The Midwest has proven itself as a space for birth, or rebirth, for black music. Rhythm and blues, jazz and hip-hop have all experienced various incarnations here and produced a wild crop of viable acts.
One young man in particular from Dayton, Ohio (a city once known as a part of a larger whole of the “Funk Capitol of the World”) has made a conscious decision to enter the competitive waters of hip-hop; does that Midwest sensibility grace his work?
In his own words Robby Tate, a sophomore at Denison University, described tapping into the creative ethos of the Midwest, “I was trying to figure out my voice and my message. I knew that I had a lot of emotions that I either didn’t (want to) express or couldn’t convey in a way to make people care. So I tried to make it sound cool while keeping it unique, personal and not generic.”
sarob is the manifestation of Tate as an artist; he decided to reexamine a passion that began in a high school notebook full of rhymes, schemes and (unlikely) dreams. The exposure of college obviously quickened his heart enough to return to his closeted pipe dream and make it a reality.
Orbiting his self-professed heroes Mos Def and Q-Tip, sarob took his high school lyrics and began transforming them based on his new happenings, “It became more about personal experiences and making them apply universally. So essentially every day I would write and edit in my iPhone. I’d send verses to my friends to see what they thought.”
debut. LP cover
Like the mentioned emcees, sarob’s digital debut decent. blends head-bobbing jazz, soul and other surprising sample snatches that groove and rock.
An example of the musical compass set on debut. can be heard on the languid haze of “Tequila Mockingbird”; two other similar arrangements beam on “The Half-Decent Doodles (Vibes+Stuffs)” and the slightly more beat elevated “Yoga Pants”. sarob acquaints himself well on the majority of the tracks, barring the occasional beginner’s clumsiness, he is concise and hypnotic as heard on “Bum Raps”.
“I called it decent. because that’s what it was to me. It wasn’t entirely focused, I recorded it and eventually threw it out there for people to listen to. It was haphazard but it was just a start. I just wanted to get the experience and it was time for me to get rid of all those what if’s”.
For something that may be just a passing fancy, sarob captures the restlessness of the black, upper-middle class male finding his way through a post-high school / collegiate adulthood journey.
With a sharper set of material and more practice, sarob could be one of those indie names to come out of Ohio and lend credence to the Midwest art cauldron theory. Rank: Above Average
[Editor’s Note: debut. is available for free as a digital download here; for additional information on sarob visit the aforementioned link and his Twitter page.-QH]