Ten years into a blossoming career and Sa-Roc is gradually securing her legendary status. Creating timeless music, Assata Perkins otherwise known an “Sa-Roc”, is very clearly pouring heart and soul into music which may outlive us all. With an amazing producer and DJ, Sol Messiah, the combination of these artists brings forth a sound and style that is both cohesive and alchemic.
It is no wonder she is also known as the “Goddess Emcee”.
In reference to “Forever” you mention the scars of your past, can you talk more about the journey you took from being a broken young girl and then working to becoming a powerful woman?
SA: Honestly, there wasn’t one significant thing, there were several things. One major thing was that I was a part of a program when I was a teenager during the height of the self-harm and stuff. The program was called “City of Peace” and it was a theatre- based musical arts program that recruited kids from the suburbs through to the inner-city. It was a free program with really progressive adults who taught choreography, vocal lessons and acting. We were allowed to take the traumatic things that shaped us in that moment and write a play about them. So each person wrote out these things that were weighing heavy on them and things that caused them pain. For example there were some young girls who had been raped, there was children of crack addicted parents, people who lost family. All of these stories were incorporated into this play with an over-arching theme and being able to express that instead of just holding on to all that stuff and letting it fester, and turn into harmful thoughts and warped views of who we were. It helped being able to release and express that, and also perform it in front of our peers and often in front of the people we were talking about. So it’s really empowering at the same time.
So that helped me in that regard. I also met some powerful people. I remember I had this misconception of who I was; I thought that I was unattractive, I thought that I was overweight, all these things that were ridiculous you know? We would have these sharing sessions where people would talk and I broke down and started crying. Someone came up to me afterwards, and she’s actually a good friend of mine now, and she was like “You are beautiful. You may not know it now, but I’m just telling you what I see and this is not even based on your physical appearance, even though that is beautiful as well, you are just this beautiful person and one day you’re gonna know that.” And that resonated with me then but it didn’t start to manifest until I started doing the work.
I got into my spirituality pretty heavy. I joined a program called “Art of Living”; it’s a meditation program based out of India, and they use certain breathing and meditation techniques that help you to release dis-ease and harmful thoughts and behaviours, and help you to re-channel those things into growth. I got into that; my sisters were into it and that’s how I found out about it. So that was helping me, just the practice of it. Learning how powerful the breath is in helping you to release, helping you tap into that universal energy and that power. And realising that you are a part of that power was really important for me in reshaping this warped idea of who I was and understanding my place in the universe; the importance of me. So yeah, it took a while [laughs]
How long roughly? Even though I’m guessing in some ways it’s still happening?
SA: Yeah, it’s something that you always have to work on I think, because there’s always these outside forces, these things; something that is going to make you doubt yourself or make you question yourself or shake up your confidence a little bit or kind of question if you’re doing the right thing. So I’m constantly having to firm and reaffirm my foundations. I think it’s life-long work.
I did “City of Peace” when I was sixteen years old and maybe when I got to about twenty years’ old, so around four years for me to…
Come to a realisation point?
SA: Yeah. That’s right… that was the long-winded answer but [laughs]
Yeah, it was lengthy but the work was lengthy.
Sol Messiah is your producer and onstage DJ tonight. So as an Emcee, where do you tend to draw inspiration from and then when it comes to your creative process as a partnership, how does that tend to come to fruition?
SA: Honestly, I get inspiration from everything, whether it’s something an artist I admire has put out that inspires me to create something, or it’s a book that I’m reading, or a concept, or a thought I have about something. I get inspiration from anything and everything.
Is there anything you might do to influence the oncoming of inspiration?
SA: I usually try to just meditate and get into a reflective space: start of by just journaling, just writing and burning incense and stuff like that. Honestly, stepping away from music and working on something else for a while, another part of my creativity, helps me come back to the music with a new idea. There’s this quote by Octavia Butler (African-American Sci-Fi Writer) and she say’s “First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not. Habit will help you finish and polish your stories. Inspiration won’t. Habit is persistence in practice.” You’re not gonna be inspired all the time but habitually writing or creating or working on your craft; that’s what’s gonna get you to the level of where you want to be in anything that you’re doing. That’s something I try to do on a daily basis. There’s another book called “The Artists’ Way” which also encourages that too, just writing every day.
And as for the creative process between yourself and Sol Messiah?
SA: With us, usually he’ll create beats with a project in mind or with my style in mind and then I’ll sit with it for a little bit, vibe out on it and write something. It’ll start relatively bare bones and then he will add musicians and we’ll come back and listen to it. And then we see “this needs this” or “lemme do some ad-libs here” or add some harmonies. Everything is built up, it’s layered. The benefit of us having worked for so long is that he knows and understands my strengths and where I thrive or he understands the bpm and speed of beats that I prefer. He has that insight so he’s not trying to impose something on me that he knows is not my thing. We work together really well.
In an industry where everything is built on what seems to me like shaky foundations, as well as the things that are prevalent today being somewhat superficial, how do you plan a career that stays true to who you are while navigating the landmine that is the music industry?
SA: Honestly, I feel like it’s less planning and more envisioning a broader picture and then just creating, letting it flow and letting that speak for itself. A lot of times we try to control so many things and it’s really not within the confines of our control. We can only do but so much to control where our path is meant to be. The ultimate goal is to create authentic good music, and as long as I’m doing that, that’ll secure my place within this industry. The artifice and the superficial stuff is fleeting. The artists that have consistently stayed true to creating authentically good music are in their fifties now and they’re still performing. You know what I mean? They’re still household names, they’re still referenced as vanguards and important people in Hip Hop. So that’s what I’m dedicated to, and while people are looking to secure the bag, I’m looking to secure my…
… your legendary status.
SA: Yeah! Secure something in the universe that people can look back on and is still as relevant forty years from now as it is now.
Finally, is there female emcees you look up to? And you can’t say Ms. Lauryn Hill.
SA: [laughs] That’s funny. Honestly, I would say Monie Love, MC Lyte, and Sha-Rock who’s been around for a while.
Thank You Sa-Roc and Sol Messiah.
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