INTERVIEW : SA-ROC (@sarocthemc) AKA “THE GODDESS EMCEE”

sarocTen 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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Aisha Afifah

Aisha Afifah

Aisha Afi­fah is a Writer and Research­er based in Lon­don. She has spent over a dec­ade in the enter­tain­ment industry. She has dealt with enough bull­shit to feel like she can give an opin­ion. She Thanks you for read­ing.

About Aisha Afifah

Aisha Afifah
Aisha Afifah is a Writer and Researcher based in London. She has spent over a decade in the entertainment industry. She has dealt with enough bullshit to feel like she can give an opinion. She Thanks you for reading.