When he released The Ugly Truth last year, Mane Rok (aka Sam Baron) vowed to create an EP with each of the producers he worked with on the album. Staying true to his word, he released the hip-hop purist joint En Stereo with Es-Nine, whose production was stellar, and Santanamation with renaissance producer Dyalekt of Diamond Boiz, which was hauntingly supreme. The remixes that followed were equally dope.
His latest release, Saul Amore: A Modern Day Massacre, a collaboration with Mr. Bostic of One Eyed Kings, takes the cake. Mane's writing is on another level, and his choice of features is even more on point.
Saul Amore, meaning "It's all love," an alias Mane is using for this project, is the perfect description of the mix of rude and sweet elements you'll find woven throughout the album. We caught up with Mane Rok to discuss love, life, hip-hop's addictive elements, and how, as a lyricist, he seems to be at the top of his game right now.
Westword: Can you explain the premise behind the title of the EP?
Mane Rok: After sitting, wondering for some time what direction to take with the next EP project and, more particularly, the Mr. Bostic beats, it hit me one day how smooth these beats were. Boom-bap, nonetheless, but smooth as hell. At the same time, I was toying with this idea of aliases for myself and thought "Saul Amore," as in "It's All Love," was a dope one. It was also a throw to the compilation Dent had put out years ago titled "Saul Good."
The day I realized how smooth Mr. Bostic's beats were, the alias went right along with it. I'm not really a fan of having my face plastered all over my albums, so this character, Saul Amore, was perfect for that. It obviously also fit well with the idea of the release date being 2/14....which led me to the "Valentines Day Massacre" idea. I felt like this was some of my best writing. I killed these verses. Seriously, I just felt I had massacred these tracks, along with those in tow, so it all fit all too well.
You sound grown up, manly and almost seductive on these tracks. It's so different from your previous releases. How have you changed?
[laughs] I don't know that it's as much of a change as it is exposure of other pieces of me. I've maintained -- yes, intentionally -- the idea that each of these releases following The Ugly Truth would be just that. En Stereo is what made me want to be a part of hip-hop in the first place -- that boom-bap sound we paid tribute to.
Santanamation was a tribute to a person who, in an overwhelmingly black/white business, represented the unseen. There are so many Latino rockers, producers, punks, soul singers and more that have been overlooked since the early days of the modern industry, because it was an industry built on image. The image wasn't Latino, by any means.
"99th Problem," "This One's" remix project, were the pieces of me, that as one can tell from my social-media blitzes, are really about modern issues and finding modern answers. As you know, I'm a Gemini and never subscribe to being explained in one light. I'm both the light and the darkness...and there is a lot that make up each of those.
Your studio chemistry with Bostic is impressive. Why are you drawn to his style of production?
Funny you say that. I've gotten multiple compliments/messages about how folks love me over Mr. Bostic beats. It's classic with a new/refined style to it -- a throw to that boom-bap sound that I mentioned I loved earlier, but something a tad different. Sometimes these things just can't be explained. The pieces just fit.
"Addicted," is one of the standout tracks. Talk about how love can be addicting -- expressly, your love of hip-hop.
Love, among other four letter words, can be one of the worst while simultaneously the best. It's not a single emotion; it's a series of emotions, and it's that roller-coaster ride that can be addicting, the highs and lows. But only when you've seen damn near the bottom of the pit do you learn that maybe sometimes the lows are not where you want to be.
That, to me, aptly describes its addictive nature. We continue to look for that high. As any artist in hip-hop can tell you, that's exactly what hip-hop is. There is only one thing I love more than hip-hop: my family. Hip-hop was the great equalizer to me. Afrika Bambataa stated that hip-hop wasn't a black thing, that it wasn't meant for one type of people, that it was for all, and that the scale by which we are judged was simply skills.
When I was a blue-haired-punk-rock kid, in a Colorado where punk rock was often overrun by skin heads, hip-hop pulled me from that. It wasn't about anything but my ability. But as I've learned through time, that's not how all folks see it. Some don't care about its integrity, don't care that they are selling you lies. So I've found myself constantly struggling with this love...as you do. All love, because it's love that makes the struggle worth it, I stay searching for that high.
There seemed to be irony in "Happy Ending" rounding out the album, like previous notions of love are being massacred and replaced with new definitions, especially with the "fuck you, pay me" sentiment behind "Get Mine," like it's a new fucking day.
Exactly. I couldn't have put it better. There was another track I was initially going to put as the last, but this felt like the finisher to me. Whereas the track about "What Happened to that Happy Ending," that so many are disillusioned by in music, it also plays to the whole theme. We aren't guaranteed a Happy Ending. Ever.
Tell me about the first moment you recognized love.
This question was once asked through social media by a friend, and I had noted then, assuming it was about "romantic love," that it was the moment I had met the physical manifestation of my "ideal love" on 16th Street mall when I was nineteen. She was wearing a leopard skin "top hat." I had heard about her before through friends. This rapping, spanish-speaking, fly-ass chick who wore jewels on her forehead: Her name was Xencs L. Wing. Years upon years later...we have a son.
That fits the bill for "romantic love" by all means...but after talking about this with her, it hit me. I've loved my momma since birth, so that was overlooked, but also...my sons. Son number one was my life saver, my everything. He taught me what love is, and he is the reason that I could view my "ideal love" in my head as a real, tangible love now. Each of those pieces fit together perfectly.
Your writing is ridiculous. You stepped up alongside Scarub and the other features on the album and shined exorbitantly. What else are you working on?
Thank you. Right now, we got a couple of off shoot treats coming for you all very soon, some remixes, maybe a video or two. Then the onslaught of releases will continue with Mane Rok and Tense's new definition of Summer Madness. Ok...maybe not Summer Madness, The Fresh Prince did that. But it'll definitely be something for "Summer Breaks," and yes the 's' is intentional. After that, the fall is gonna make jaws drop with how heavy it's about to get. We're stepping it up.
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