Sa-Roc‘s long-awaited full-length album on Rhymesayers Entertainment, “The Sharecropper’s Daughter” is quite simply one of 2020’s best releases. The album is an uplifting look into the life of Sa-Roc the person. Born Assata Perkins, Sa-Roc rhymes about heavy personal issues and how she was able to overcome them on the The Sharecropper’s Daughter. She does so with a high-level of emceeing, flaunting different flows and utilizing superior wordplay throughout the 15-track release.
The Sharecropper’s Daughter is produced by Sol Messiah, with one track being handled by Sa-Roc’s Rhymesayers labelmate, Evidence. The album features guest appearances from Styles P, Ledisi, Saul Williams, Chronixx, and Black Thought.
The Real Hip-Hop had the pleasure of speaking to Sa-Roc about how creative expression led her out of a dark place in her life, why she believes local elections are more impactful than national elections, and her new album, The Sharecropper’s Daughter.
TRHH: Explain the title of the new album, The Sharecropper’s Daughter.
Sa-Roc: This album was meant to be an exploration of myself and my journey and of who I am as both an artist and a person. When I think about the foundation of who I am I think about my father who was born and partially raised on a tobacco farm sharecropping in the Jim Crow era south. Because he and my mother provide the context for the way I see and move through the world, I thought it was important to have that to be the title of the album. It’s really an exploration of both my journey from my origin story, which in many ways was a reflection of my father’s experience growing up with racism and a lot of the trauma. It was so different from his, but my experience growing up in the 90s during the crack era in D.C., navigating a world that was fraught with a lot of tension and uncertainty, kind of mirrored my father’s experience of being black in America.
So, anyway, I wanted to tell the story of inheritance and how we inherit these things from our forebearers, and how some of those things are heavy, how they weigh us down, and how they form the way we see the world and the way we move in the world. We take those things on and carry them. Until we explore and excavate how these traumas have affected us, and how these pains, circumstances, and experiences have affected us, we don’t truly get to uncover the beauty and the value of who we are. This album sonically kind of explores that journey about coming out triumphant on the other side.
TRHH: Have you ever read the book ‘Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome’?
Sa-Roc: No. Is that by Dr. Joy DeGruy?
Sa-Roc: I haven’t read it yet, but I’m familiar with the book.
TRHH: Okay. It’s a must read. It talks about how all of those things you mentioned are passed down from generation to generation, and the way we move and operate today is a direct result of slavery.
Sa-Roc: Absolutely. That’s what makes it so interesting and infuriating when white people in this country tell us “forget about it” or “it was so long ago” and we literally have living relatives that have experienced some of the worst eras in this country. And they have been burdened with the memories, pain, and trauma from their forebearers and that really just carries on. There has been so much work within the psychiatric and psychological field talking about generational trauma. Sometimes we’re not even aware about how it has framed our perspective. This album was so important to me to explore that, maybe not the stories specifically, but to explore how we carry all of that weight and how we can start to release that when we release some of those experiences of pain, sorrow, and trauma. We can only do that once we confront them head on.
TRHH: On the song “Forever” you touch on low points in your life and how your own voice helped you to get out of those dark places. What exactly did you discover that helped you to get to a better place?
Sa-Roc: Honestly, it started with me exploring my creative expression. That thematically would reemerge throughout many stages in my life. But, shortly after I reached a hard moment in my life with self-harm and things like that, I found this theater group when I was growing up in D.C. and they taught me how to channel my story into something positive. They taught me how to re-write my story within a framework of healing from it and using my body, my voice, and my words to re-interpret this feeling of living in darkness and sorrow as a lesson. A lesson with which to arm yourself as you move through the world. As I learned how to express, I learned how to release that stuff through my movements, my words, and my writing, and all of that. Of course, there was a lot of spiritual work.
Those words are forever honest and true when I say “I didn’t get here over night.” I worked quite diligently at this using meditation, yoga, affirmations, and breathing techniques. Finding ways to tap into my inner-self to understand how fundamental my own power and my worth was. So, my current adopted form of creative expression, which is Hip-Hop, I use that as a form of catharsis. I haven’t been in that place of darkness and uncertainty for years. Surely, we all go through moments where we doubt ourselves, need extra words of support, and need affirmations to boost us up and let us know we’re worthy of walking out here in the world in the way that we think best represents us. We’re perfect in the way that we’re made. We’re perfect with all of our imperfections, scars, and things that we come with.
TRHH: Some of the songs on the album were released a year or two ago like Forever, Goddess Gang, and Hand of God. Why did it take so long for The Sharecropper’s Daughter to drop?
Sa-Roc: Hand of God was this year, but Forever and Goddess Gang were two years ago. Honestly, it can take a while when you’re creating something that is as personal as this. You want to make sure that you’re editing and really formulating something that represents who you are. Especially since this album was my first album exposed to a wider audience, a wider platform, and people who didn’t know me as Sa-Roc the artist who has been doing this for twelve years. For those who weren’t familiar with my journey I wanted to create something that really reflected the fullness of me, my style, and skill level. The album went through many iterations before I felt like I had it right. The artistic process can be lengthy sometimes [laughs].
TRHH: On the song “Black Renaissance” you rocked with Black Thought. How did that collab come about and what was it like working with him?
