SAINt JHN's Debut,
Collection One, Just Changed Hip-Hop Forever
Evan Dale // Mar 31, 2018
The bar has been raised. Sorry to everyone who considers themselves a piece of the hip-hop circle, but you better step it up if you want any hope of catching SAINt JHN.
There hasn't been a debut project with this much energy and inventiveness since the Man on the Moon, and Collection One, foolingly simplistic by name, is the work of the kind of a never-sleeping creative genius with enough promise to have an effect of similar weight.
There was some question as to whether or not SAINt JHN could keep the wave going following the insane success that the beginning of his career has seen. 3 Below, Roses, Reflex, Some Nights, and Litt Last Night, which all proved to be wide-ranging and stylistically-defining early singles that ignited the mysterious and incomparably wavy campaign towards his debut album, find their rightful positions in the project. But make no mistake about it, in combination with the eight new tracks, the project carries with it a sound and energy as bold, attention-grabbing, genre-defying, and complete as any we've ever heard. It's clear that over the past year, SAINt JHN wasn't holding anything back or pimping out only his best songs to garner attention, but rather, was blessing us with a varied and well-balanced collection of singles necessary to prepare for a project filled with more of the same, but in all ways different.
At first listen to SAINt JHN, there's no question that he's a proponent of the violently abrasive hip-hop track. Call them bangers, slappers, heaters, or whatever absurdist titling you will, he has no trouble recklessly turning up the gas knob and starting an inferno. Roses, 3 Below, Surf Club, GOD BLESS THE RATCHETS, and Traci Lords are all about to be played in every bar, club, and house party across the globe – if they're not already – and rightfully so. There's something especially explosive about SAINt JHN's ability to bring an already high-energy beat a newer, bigger identity with his flow and vocal delivery that themselves exude a certain unmatched ferocity.
Yet, his ability to switch gears and deliver tacks better defined as mellow and undertone, is uncanny for an artist of such intensity. Can you imagine Migos or Desiigner successfully delivering smooth, soft tracks, fittingly weaving in and out of T-Shirt and Panda? They don't have the skill set that SAINt JHN does. With an ability to match the arrogance and intensity of today's most prolific hype-hop stars, SAINt JHN can do what they can't with tracks like Reflex, Some Nights, and Litt Last Night - turn it down a touch, reinvent his own sound, and connect with his listeners on an entirely different set of emotional values.
Then there's the hood-centric love songs, exposing SAINt JHN’s unapologetic views and opinions on romantic exploits and sex. Though they don't likely fall into the average person's definition of romantic music, hip-hop artists have always approached the themes differently than others. God Bless the Internet and Brilliant Bitch though hyper-sexualized, a hair on the misogynistic side, and boldly outspoken, are love songs through to their core. And it would be unfair to say that SAINt JHN himself doesn’t seem to be a hopeless romantic of sorts.
Perhaps most intriguing and bold in all of Collection One is Selfish – an 80's-inspired melodic hip-hop and R&B ballad somewhere between stylings à la Phil Collins and Kid Cudi, and the strongest argument in favor of SAINt JHN as a next generation multi-dimensional powerhouse. The only relatively family-friendly vibe on the album, Selfish doesn't lose a step artistically or in terms of credibility. Instead, it broadens his already wide berth as a creative musician willing to take risks to improve his music, explore new styles, and in the process, reach a new market of fans. There is certainly a chance of Selfish and songs of a similar style in SAINt JHN’s future, becoming a driving force for his artistry and continued growth.
At the end of the day, no one really sounds like SAINt JHN and from song to song he often doesn't even seem to sound like the previous version of himself. He has a style that subsists somewhere in the vast grey territory between hip-hop, reggae, afro-beat, electronic, psychedelia, and R&B. And though many in today's scene vie for the bass-heavy, Caribbean-influenced, rap-sung middle ground only recently unearthed and popularized, no one has etched themselves deeper into it than SAINt JHN. Collection One is bound to become a defining moment and a blueprint for a collection of hip-hop movements for years to come, while propelling SAINt's personal journey and his style's inroads into the mainstream.
Collection One feels like an album made by a collaborative quartet of top-tier hip-hop veterans spread across the spectrum. The fact that one man is largely responsible makes it an early front runner for album of the year, and makes SAINt JHN perhaps the most important emerging name in music. We’re on record as saying before that the future of hip-hop may very well lie in SAINt JHN’s hands, and with the release of Collection One – a bold statement that doesn’t simply prove his prowess as an energy-striven and undeniably hype rapper from Brooklyn, but as a well-rounded and multidimensional creative force whose talent is worthy of global acclaim, we’re standing by our statement.
It’s hard to believe that this is just the beginning for Saint JHN. Only he knows what Collection Two may bring.