'A certain amount of energy is expectation from the get-go'
Evan Dale // April 9, 2019
A certain amount of energy is expectation from the get-go. Few areas across modern music’s landscape bring the kind of energy that hip-hop does, and few within hip-hop itself are capable of mustering the kind of fervent and undeniable force on which Jazz Cartier and SAINt JHN have built their respective foundations. The fact that they’re touring together isn’t just a cohesive collaborative effort; It’s kismet. We bought tickets without even knowing where any of us would be come the date of the show. The show would be a beacon of reuniting our friendship beneath the banner of arrogant hip-hop music. We would all make sure to be there. Chance would have it that all of our lives in fact became more stable just before the show and that, at least for the short run, we are all in town regardless. Nonetheless, it’s more fun to place our thanks in the hands of SAINt JHN and Jazz Cartier.
Lacking the right circle of connections at the local strip club, we make do with a different kind of pregame before the show. It’s not necessarily the lively event instructed by tonight’s performers, but it certainly isn’t turnt down either. Liquor and music in a friend’s apartment, conversations about liquor and music, all washed down with more liquor and music. The heaters of the usual subjects soundtrack our slowly enlivening depravity – A$AP Ferg, Gunna, K. forest’s early work, Rocky’s selective high-energy, a smattering of obscure throwbacks that remind us of nights similar to the one on which we’re now embarking. Perfection. We’re ready.
Someone responsible has already ordered our transportation, so with a pause of the tunes and one general statement of direction, we’re all swept down the halls of the tenement. As with any inebriated evening, this is the moment things become less clear. All of us are overcome with a feeling of relative uneasiness in our lack of sobriety until we’re to be returned to an environment where it’s acceptable.
Thankfully, we’re headed to the Bluebird Theatre, and there, we definitely pass on the sober end of the margins. We walk in early, not willing to miss any bit of performance from either artist we have been such dedicated fans of for so long. Toronto’s Jazz Cartier – the opener – is in fact the artist we’ve known and loved for far longer, simply boasting a much longer and more detailed career than the relatively recent explosiveness of his Brooklyn counterpart.
He brings the ruckus. Starting the show with the explosion of a violent anthem, Right Now, and continuing on the torrid pace even when playing some of his more love and lust focused slow jams, this is but foreshadow of more of what’s to come. At some point, Jazz works his way into the madness of the floor, pulls himself up onto a thin hand railing to float above his loyal base, and with one misstep, nearly tumbles down the front end to the lower deck. Thankfully, one of our three is there to catch his fall and prevents what could have been an ugly scene. Jazz finishes up his track and subsequently his set with his hand on the shoulder of our friend before amping up the crowd one last time pre-intermission, pre-SAINt JHN.
The intermission itself, as is generally the case at any good hip-hop show, is every bit as lively, powerful, and key as the performances. Any DJ worth their money knows how to put on a good show, and Angel & Dren, SAINt JHN’s twin sister tour DJ’s are anything but novices. Seamlessly weaving through the most notorious, high-energy, and experimental waves of the moment, they play their incredibly key role in not only keeping the party going, but turning the party up to the next level.
And from there, SAINt JHN grabs the baton. His voice comes stageward first, wailing away at inexact harmonies à la Kid Cudi from beyond the stage. Next, his outfit takes attention of the crowd, appearing above us all with high red leather boots, a floral button-up, and skinny black designers. Then, his personality – even more outlandish and one-of-a-kind than his style –as he gives his signature smirk and stares down the crowd. And at last, his music.
There are few artists in music history that hold up to the polished sound of a recording studio when they reach a stage. There are fewer that somehow sound even better. And there are far, far fewer still that come from the realm of hip-hop music. Something about the style – though not necessarily a bad thing – often fails to translate directly. Instead, it’s usually an altogether different take on the artist’s music. But as for SAINt JHN, not only is it comparable, not only is it reminiscent of his studio originals, it feels altogether more organic, more wide-ranging, and more explosively perfected than Collection One in digital form. SAINt JHN’s debut album had come out something like six months beforehand and had already, along with his absurdist social media presence, his modeling career, and his knack for being absolutely one-of-a-kind, delivered him to where he was always meant to be – an emergent pinnacle figure of the greater music scene.
Weaving in and out of high-energy, quick-cadence rap, gorgeous, heart-melting vocalism, and an intermittent string of stories of his journey and lectures on the importance of chasing passion, SAINt JHN delivers what is simultaneously the most intimate, the most authentic, and the most high-energy performance any of us had seen. The venue isn’t even sold out, but there is more energy and belief in the hall that night than on any other night of the year. Undeniably the cult leader he swears not to be, sporting and selling his emerging personal fashion line Christian Sex Club, and delivering what has at the end of the night become half sermon on self-belief, half ignorant rap show hellbent on living a life of riches, lust, and individuality, SAINt JHN makes a believer of us all that next time he comes into town, he’ll easily sell out the most well-established venue of his choice.
The come up is that real.