Sa-Roc – The Sharecropper’s Daughter

4 out of 5

Label: Rhymesayers

Produced by: Sol Messiah

Goddess Gang is an amazing single. It’s unstoppable. It hypes up Sa-Roc’s skills, shows off amazing nuance from producer Sol Messiah, and flips back and forth between Sa’s social commentary – gender, race – and little barbed reminders of how slick of a rapper she is. You had to buy the album off the strength of that single.

And that album – The Sharecropper’s Daughter – is also amazing. The sequencing is quite perfect, running through an array of varied guests who play off Sa-Roc effectively, each rapper / singer complementing the other, and giving us a good back-and-forth of styles: soul, boom-bap, more aggressive hip-hop a la Goddess. But there’s a slight wall as well; some distancing element that constantly prevents the album from securing the gold medal.

It’s interesting comparing the track Evidence produced – Deliverance – to the remainder of the album. Sol and Sa have worked together since the start; Evey is obviously classic, and drops in on a lot of albums with a bit. While Deliverance is not the strongest track here (I might consider it one of the weaker ones, actually), Evey’s sensibility seemed to have been to provide a backseat beat, more melody than anything, and Sa-Roc softens her approach to match. Elsewhere, she’s often singing, or doing a hard-edged spit; Sol maps to that with soulful beats or more staccato rhythms. Deliverance is weaker because Sa doesn’t seem as confident there; she needs a more defined mood.

That, to me, is the wall, and it shows up when Sa-Roc falls a little off pace with her rhymes (it’s rare, but happens), or when we go too long without distraction – a single; a guest – and her range proves to be a little limited. But mostly in the lyrics, which are an odd combination of attention grabbing concepts, but ones that don’t always knit together into a thesis, which I criticized elsewhere as talking about talking about something.

Now the takeaway from me being extra nit-picky is that I’m realizing Sa’s music and approach only draw this out from me because it’s inherently complex: Sol’s music has a lot of subtlety to it, and Sa’s style is grabbing. It makes you want to listen. That is: I’m more critical because I can’t not listen. And the artists’ growth together is incredibly apparent, as-is the work put into to sharpening this album into one of the most solid, relistenable efforts of its release year; compare to the bonus tracks, which don’t work as well together, and it’s clearer that a lot of effort went in to paring The Sharecropper’s Daughter down to the best-of-the-best. It might bring assholes like me out of the woodwork with our backseat opinions, but we wouldn’t be here if there wasn’t something worth listening to.