Evan Dale // Dec 28, 2018
2018 was a year of debauchery and do-baddery at a macro scale the likes of which probably hasn’t come to fruition since the dark ages. Naturally, where vacuums have sprung up across the globe, its people have looked to new sources of leadership where expectations are more tethered to reality and those we admire are less traditionally likeable. We need leadership to match our times, our egos, and our issues, both reflecting and deflecting the world around them in ways that inspire change.
As culture does across the spectrum, it breathes of who we are and acts as a mirror of the times. And in times of desperation and relative nonsense, the strongest and truest cultural leaders are those we never could have expected and should have never deserved. Thankfully, amidst so much darkness, music has been an inspirational bright spot this year, bringing into the limelight an acceptance of the artistically bizarre, creatively left-of-center, and inventively trendsetting. And no one has done more from a stance of previously having done less than the incomparable SAINt JHN.
An East Coast pundit of high-energy and self-love, SAINt JHN is every bit the cult leader he claims not to be, seamlessly dragging hip-hop and with it, music as a whole into a future it never saw coming. Built on violently high-fidelity production, intensely up-tempo rap cadence, a surprisingly gentle set of vocals, and tall, red leather boots, the clergy of SAINt JHN is now formally in session and there is absolutely no stopping it.
When 2017 was coming to a close, a handful of inventive singles led us to the belief that with a well-timed debut album release and a continuation of intriguing social and cultural moves, the future of hip-hop very well may have lied in the hands of SAINt JHN. Now, as 2018 comes to a close, Collection One wasn’t only a great debut album, but one of the best, most important projects of the year, the Not A Cult tour which featured fellow purveyor of all things intense, high-energy, and head-bobbing, Jazz Cartier, was one of the most talked about string of live performances on the calendar, and a continuation of SAINt JHN’s social media persona expanded the love and admiration for his stylistic, cultural, personal, and emotional stance, he has become the focus of his loyal fan base.
SAINt JHN does everything at full-speed, never letting freak injuries or the struggles of tour life slow down the pace at which he and his eccentric circle of creative friends live their lives. He’s headed for the very top of music, and he knows it.
Looking back through 2018, it’s easy to keep finding your way to certain projects, and none of those have had a stronger pull on us than Collection One. SAINt JHN’s debut album was expectedly inventive and bass-thumping, but it was, in as many ways, unexpectedly vulnerable, relatable, and applicable in situations that don’t only include a list to turn-up to. It is brimming with sensitive recounts of love and loss (Selfish) in the same way that is boils over with brutally sexualized bangers (Traci Lords). And that balance is really what makes the project so special.
A certain balance is also what makes SAINt JHN so special in general. Experiencing his live performance is simultaneously one of the most impressive and one of the most intimate moments on the current live music circuit. Hyper-energetic performances of his most beloved heaters are mixed with falsetto-driven remixes of his more level-headed tracks. Unstoppable energy is somehow put on pause for clever and focused discussions with the crowd on the importance of self-love and living in the moment. And all of it comes full circle night after night where the lovable folk villain finds himself live streaming from whatever local strip club he can find.
No one has their finger on the pulse of a hip-hop in a more direct and influential way. His music sounds like what all other young hip-hop artists are striving to make. He looks like what all other young hip-hop artists are striving to be. And yet, he’s doing it all just by being himself.
He is doing the very definition of living his best life and encouraging through music, social media, and live performance everyone else to do the same. He is a believer in himself and thinks that the world would be a better place if all of us should choose to do the same. He is one of the single greatest influences on hip-hop fashion trends, spearheading his look through the growth of his own line, Christian Sex Club and a continued effort to model for some of the biggest fashion houses on the planet. He is also the single greatest influence on the direction of hip-hop music, organically creating the most high-energy, yet the most relatably intimate music in the game at a pace few if any can keep up with.
And he is doing it all at such a young starting point in his career. As he discusses at his concerts, many of the tracks on Collection One were written in his Brooklyn apartment long before he had anything but aspirations and confidence for who he was destined to become. And now, well on his way to exactly what he has always been confident in becoming, SAINt JHN is the best new artist of 2018, with a future as bright as he wants it to be. And by the sounds of his music, the look of his style, and the talk in his confidence, SAINt JHN knows that next time he makes one of these lists, the only thing omitted will be the word new.
See our Comprehensive List of 2018's Best New Artists here: