Denver rapper Mane Rok, real name Sam Baron, has been cutting his teeth in the Colorado hip-hop scene for more than a decade. Whether it was competing in rhyme battles, organizing shows and events or releasing albums with his group, ManeLine, Mane has proudly represented all things hip-hop not only in in-state but in the southwest region.
With ManeLine, a group that also features rapper/producer InkLine and DJ Tense, Mane Rok released two albums, Till Then… and And Sew It Seams… and performed in almost every Colorado venue that would allow hip-hop shows. Even some that didn’t. Now that ManeLine is officially on hiatus, Mane Rok is finally striking out on his own. In 2010 he released his debut album, The Ugly Truth, which featured production from some of Colorado’s most well-known producers like Es Nine, Xperiment, Deca, 800 the Jewell, Yonnas and others. The result was a well-balanced, thought-provoking project backed with neck-snapping beats.
We caught up with Mane Rok, as he prepares to open for People Under The Stairs at the Fox Theatre on Wednesday, Jan. 26, to talk about the album, his other projects and his thoughts on the hip-hop scene in the Mile High.
What was it like working on The Ugly Truth by your lonesome?
The biggest difference is having to spread your thoughts through a whole song, as opposed to compacting them to one verse. For particular songs it can be liberating, for others, it can be what holds you back.
What do you think was necessary for you to show with this album that people didn’t see with ManeLine albums?
Me. Myself. And I. Everyone has particular taste. Some folks are all about Tense in ManeLine, some all about InkLine. This is for those who asked about Mane all the time. This is just me, my thoughts. The Ugly Truth... on how I view society.
The song, “This One’s,” has some strong commentary on local and national law enforcement. Was there a personal experience that helped inspire the song?
You know there is! The song doesn't say "ALL cops are pieces of shit" but I do stand by the idea that the majority are. It isn't about protecting any of us. I've had situation after situation where cops would harass. Whether it be me or people I was with. From the dickhead cops that tried to teach me a lesson when I got caught bombing (spray painting) by purposely putting the cuffs on too tight and rotating them to cut my wrist, to the ones that beat my homie Akwa down and left him in an alley to the ones who tried to taze Es Nine one night leaving Beauty Bar in Denver.
Cops are a real issue that people of color face. Not that Anglos don't have problems with them as well because this is pretty universal; but numbers are up on the minority side, that's for sure. Frank Lobato, Ayana Jones, Sean Bell, Rodney King, Paul Childs, each and every last one a minority. I was inspired some time ago with this idea when Paul Childs went down and was continually inspired as time went on, and I realized, this is a timeless subject.
What other projects do you have on the horizon? Solo, group or collaborations?
I will be releasing a series of Remixes of "This One's" by various producers, right now I have in hand ones from Dyalekt (Diamond Boiz,) 800 The Jewell (Jewell Tyme,) and Qknox (Girl Grabbers.) The idea of "This One's" is so big; it was of enough interest to these others to put "five on it." Banging out MPC's, keys and more. These will be coming out to different blogs, so keep 'em peeled.
I've got a gang of features I've been writing. From techno/dance songs with Life The MC of Cadava Records, to the 80s boom track with Dent...to a few I'm putting out myself featuring cats from out of state I've networked with.
The first of those I'll release myself is "ManeStream" produced By Hi Res of FBC and written by myself & Mane Azeem (Cali). Dude is a beast and has been featured on the World Famous Wake Up Show in L.A. and we just connected online due to the name of course.
The other is "The Great Paper Caper" produced by TimeLine written by me, After Dark (Cali), Fleetwood Deville (DC), and Roqy Tyraid (AZ). Also have one that is on another level of music.
Working with N. Reid of Mercury Sauce Productions, we are working on something that's like "WHOA." The first song is based on an Isolated Mind beat I bought a while back and has additional vocals by Yonnas Abraham, Stero Lion of Heavyweight Dub, Bianka Mikahn, Bravo One (One Eyed Kings) and Amanda from Mercury Sauce. This should be fun.
En Stereo with Es Nine (Prime Element), this is our tribute to Gang Starr and other DJ/Producer & MC duos. This first installment, well, it's that boom bap album I've always wanted to make and is bound to turn heads and break necks. That’s coming in April.
Also "Santanamation" with Dyalekt (Diamond Boiz). That's all you need to know about that for the moment but I also got things with 800 the Jewell and others in the works, some digital releases, some physical. All work.
What is your view on the Colorado hip-hop scene in 2011? Your hopes and goals?
My view remains from a distance these days. I've tried to hard to actively work with a lot of folks in the scene. My final summation — the further away from "the scene" you are, the more you can accomplish because you're not all tangled up in the bullshit ass egos. My hope is that the 95 percent of those folks from the scene that are the reason I try and keep distant get their heads together. Some need therapy, some just need quick reality checks. Hope ya’ll get ’em soon.
Other than yourself, what local hip-hop artists would you suggest people check out?
The age-old question. First, of course, my bredren Prime Element (formerly known as 3 The Hardway). The first album, Set in Stone, was solid. The next one and the Avius solo shit is on some WHOOOEEEE!!! Deca is my favorite MC from Capital D. Hands down. He is releasing The Veil on February 11 at the Curtis St Bar in Denver. Folks should be there for that considering he lives in NY now and came back to do this. The Diamond Boiz have made leaps and bounds in their music. I anticipate something major coming from them. BlkHrts. The Pirate Signal. Julox. Jewell Tyme. ShortBus.
Any last words? What do you want to tell people?
These are far from my last words.