Sa-Roc: With this album I knew I wanted a joint with Thought. He is highly regarded in my mind and by many people in the world of Hip-Hop who are both listeners and artists alike. So, for me, I’ve been working with Thought for a while. He’s invited me to perform with The Roots several times. He brought me out to do a show with Rapsody and Rah Digga years ago. We’ve done things together. I see him as my big brother. I immediately wanted him to be on the album and we ended up recording that in person together. The other features on the album were done remotely. This one we did together in the studio in New York and I was super-duper nervous because I normally don’t write like that. I write by myself without the pressure of being on a time limit, studio time, and other people looking at you like, “Why she taking so long?” I was already nervous that I had to write a song with him and add to that, the fact that I was doing a song in the studio, which I don’t do normally. But, it was cool because he is just really casual and relaxed. He’ll drops words of wisdom because that’s naturally who he is. He’s a teacher and an intellectual.
I was still so nervous that I couldn’t write in the studio with him. I eventually had to sit outside the studio. I was a ball of nervous energy like, “Oh my God!” The pressure of someone who is such an ill emcee being there next to you, you want to make sure your writing is good enough and up to par. We recorded in two days. They left the studio a couple of times to give me the space I needed to write because they realized it was going to be much easier that way. We wrote the back and forth part of the song which is inspired by Smoothe Da Hustler and Trigger the Gambler and that was cool, too. It was like iron sharpening iron because we got to play off of one another in writing. It was really a master class in emceeing just seeing his process and how he would drop little nuggets of things I could take with me as an emcee to not think so deeply about it, and to constantly be thinking about lyrics that can be spun into a rhyme at will. It was dope. I was nervous at first but when we recorded he was clearly impressed. We created this banger, we ate some vegan pizza, and that was it [laughs].
TRHH: On the song “r(E)volution” you say, “They want us in the same place/Ain’t nobody ever gonna really change nothing, but us.” It makes me think of how so many people in this country are against black people protesting injustice, whether it’s a non-violent or a violent protest, it seems to be a problem. Why do you think the same people who wax poetic about the Boston Tea Party and the Revolutionary War have a problem with black folks merely speaking out against police misconduct?
Sa-Roc: We know what this country was founded on. They don’t want people to say it because it’s a scar on the face of this country that they say is the home of the free, the brave, and is lauded as this beacon of light for every other country to aspire to. But, it was founded on the bodies of enslaved Africans, period, point blank. Reluctantly so, white men in power relinquished their ownership over black bodies and worked very hard to keep certain systems in place to mimic that enslavement. They just called it something different. Whether it’s the prison system, the sharecropper system that my father was under, or Jim Crow laws, there’s all these insidious forms of systemic racism that still remain today, including in the police system that emerged out of the paddy rollers and slave patrollers during and post-slavery.
So, they want to hide that fact, and they want to hide the fact that they believe that this country, despite the fact that indigenous people were here before them, despite the fact that African people were brought here in 1619 — earlier than the so-called founding fathers, belongs to white men, period. There are these checks that they keep in place to try to hold us down and stop us from dissension and speaking out about it. They want to whitewash the history and say, “Oh that’s over. No one thinks like that anymore.” But again, we’re seeing these sheriffs and the person holding the highest office in the land making dog whistles and denounce black people for fighting for their very lives, because they believe that we’re not even worth that. We’re not even entitled to that. There is never going to be a right way for us to protest because they don’t believe that we have the right to. We should be happy that we’re allowed to stay here, that’s what a lot of people think. It’s implicit, but that’s what they think. I think that with this current administration we’re seeing that on full display more and more. Because they’ve been emboldened by this president’s outright embrace of so-called white supremacist values.
TRHH: The last time you and I spoke was right before the 2016 Presidential election and you said that generally you don’t get into politics. Has that changed at all for you during the Trump presidency?
Sa-Roc: Nothing really changed. I vote. I think that our involvement in local elections are much more impactful. There are so many systems set in place to kind of slant the outcome toward where they want it to go when we talk about national elections. I’m still a skeptic when it comes to that, for sure. I believe that change is not just going to come from voting. I believe that real work needs to be done in the community and a real economic power base needs to be built up. A lot of people will promote it like voting is the end all, be all. But it’s not just that. It needs to be coupled with many different steps supporting black businesses, building up real estate and land ownership within black communities, hand selecting and supporting local offices, from the school superintendent, to councilmen, to sheriffs.
I don’t have a huge amount of faith in this two-party political system because basically you’re picking the quote unquote “lesser of two evils.” I think it’s a flawed system, for sure. You have this very limited representation of people and their values when you only have these two parties and you push people in a corner when you have to choose from one of the two, but, I still vote because I believe there is a potential for change. For them to see how much power we actually have when we are aligned behind a particular candidate, goal, or platform. I do vote, but I do believe that there is a lot of additional behind the scenes work that needs to happen along with the vote to establish a power base and support the communities that we want to make real change for.
TRHH: Who is The Sharecropper’s Daughter album made for?
Sa-Roc: Me, first and foremost [laughs]. And then for anyone who has struggled with just finding their place. Anyone who has struggled with finding their worth. Anyone who has been burdened with historical, generational, familial, experiential trauma, pain, and hardship that want to find a way to unburden themselves from that. That want to find a jumping off point to freeing themselves from societal expectations and standards, freeing themselves from the heaviness of past turmoil and trauma, and really discovering who they are at their core in order to reshape and re-frame their future and find that light, value, and worth within themselves underneath all of that baggage. That’s who it’s for.
Purchase: Sa-Roc – The Sharecropper’s Daughter