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Interview: Roy Waterford of Strong Roots Records
Posted May 03, 2017 by Brett Alderman
WRITTEN BY
Brett Alderman
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May 03, 2017
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Enjoy First Friday at the Murphy Arts building seeing a night of incredible hip-hop as Musical Family Tree presents another label showcase. Join Bloomington-based Strong Roots Records at 8 p.m. for a solid roster of the label’s artists, including Tyler Knapp, Sonny Paradise and more.

Ahead of the night’s festivities, I spoke with Strong Roots founder Roy Waterford. Here’s what he had to say about the label’s inception, the vibrant Indiana hip-hop community and what to expect at Friday’s showcase.

 

Brett Alderman: What made you decide to start Strong Roots?

Roy Waterford: My wife Cass and I decided to start a record label because we found ourselves surrounded by a group of really talented musicians and we wanted to help their music reach more people. I had thrown the idea around, but after a really insightful LSD trip, I decided I was going to go for it.

 

BA: How did you build the label?

RW: Well first off, we made a list of friends and artists that we worked with and associated with on a regular basis to build our roster. Once we had our initial roster decided, we started to put together our collective resources (blog contacts, local and out-of-town venue connections). From there we started a Bandcamp page and began working on our first string of releases.

 

BA: What do you look for in an artist before welcoming them to the Strong Roots label?

RW: We look for artists that are unique, talented and driven. As parents, our lives are pretty busy, and we don’t have the extra time it takes to push our artists to create, so it is essential that any artists we pick up is self-motivated. Another aspect that is vital is to have a team mentality. We consider our label to be a family, in which we all help each other to succeed. Too often I’ve seen hip-hop follow the “crabs in a bucket” mentality in which one can only raise up by stepping on others to get to the top. Our motivation is getting our family to the top by lifting each other up.

BA: Is there a spirit of collaboration within Strong Roots’ artist roster?

RW: For sure. Even though we are all unique individuals, we encourage our artists to work together. Having several talented producers and emcees on our squad makes this process easy and natural, as emcees are always looking for dope beats to use and dope rappers for features on their songs or projects.

 

BA: Indiana seems to be in the midst of a hip-hop renaissance. How do you feel about being involved, and do you believe there are certain factors that are behind the surge?

RW: I’ve been in love with hip-hop music and culture since my sister put me onto Run-DMC in the ‘80s, so it’s very humbling to be a part of the hip-hop scene in Indiana. I’m very thankful to be a part of such a beautiful movement.  As far as contributing factors, I would say that some cities, such as Indianapolis and Gary, have a certain indomitable spirit that rises from poverty and violence, and from such hardship comes beautiful, timeless art.

BA: What do you see for the future of Strong Roots?

RW: I see us continuing to grow and spread our music across the U.S. and the world. We’ve been making international contacts for the past few years with plans of doing some touring outside of the United States. I feel that the “golden era,” ‘90s style hip-hop that many of us on the label create is very much alive and well in Europe, so it only makes sense to branch out to artists and supporters in that area.

 

BA: Any upcoming releases in 2017?

RW: We’re constantly releasing new music, but I’ll name a few projects I’m really excited for: Tyler Knapp/ R-Juna collaborative album,  new full-length from Blooded The Brave, new EP from The Comdot, new Ace One full-length, three new projects from The Klinik, new single and video from Black Eddie, new JO full-length, plus several instrumental releases dropping in 2017.

 

BA: What can people expect from the showcase at Musical Family Tree this Friday?

RW: People can expect to see the art of DJing and emceeing alive and well. Our lineup for the night consists of artists that are high-energy and deeply lyrical. Expect to get live AF and have a good time.

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