I see a lot of artists come and go in the Baltimore scene, but I’m confident that Roc Writah will be a staple. The brains behind Writah’s Touch LLC, Roc is more than an artist; he’s a creative director and an entrepreneur. He has patience and vision seldom seen in his age range and is very much a student of the game. Roc just released a new visual (0315) off his latest project (Who To Blame: A Demo From 1994), and we had the opportunity to chop it up the other day, here’s how it went:
Roc what are your thoughts on the Baltimore scene, and furthermore the DMV scene? What are you digging/what can we do better?
The scene here is growing every day. Baltimore alone has made strides in the past couple of years with talent, even creating a Baltimore sound. The DMV always had Wale, Logic, and then Shy Glizzy came along. Cordae doing his thing on the higher scale of everything, but we here in Baltimore have been repairing the city’s sound after losing Lor Scoota. It’s a progression, but we’re moving in the right direction. All that is needed is an outlet to put us further into the rest of the bigger markets and then we can show everyone the star talent that’s here.
Best venue in Baltimore to perform/see a show and why:
I can’t speak for anyone else but my best performance in Baltimore was at the Downtown Cultural Arts Center. It was intimate; it felt less like a show and more like a conversation. I was talking with people who felt the same way I was feeling, and they could feel my energy and vice versa. It was raw and underground, nothing too serious. I got to have fun and celebrate my new release with those I care for in addition to new faces who were fans of the music.
Tell me more about your time at Marshall, what brought you there, and now it shaped your artistry.
Marshall would affect me more than I could have ever known. I went there with a goal, and it ended up being a home to me, a place that nurtured me. West Virginia is obviously different, but it was the peace of the area that let me know Baltimore is so small and not the rest of the world’s view. I was in a box here all along, and the people I met were searching for themselves like me. My first mixtape came out my sophomore year there, and my closest friends there were the ones who inspired me to take rap seriously and to see where it goes. Best decision ever, and they are still my boys to this day. The time away from my family and having to figure this out independently is why I take the independent approach in music and business dealings, and my diversity from a cultural aspect all came from Marshall.
One of your records samples one of your grandmother’s gospel records. Tell me more about that record, that process, as well as your grandmother and what that all meant to you:
It actually was her just singing her part to the song, telling her side of growing up in our house: 639 of Greenmount Avenue. This is a generational song, and it was special to create. I always wanted to do a song like this and when I got the instrumental, it was perfect from start to finish, even the breaks in between. The song became even more special when we got to perform it together before it dropped at Light City Festival, and the crowd was blown away. That was my surprise to them, to everyone. My grandmother is a gifted singer, and it was only fair to showcase where I get my talent from.
Elaborate more behind the meaning of your latest project’s title.
The project was reflective and a glimpse inside myself. Before I can continue on with anything in music, I want you to know who I am and what shaped me. It became my journal that I was comfortable sharing. Lots of things happened throughout my life, and you can almost say I was living so multiple lives. This was me trying to bring those many sides together under one umbrella in order to figure myself out. I still am! Everything is for the listener to decide; the music relates to everyone differently. This is for everybody but most of all it’s for my city and the mental struggles we go through in order to survive here. The ultimate question is do we blame ourselves or our environment for how we end up?
Which artists do you admire locally and why?
Well, there is no landscape without Lor Scoota and everything he did for the city before his untimely death. Regardless of opinion, this was his birthplace, and he helped revive rap music in Baltimore. Right now, Young Moose is a cat that I know is hungry. He was once on top here and was neck and neck for the best rapper in the city. I’m watching his sound influenced so many musicians coming up locally, and the homage he gets is crazy. The way he raps and the flow and the energy IS the Baltimore sound. I know he’s got to want his position back after watching all these dudes shine who he paved the way for (some of these dudes don’t give Moose the respect he deserves). I have nothing but respect for him, and he’s a big reason we’re able to do our thing out here.
Same question but on a grander, international scale:
Drake represents the vulnerability in hip-hop. He took a lot of heat for that at first because everyone in the game was so hard up and gansta, and then Drake came on the scene. He helped pave the way for rappers to be in touch with their emotions. Kendrick Lamar is a brilliant individual who is different, gifted, passionate, and everything that hip hop needs out here. He doesn’t play with this art, and the voice behind it, and that’s how I operate. Every single time I’m in the studio, I think about how it may impact another person because I’m no fool to the power of music. I want longevity in this game, and both of those guys are goats to me.
I know you do more than rap. Tell the people more about your business and movement in general:
Of course, I hate talking about future things that aren’t out yet because mad people be fake busy, but we’re really turning things up a notch next year. We’ve added a lot of intricate pieces to our team and business has been moving since. The team is young, dedicated, and driven for the same goal. The business is to create original ideas, show Baltimore through our lenses, and create branches off the music while never becoming stagnant.
5 desert island albums and why:
“Take Care” was something I loved and hated while going through a breakup at the time. That was Drake in his bag, giving you all the feels from hit records to something that would make the toughest dude tear up. “Good Kid Maad City” was probably the best album I ever heard start to finish. It had everything, and it might be the best debut album ever. “The Documentary” was a view inside Compton, and it made a younger me feel like I lived the life of a 25-year-old blood inside a 64 Impala. That’s a classic from a powerhouse in Game, Dre, and 50 at the time. This is a mixtape but I have to say Flatbush Zombies “Better Off Dead”. That joint was too crazy, and far from anything I ever heard. They were saying some stuff that struck into a dark place but they did it in a way that was raw and natural where I could only respect it. The songs were rocking, but the content was grimy and that intrigued me more than anything. I can listen to that front to back anytime, probably with headphones in though. Lastly, this question tough. I’m probably going to say “Tha Carter 3” for the hits and Wayne was the best in the world at this time. His likeness, beat selections, hits, features, everything was on point man. This is prime Wayne and it gets no better than that, that was a definite historic moment for the culture.
In my estimation, music and artistry have become somewhat cheapened today. Many claim to be artists without really putting the work in/seem to be artists for “attention” over a need to produce art. What makes Roc Writah different?
Everyone delivers their own way, and the real will survive through any phase for a fact. I’m just true to me and being a long-standing student of the game. I don’t cheat the craft and everything is whole-heartedly driven. I attack real subject matter over great beats without compromising my overall sound. I feel like I can relate to most, and my following is diverse. The morals I stand on, and the drive I bring is unmatched. I won’t sell myself too much; I just want you to listen to the music if you feel the need to and judge everything for yourself. The choice will always be the population at the end of the day, and I will continue to create regardless of what anyone thinks. I do this because I love it.