa-Roc is on the throne now for being a microphone specialist aka a true MC. At the turn of the millennium, conscious rap was exploding nationally and internationally with rappers and groups like dead prez, Black Star, yasin bey aka Mos Def, Immortal Technique, Talib Kweli, the Roots and more.
Almost a quarter of a century later, those artists still make good music, but there has not been a resurgence of younger conscious artists, behind them in recent times, to emerge nationally and carry the burning spear.
People complain about what mainstream Hip Hop has reduced women to, while not seeking out alternatives to the garbage that mainstream is feeding the masses of people. Sa-Roc is an artist who is breathing life back into the fighting rebellious roots and soul of Hip Hop.
She is resuscitating the political, social, spiritual and moral fiber of Hip Hop, while capitalism’s consumerism is set on killing the mindstate she promotes and creating mindless self-hating consumers, especially out of Black people in the U.S., that are programmed to obey the mainstream media and government religiously without question.
Sa-Roc is a jewel and she is definitely an MC that y’all might want to put in some earpods for, to study her “bars.” She is a name that you will be hearing more and more in Hip Hop arenas around the world. Check her out in this exclusive Q&A with the SF Bay View newspaper.
JR Valrey: I’ve seen you rock a few times, you are a dope MC, where are you from and how did you get into doing music?
Sa-Roc: I’m from Washington DC and I’ve always been interested in the creative arts, especially theater, but never seriously considered music as a possible path for myself until I moved to Atlanta and met Sol Messiah. He was working with some really dope artists at the time and putting out these beats CDs that I would obsess over.
One day while we were in the studio I ended up recording a couple of my poems to his tracks and he was excited and asked me to record a few more, which ended up becoming my first EP, Astral Chronicles. I was intrigued and encouraged to see what this could turn into, so I kept working and never looked back.
JR Valrey: What inspired you to do politically laced music? Was there an artist or a moment that inspired you?
Sa-Roc: My music has always been a reflection or an extension of who I am as a person, so it made sense that I would write about things that I care about, including Black liberation, social justice and improving the human condition on this planet.
So many artists have inspired me but I would say KRS-One was the first artist that really shocked me to my core. I saw how powerful it can be for a dope MC to be able to command and teach with his or her voice, while making incredible music at the same time.
JR Valrey: How would you describe your music?
Sa-Roc: I think that I make passionate, inspiring, thoughtful, soul stirring music. Sol Messiah and I came up with the term God Hop to describe our music, which is basically music that urges an awakening. One that inspires people to discover their best parts of themselves, helps them to articulate their own voices and seek their highest potential.
JR Valrey: What do you want people to get from your music?
Sa-Roc: All of the above! But in short, a sense of empowerment. Also it’s really important to me for people to hear a Black woman challenging the listener to have uncomfortable but liberating conversations about what it means to reclaim and stand in your power in a world that has historically sought to either usurp or diminish it at every given moment.
The power truly lies with the people, I want us to understand that intimately.
JR Valrey: What kind of production do you like to rap over?
Sa-Roc: I like to experiment with different styles of beats because it encourages me to switch up and be creative with my flow. But my musts in production are a hard drum line throughout the track and a faster bpm.
JR Valrey: There seems to be a shortage of new political artists that travel nationally since the dead prez-yasin era, with the exception of you, Tobe and his wife, in my opinion. What’s your perspective on that?
Sa-Roc: I think this new climate encourages a sense of escapism. Because we are constantly bombarded by negativity, violence and systemic oppression, I think collectively we’ve begun gravitating towards more superficial entertainment. It seems we want fantasy. We don’t want to be confronted with the same issues that break us down day in and day out.
I understand that. I do. Especially for those of us who are struggling to survive and merely exist. But some of the most powerful change has been born through artistic movements, from the Harlem Renaissance to the conscious Hip Hop that came out in the late ‘80s and ‘90s. Through art and music, we can shift narratives, open minds and encourage resistance.
Socially conscious music has been negatively stigmatized with tremendous financial help from the music industry machine as corny or preachy, but there are so many examples of insightful music being done the right way.
JR Valrey: What are you working on in the studio?
Sa-Roc: We’re currently working on the new album. It’s been ages since the last one and I’m excited for the world to hear what we’ve been cooking up.
JR Valrey: Your husband, Sol Messiah, is your dj. How do y’all keep Black love alive in the music industry?
Sa-Roc: We listen to and support each other. That’s key. There’s a lot of opinions out there in this industry, but we make sure we stay grounded in our mission and purpose as a family, first and foremost. And honestly, we truly are excited by each other’s gifts, so we do what we can to pour into one another until our goals and dreams are made manifest.
JR Valrey: Who are the top three artists you like to listen to? Why?
Sa-Roc: Black Thought – he’s one of THE best lyricists to ever do it. His music constantly pushes me to sharpen my pen game and find new ways to elevate the culture.
Kendrick Lamar – his creativity is boundless. I’m always inspired by artists who trample all over formulas and established dictates in their field and give us an entirely new way of consuming the art.
Stevie Wonder – I mean, does this even need to be explained?
JR Valrey: What do you think about the Bay?
Sa-Roc: Love the Bay! There’s such a dope energy here. It’s such a perfect blend of West coast beauty and East coast grit. The spirit of rebellion in the people is palpable and I feel at home every time I come.
JR Valrey: How do people stay online with you?
Sa-Roc: I’m on all the social media sites. Like seriously all of them. @sarocthemc on IG and Twitter, @saroc on FB, @iamsarocthemc on TikTok and my website is www.saroc.com.
JR Valrey, journalist, author, filmmaker and founder of Black New World Media. He is also the editor in chief of the San Francisco Bay View newspaper. He teaches the Community Journalism class twice a week at the San Francisco Bay View newspaper office.