Biggie, Buttas, Booty: An Interview with Sarob

By: Harrison Giza

“I said a hip hop the hippie the hippie, to the hip hip hop and you don’t stop” is the line that started it all.

More than thirty years later since the genre was formed, rapper Sarob is experimenting with a sense of new age expression and old-school casualness. His flow is smooth, sweet and lowdown, while his words are as precise as Annie Oakley with an ak-47. He’s a rap fan’s rapper.

I discovered him after Homeboy Sandman posted his song “high noon.” on Facebook. He simply labeled it “buttas.”

And Sarob is butter – rich in color and capable of enhancing the flavor of his beats at any moment. He knows what suits him and uses this knowledge to extend his vocabulary, flow, and wordplay. Unlike a lot of hip-hop artists, Sarob is humble and kind. He speaks softly, but can talk about his love of The Strokes and Cupid Deluxe in an instant.

The track below, “high noon,” is standing applause simplicity with hints of future domination. Sarob’s voice is grainy, charmed, and swells into the background guitar as if it was supposed to. It’s quick… but infinitely worth the listen.

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And now… the interview

HG: At the start of “high noon” you drop a DJ Kool reference. That’s going back. Who was the first hip hop artist you heard?

        SAROB: I think the first hip-hop artist I heard was Biggie. The song was “Hypnotize.” My mom never let me listen to the hip-hop radio station but I heard my brother playing something down the hall that I thought was cool. So I turned to the station until I got to that. My mom made me cut it off immediately. I didn’t really listen to much rap until way later.I

HG: That Kankick beat fits you perfectly – smooth in tone and instantly hooking you in. What kind of music do you need to spit over? What is a good beat to you?

       SAROB: Uhm, all I know right now is that I hate hi-hats. Like if someone sends me a beat with hi-hats or really without an ill sample, I can’t do it. Hi-hats are kind of obnoxious. Also, I don’t really mess with EDM. Other than that, I can do a lot of things…I have plenty of stories to tell so I try not to be limited to any particular style.

HG: “Super silly, supercilious cynic, I’ll sip the cylinder so long as I can skip to the zenith” is undeniably refined for someone so young. What do you see in Earl and Joey? You’ve said your style is similar. How do you respond to such an appreciation for young MCs?

      SAROB: (Laughs) Thank you. I think Earl and Joey are pretty remarkable but I had a pretty bad problem with trying to compare myself to them. Last summer, I released an EP and people immediately started to tell me I was like Joey and Earl and Chance. So I started having these crazy expectations for myself and wanted their levels of success…it was my first time recording anything, so that naturally didn’t happen. I could never hate on them but I was definitely envious. Eventually, I had to bring myself out of that – the song mentions how I had to figure out my own path and grow within that. Whatever I do is for me and my growth – not to be compared to another person.

HG: Does Julie truly have a “fat booty?”

SAROB: Yes.

HG: Where do you see hip hop going? Will you stick to the script or experiment on the internet?

SAROB: I don’t know where hip-hop is going. I do know that we shouldn’t place any boundary on it. It’s such a multidimensional machine, really. Hip-hop can be anything. That’s why it’s so beautiful. It can tell so many stories. That’s where I think I fit in – I’m not really a traditional rapper or anything. But there’s room for my story and my personality – as big as it is – so I’m just going to deliver that. That’s all I can do.

HG: Homeboy Sandman likes Sarob. Great sentence, right?

SAROB: I don’t want a handout or a co-sign or anything, but yeah, hopefully he does. I’m grateful that he showed love like that.

HG: Where you from, your favorite food, first rap song you remembered all the lines to, and where you see yourself going in the future?

SAROB: I’m from Dayton, Ohio. My favorite food is probably cereal. Really, anything breakfast-related. The first track I could recite was Lose Yourself by Eminem. That was the first song I latched onto once ma dukes let me listen to the radio. Everyone knows the words to that, though. I don’t know where I see myself going. I don’t want to be bound to just one thing. Probably a lot of song-writing, singing, maybe some producing. I do know that I’m getting better. Whatever I do will only improve, inshallah.

HG: Hobbies? Dream artists to work with?

SAROB: I read a lot. I also used to play college basketball at Denison University but I quit the team to give rapping a shot. Every once in a while, I still hoop. My dream artists are probably Blu, Aloe Blacc, Lauryn Hill, Kanye West, Rapsody, Madlib, DOOM, J Cole, Large Pro. Trick Daddy. Young Buck. I’ve been waiting to hear back from Lil Flip.

HG: “Illin out to Portishead, swag Sydney Poitier, I used to rap about my dick but now that’s inappropriate” is, in my book, up for line of the year. Where’d it come from? You like Portishead… any other genre-bending artists you ill out to?

SAROB: Thank you, I actually appreciate that. That song was pretty funny, to me. I love Blood Orange (Dev Hynes)…like Cupid Deluxe is always on in my dorm…King Krule, Theophilus London, a little Sam Sparro still. Handsome Boys Modeling School, Moloko, Esthero, Toro y Moi, Prince. Do The Strokes count? I think I just want to say The Strokes.

HG: How have people reacted to your talent?

SAROB: People like it, generally. That means I haven’t done enough yet.

 

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