Sa-Roc The MC is good at using metaphors to paint a picture of reality, for obvious reasons. During her interview with BET.com, she referenced a few bars from her BET Hip-Hop Awards 2022 freestyle to make a point about the messaging in her music:
“Giving y’all elevated sonnets, I’m trying to leave y’all on a high note. But I’m down bad because of the way the world treats the Hottentots vs. de Milo’s.”
That was her way of referencing what it sometimes feels like to be a Black woman existing in a world that can often make you feel as if you don’t belong. The Venus de Milo is regarded as a revered piece of art that is highly protected in world-class museums while Sarah Baartman, also known as “Venus Hottentot” was a living being, objectified and reduced to a freak show exhibit, and treated with equal parts awe and disgust. When she died, she didn’t get a decent burial and it took a century for her remains to be returned back to her country. The tragedy of how she was treated continues and manifests itself in how Black women are still often treated.
“That line represents the blatant disrespect for Black women because we're not seen as deserving of humanity and compassion, we're seen as something to be dictated to, policed, and regulated in the way that we speak and show up, and I'm tired of that,” explains Sa-Roc. “I want to give myself the green light to continue to empower myself [and] not be concerned with people's expectations of how I do this art thing, and I want to empower other people to do the same thing.”
Upon the first introduction to Sa-Roc, who once referred to herself as “ether in female form,” you’d never know she used to be shy. The Washington, DC native, who grew up in an artistic household listening to Stevie Wonder and Gil Scott-Heron, and reading Nikki Giovanni, reveals that it was so bad that she didn’t even look at the camera when she was shooting her music videos. However, things change and people develop. Today’s Sa-Roc isn’t yesterday’s Sa-Roc, but it took a lot of practice and self-affirmation to get here.
The themes in her 10-plus year discography are consistent with balance in the universe, empowerment, revolution, divinity, and thinking about how to thrive in a world overrun by structures that weren’t built for everyone to win. In her early days of trying to navigate a career in hip-hop, Sa-Roc faced a lot of the types of criticism women face in the industry, and much of it could have destroyed her. But when you know you have something good, remaining true to yourself can be a motivator.
“When I first started, we had to figure out how to navigate non-traditionally because we didn't have this machine behind us and everyone had an opinion about how I should best present myself and my music,” says Ra-Roc.
They often described her as too aggressive, and too masculine, but much of the criticism came from men who admittedly didn’t listen to, or like women rappers.
“I was facing all of this and instead of influencing me to shift the way I showed up in a space, it made me more sure that this is what I was supposed to be doing on my own terms, and I think that resonates with people,” she says.
So far, things are working out. Sa-Roc, who isn’t a household name yet, has found productive thought partners in her record label, Rhymesayers Entertainment, and long-time producer Sol Messiah. She has also collaborated with Black Thought, Rapsody, Styles P, Ledisi, David Banner, MF Doom, and more. In 2020, she released her last album, The Sharecropper’s Daughter, an ode to her roots that acknowledges her father’s past growing up on a sharecropping farm, and her existence as the millennial future. It’s an audio reflection of how generational triumphs and traumas can influence who we become. Ironically, The Economist named it as one of the best albums of 2020 — an accurate assessment that seems to have been overlooked by a lot of popular music outlets.
Sa-Roc gets vulnerable on a song called, “Forever,” which has over 6 million views on YouTube, and serves as a personal catharsis where she discusses her struggles with self-harm through cutting, and learning to love herself, while also extending that message to anyone else who needs to hear it, especially Black women.
“This illusion of being perfect gets projected on people when that's an impossible goal post because none of us are perfect. And as we keep pushing this idea, people are going to zoom in on their imperfections and the things that are unacceptable or not palatable to society. But isn't the goal for us to celebrate ourselves and love ourselves?” she says. “It becomes harder for us to show up as who we are and to really show the world who we have the potential to be, and I think that's intentional, especially toward Black women. We've been so policed, and abused when it comes to our physical bodies, and I think we deserve spaces where we can just be like, this is who I am and you need to accept it and I love all of this whether it fits in with your beauty standard. I feel like It’s my responsibility as an artist to dig into that.”
Sa-Roc has a lot of major plans for her artistry in the works that include travel, teaching and connecting musically with people around the world. She is currently on The Mother Tongue Tour, and working on new music. She’s mostly tight-lipped about concepts for her next album, but she gives us some idea of what to expect.
“Let’s say, if The Sharecropper’s Daughter was focused on roots and analyzing that connection to our roots, what those roots have brought forth, and how our understanding of those rules can be either a foundation or they can be imprisoning depending on how you look at it, then this next album is the emergence, the blossoming from those roots and how that foundation has fed this next iteration of who I am,” she says. “Success for me is creating music that can empower people to find the best in themselves.”