From penning records for Usher to landing his own single, “I Heard You Got Too LiTT Last Night,” on the radio, SAINt JHN (who apparently loves to play with type formatting) is here to prove he’s what the rap game has been missing. With undeniable trap melodies, hard-knocking beats and stories for days, the Brooklyn-based multitalented artist takes years of knowledge and experience in the industry to streamline his own career as a solo artist.
With his 2016 breakout single, “Roses,” it was clear real-name Carlos St. John wore his heart on his sleeve. While he's reluctant to explain the full story behind the moniker SAINt JHN, he gives us a little snippet.
“I make music," he says. “I wear silk. I watch a lot of … unscripted TV. [laughs] Like things you can only find on the internet that don’t usually have clothes on.”
With no distinct words to describe his sound, it’s his quirky personality and undeniable charm that fans gravitate toward. In regards to the lowercase “t,” he cockily says he intends to save that story for when he lands the cover.
“I don’t try to describe it," he says. "I would use the words ‘good, great, better, best, silk.’ I like sexy things and that was sexy. I come from a hyper-religious background. We can delve into it later, though. Give me the cover, and we’re good to go.”
Born in Brooklyn but splitting his childhood years between Guyana and the States, JHN might have been destined for a life of crime along with his peers. Instead, he holds on to the power of music for a greater purpose. Being a fan of hip-hop moguls DMX, Jay-Z and Nas, he finds a way to incorporate the nitty-gritty East Coast rhymes with his South American roots.
“You can hear the influence in my music," he says. “A lot of my melodic references are dancehall because I grew up listening to dancehall. Dancehall is transformative, exciting music. It does for people in the Caribbean and around the world what hip-hop does for America. It’s expressive. I don’t know, but I know what it makes me do. It makes me want to take my shirt off.”
Success certainly did not happen overnight. SAINt JHN’s journey in music comes with a lot of hard work and dedication, and a strong will to never give up. Having written for artists such as Joey Bada$$, Usher and Jidenna, JHN remembers the challenges that came with writing for others. It was during these early days that he discovered his own talents.
“It was a lot of work,” he says. “I wished it to be. I willed it to be and it sort of happened. Through a lot of trial and error and a lot of failures. I made music for a while and then I started writing for artists, and that was where I got a breakthrough. I started giving up and I found myself writing for people who already had promising careers and I found my footing right there.”
That footing has now placed his standout single, “I Heard You Got Too Litt Last Night,” on the airwaves of Power 106. This is something the majority of society can relate to: having a little too much fun at the function the night before. The only thing better than the record is the story behind it.
“I made the record the day after my birthday,” he says. “My homegirl came to my birthday and we had a weed cake. So my ex-girlfriend made me this cake and it had one of my clothing designs on it. And my homegirl ate the cake. She didn’t know that it had weed in it. But she had a good spirit. It wasn’t undisclosed. It’s just that I like edibles, so you should know. The water around me might have THC in it. The bread might have THC. So she got lit. And then I texted her the next day and I was like, ‘Yo, I heard you got too lit last night.’ That was the text. Actually, that should have been the artwork. She said, ‘Yes I did.’ I said, ‘I’ll call you right back.’ Because I was texting her. I was in a session when I wrote that to her and I was like, ‘All right, cool. That’s what this song is about to be.’”
While the record closes out his debut project, Collection One, this is only the beginning.
“Collection One is an introduction,” he says. “It’s ‘Hey, nice to meet you. I’m wearing a fur. Here’s a drink. I’ll see you when I see you.’ That’s what I want them to know. I want them to know that it’s going to be a long, wonderful, winding relationship. But for now, I just want to say hello. I’ll see you when I double back.”
On top of his music endeavors, SAINt JHN also has a strong presence on social media, which he admits plays a huge role in his career.
“It’s 2018,” he says. “It’s not even a real question. You can’t survive without that. Plus I get my own TV show on Instagram, so it’s pretty good. I like it.”
This TV show comes in the form of his Rapper Behavior series on Instagram. If anyone ever wonders what a day in his life is like, JHN lays it out pretty loud and clear.
“I think I lived like that my whole life, but I didn’t call it anything,” he says. “It’s champagne ignorance, that’s what I call it. You get to see the things that I would typically do, but I give you the context for it. Like I’m going to throw some money in the tub and I know this is irresponsible, but it’s OK. Let me be a rapper for a second. This is rapper behavior. Or oftentimes when I’m in some wonderful, marbled-out penthouse, I want you to see it from my perspective, but I want you to get the idea that you can have it, too. It’s informative information, or it’s ignorant. It’s all the things I like.”
As he continues to grow and flaunt his wealth and successes, JHN has no plans of slowing down.
“In 10 years, I see myself very rich,” he says. “Damn, I didn’t even hesitate. You can have three very’s: very, very, very rich. I’m always going to participate and create art and music. I want to impact the culture in different ways. Even if that means owning the best strip club with great food, with the greatest food... [laughs] We’ll see how it goes. I’m here today. I’m alive and I’m thriving.”
Now he brings his Rapper Behavior to real life, embarking on his first headlining tour. Attracting old fans and new fans alike, JHN explains his favorite encounters with fans.
“There was this guy from Arkansas at my New York show,” he says. “I met him. I don’t remember his name but I remember the experience. He came a really long way to decide to be there. That’s a fantastic experience. The next time you see me and we have another conversation, hopefully those experiences keep growing and I’ll tell you something different.”
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In addition, he loves it “when they throw bras on the stage.” JHN reveals some pointers on how to survive one of his shows: “Fans can expect a lot of energy,” he says. “Don’t come to go to sleep. You probably shouldn’t take a Xanax and come to my show. That’s not good advice. A lot of Red Bull, hydrate, and bring spare panties and bras.”
This would be a good time to hit play on another standout on the project titled "God Bless the Ratchets." As he gets ready to headline the Roxy on Sunset, SAINt JHN details his favorite part of the City of Angels.
“It’s important,” he says. “I get to drive drop-tops when I’m in Los Angeles. That’s very essential to my state of being, my psyche, my emotional beliefs. That’s everything.”
SAINt JHN performs at the Roxy on Friday, May 18, at 9 p.m.