By Daniel Paiz
Figuring out what quintessential questions to ask about “The Sharecropper’s Daughter” in a short interview window was tough. Luckily for myself, Sa-Roc had thoughtfully authentic answers for me. In what flew by but was a 25-minute interview block (as I’m sure promoting the album is ramping up), the veteran emcee has lots to say, and with good reason.
This album has a lot of heart in it. Not only because of the vulnerability within, or the journey of finding oneself through generational trauma. There’s self-liberation and self-determination. Part of the album is working through Sa-Roc’s narrative thus far; the next part is a realization of the work put in this far.
I’m not going to tease or spoil anymore, as there is plenty to get into from this interview. With that being said, let’s see what to divulge in this sneak preview.
The Sharecropper’s Daughter works through generational trauma
Every artist has a different way of crafting an album. Not only is a particular artist’s work flow unique, but each album is worked on in a different way. Sometimes it happens over the course of a day. Sometimes months, if not a year plus.
When it comes to Sa-Roc’s case, this project came about with a purpose in mind. Plenty of tracks were left on the cutting room floor by our interviewee and longtime producer Sol Messiah.
“It was kind of organic, the way it happened; it wasn’t methodical, Sa-Roc says. “I knew what I wanted the album to be about.”
Having that vision in mind is a driving force. That purpose will lead an artist to the finish line, albeit in a sometimes roundabout way. Having a producer who knows your flow, your voice, and what you like stylistically is also such a bonus in the studio. Working on songs is also a very individualistic endeavor.
For the 2016 Rhymesayers signee, it varies. Sometimes it’s about brainstorming and then writing to see what evolves naturally. Other times it’s about writing with a topic in mind. Still other times it’s about stepping away, taking in other forms of media and then getting back to the task at hand. One task at hand that’s finally realized for Roc is the culmination of this Rhymesayers album debut. There have been singles and an EP, but nothing of this magnitude to date.
“It feels good to finally have a full-length project that represents who I am as an artist.” Sa-Roc says. “To have this shape up and come together into something I’m really proud of, really really proud of, it’s super duper exciting.”
Digging into the intellectual trenches
Fifteen tracks might seem like a lot by today’s standards for an album. To be honest, this album is a perfect representative of 2020. Here’s why: much like days feel stretched out and months are flying by, songs are stretched with so much content and the album zips by. There’s so much to unpack. As the listener you are working to get the relationship between the sharecropper and their daughter, you’re looking for evolution throughout.
You’re also looking for those lines that stick to your brain and cause you to hit repeat without delay. The overall concept is what fascinated me, as I worked to try and understand the process Roc goes through. Discussing the relationship between father and daughter is vital to understanding the entire tape.
“Hearing my father’s stories and hearing about the things that have created him, in a sense have created me,” Sa-Roc says. “Both of our stories have converged to tell this narrative of two generations of the Black experience in America.”
“It speaks about the things we inherit generationally, whether it’s trauma or triumph, or strength or sorrow.”
The lived experiences of racism as a Black person in America are nonequivalent. Learning from what’s happened to your parents and as a result in some way is happening to you can take a lifetime. To be able to draw on said experiences is unbelievably important to one’s existence. Sa recognizes just how important learning is from prior generations.
“Being able to sift through all of the baggage, the weight we get from our parents and our history, and to be able to find the value and lessons that shape us into who we are today.” Sa-Roc says.
It’s certainly difficult to do the slow work of digging through one’s history. But, it is important to remember how important healing is. If you or I can learn from past mistakes from ourselves and our ancestors, then hopefully we can course correct.
Learning amidst pain
A big piece of working through these songs are Sa-Roc’s own process. One of the biggest strengths of this album is witnessing her journey. To be honest, this kind of journey isn’t often taken so fully, and that’s a key reason why this project is so relatable.
“To be able to unleash and unbury some of the things that are festering within us, some of the things that we never get to address…that is such an important part of healing.”– Sa-Roc on addressing generational trauma
Like unearthing archeological specimens, we all have to dig deep to find our underlying cause(s) of trauma. It’s not pretty, as Sa-Roc also mentions the social media personas we curate are an extension of how manufactured society expects us to be. Vulnerability to yourself is essential to uncover issues within. Of course we aren’t going to go into the world fully vulnerable, “without armor” as Sa-Roc expresses it. It just requires an openness to being honest with yourself. To love all aspects of oneself.
“How do I fine tune and reshape this part of myself so that it can transform into something of use, to shape us into something of a positive aspect” Sa-Roc says.
Self-acceptance and self-determination are drenched across this project. Both of these aspects are keys to figuring out who a person is. Not to be too existential or anything, but looking inward for solutions is going to bear greater fruit than looking outward. There were situations in both Sa-Roc’s life and her father’s life that could have derailed where she is today. However, this intentional emcee determined her way through that.
“Because I was determined to make another way for myself, to figure out why I’m so worthy to walk this world and do something of importance.” Sa-Roc says thoughtfully.
The tracks that define this album
Two tracks for this listening writer are the definitive tracks of the entire project. Black Renaissance featuring Black Thought and R ( E ) volution are tracks of epiphany and realization. Renaissance represents a full realization of self-discovery from the tracks on the album leading up to this point.
“Realizing a sense of freedom from letting go some of the things that don’t serve you, while holding onto and redefining those things that have shaped you into the beautiful person that you are, scars and all.”Sa-Roc on Black Renaissance
It’s a good thing repetition is something hip-hop fans enjoy, because like a heavy beat I’m reiterating similar points in different ways. While it’s not explicitly stated, self-evaluation is how one reaches a better understanding of self. You and I are composed of a slew of different aspects. These puzzle pieces are hard to cram together until you find the right match.
R ( E ) volution is that first step of revolution coming from evolution. The lotus flower growing in mud. A rose sprouting out of concrete. One doesn’t have to let their environment determine their future, despite how difficult that might be. Fighting through your surroundings happens from self acceptance, and as you can tell is a lifelong process.
Knowing oneself is important to understanding your surroundings. That applies to your environment, the people around you and the situations you encounter. Some people will exploit you for their own gain, while some will take advantage of your lack of identity as an artist.
“Figure out what your ethos is as an artist,” Sa-Roc says.
“If you have articulated, and what you want to project as an artist and there are people around not willing to maintain that? That kind of gives you a clear idea of who’s there for you.”
They say who you surround yourself with depicts who you are, and Roc reminds artists new to the game of this. She also reminds artists of the necessary mechanics of rapping. Finding out what your voice is best suited to do, avoiding getting hoarse, rapping in your natural register; all are vital. The Goddess emcee wants fans to have this vital takeaway after listening to her newest project.
“We have the power to transform as long as we’re able to shift through that baggage and find the jewels, and the value and the worth, and find that treasure in our baggage.”