3 out of 5
Produced by: Sol Messiah
I think, as with the rest of the world that was paying attention, I was crazy hyped up by the singles Sa-Roc was releasing leading up to her Rhymesayers debut. Her delivery was so sharp and vicious; smart and interesting rhymes delivered over rich, soulful, boom-bap style beats. To me, she came out of left field, but of course, there was another portion of the world that could’ve pointed to self-released material quite prior to this. Since I’m not nearly that tapped in, I was just waiting for that Rhymesayers album, excited by every announcement of each new single that it would be accompanied by a full release drop date.
During that time, I did see Sa-Roc had some previous stuff made available through bandcamp or Fifth Element, and I eagerly snapped that up, and couldn’t wait to tear into it once procured. …And found myself a little turned off. Not actively, but the material didn’t have the same grabbing vibe I’d gotten from the singles; I was often tuning out before the album / EP completed, But no big deal, I figured – probably just an affect of this being rawer stuff, and I’d come back around to it after digging on that Rhymesayers disc.
Which came, was purchased, was listened to, and went, much to the same effect.
My anticipation obviously fizzled; I chalked it up to just that – expectations getting the best of me – and pledged to revisit the material at a later, less-built-up point.
With a bonus edition of Sharecropper’s Daughter including some bonus tracks – released as a separate vinyl for those of us who already owned the original, and yes, every label should absolutely follow a practice like that – it seemed like a good opportunity to do that revisit. With opener Options hitting me in that same way as those first-heard singles, I felt like I’d “cured” my Sa-Roc disillusion, and was ready to join the chorus of those who’d sung her praises.
I do know that, individually, each song on this bonus – maybe accepting the offhand, too-short concluder with MF DOOM, The Rebirth – is incredibly solid. Leaning more into boast tracks and narratives than the political / social consciousness of Sharecropper’s initial set, these six songs feature the MC’s never dull lyrical inventiveness, spit in her edgy, emotive style. Sol Messiah, her consistent producer, lays down solid beats, with some really funky stuff mixed in there – a great bassline on the opener; some excellent vocal manipulations on Options; etc. But these are not “individually solid” in the sense of being singles, rather, it’s that to get the most out of a song, it needs to be listened to alone. Because when you follow it up with the next one, it becomes apparent how flat Sa-Roc’s rapping range is, and how restrained Sol’s production is. At a high level, the tracks sound alike.
Sa-Roc does break up her consistent delivery patter with some singing and samples, but the focus – the restraint from Sol playing into this – is on her lyrics and rap, so that’s always prioritized. A best example of a balance of this can be found on The Great Escape, which is much more musical than the majority of what’s on display elsewhere, complementing her raps with layered vocals and a toe-tapping guitar line; Sa-Roc is definitely capable of singing as well, and this tracks is a great combo of her various skills.
To be fair, I mentioned boom-bap, and that’s the approach here, and I don’t know if that’s really my era of hip-hop. So this is likely a case of my ears just being dumb. And the other “fairness” is that this material is in line with what’s come before, maybe just a little less topically in-yer-face, meaning if you did love what was on Sharecropper’s, no reason you wouldn’t dig this stuff as well. Equally, then, if you’re in the seeming rare camp like me who was ultimately underwhelmed, the bonus material is in line.