Last week, conscious hip-hop artist and native Washingtonian Sa-Roc the MC performed in a packed Liv Nightclub in Northwest. More than 24 hours before gracing the stage however, a small audience that included fans, family members, and friends got to know the lyricist more intimately.
On the evening of Tuesday, March 1, nearly 40 people converged on Sankofa Video Books & Café on Georgia Avenue to chat with Sa-Roc and vibe to her music during a two-hour meet-and-greet event. During this function, she addressed visitors with short remarks, passed out copies of her work, and chopped it up with admirers.
“It feels good to be in D.C. I wasn’t doing much of my music here so it feels good to display my work in my hometown,” Sa-Roc, a former Howard University student and alumna of the NationHouse School who hails from Southeast, told AllEyesOnDC during the meet-and-greet. “It’s formative. I’ve been living in Atlanta for so long that people don’t see me as a D.C. artist. Being in the D.C. music scene solidifies things in my mind.”
Since leaving the District in 2002 to pursue her music career, Sa-Roc hasn’t come back home, other than to perform every once so often. Even so, her lyrics, arguably the most conspicuous sign of an Afrocentric upbringing, reflect a life and absorption of culture indigenous to those living in what was once known as “Chocolate City.” Sa-Roc’s vast discography includes “SA-ROC: Journey of the Starseed,” “Supernova,” and most recently “Gift of Magi.”
In her music, one can hear remnants of go-go, old-school hip-hop, indie rock, and other musical genres. Sa-roc’s influences include Jimi Hendrix, Earth Wind & Fire, and Gil Scott Heron, perhaps a testament to the rebellious nature of her craft and rebellious lyricism. These days, she counts among the handful of prominent black female emcees that don’t bare it all for the screen or rap about their sexual exploits. Such a dedication to being the “other” has led to collaborations with Jay Electronica, Nappy Roots, Afrika Bambataa, David Banner, and Stic.man of Dead Prez.
Nich Lewis, mother of two young women and community member who lives in Northeast, told AllEyesOnDC that she respects Sa-Roc, so much so that she wants her daughters to look to her as an example of black womanhood. On Tuesday evening, Lewis and her brother strolled into Sankofa eager to chat with Sa-Roc during the meet-and-greet.
“Sa-Roc’s classy and operates on divine energy. I first checked her out on ‘Spittin In Da Wip,’” Lewis said. “She gets her point across without taking off her clothes. That’s scarce in this generation. Listening to her music makes me feel like Chocolate City never died.”
Southern Illinois University professor Najjar Abdul-Musawwir echoed Lewis’ sentiments, saying the entertainment industry has slowly pivoted toward a more conservative, wholesome look in recent years mainly due to an oversaturation of sexually explicit content. Musawwir, who’s currently conducting research about the African origins of the Banjo at the Smithsonian Institute, came to the event with a friend.
That evening, he too talked extensively with Sa-Roc and even pledged to attend her show at Liv, stressing that black people must support art that uplift the race.
“I’m putting my money where my mouth is. I’m really glad that Sa-Roc is putting this music out,” Musawwir told AllEyesOnDC. “Some artists throw out sloppy singles. She’s top grade. All of her stuff is of the highest quality. In this society, we have downgraded ourselves so much that people are thirsty for this type of music. Sa-Roc is of the people and for the people. She dresses up her music with knowledge.”
If Sa-Roc left a mark on anyone that evening, it was Ja-Dor Stewart, a middle schooler and aspiring R&B singer who attended the Sankofa meet-and-greet with her mother. Ja-Dor, who’s currently applying to the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Northwest, said Sa-Roc showed her what’s possibly for a young artist growing in her African consciousness.
“Sa-Roc came out of the African culture to make music,” Ja-Dor told AllEyesOnDC. “She’s standing up as a positive influence for a lot of youth at a time when the music industry is trying to take down a lot of good artists. She’s blazing a trail to show us that we don’t have to be status quo.”
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