SAINt JHN | The Villain We Don't Deserve
Evan Dale // Nov 2, 2018
No matter the time in history, no matter the cultural context, lovable villains have played an important role in the dynamically estranging effort of sub-culture to transition its way into the mainstream. Flipping the script and reversing norms, these figures have been nothing short of necessary and influential to a point rarely reached by history’s positivist heroes. And in no fields have these anti-hero cult leaders found more cemented success than in music. Ray Charles, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, George Clinton, Ozzy Osbourne, Eazy-E, and Amy Winehouse all played incredibly controversial, polarizing roles in music’s mainstream without proper, positive mainstream support. Why? Because there was something about them that rubbed the mainstream the wrong way, even when it couldn’t help but listen.
And at this point in cultural history, the standout villain we don’t deserve but are fortunate enough to have? SAINt JHN. In his own words, SAINt JHN encourages deplorable behavior, only because the individuality and uniqueness with which he’s constructed his impossibly sexy bad boy image is vilified by those incapable of arguing their point from any stance other than simple jealousy.
But we get it. Who wouldn’t be jealous?
SAINt JHN seemingly came out of nowhere already famous, taken woke up like this to a whole new level. Though of course the effortlessness with which he carries himself has certainly been hard-earned, it’s probably best not even to discuss his background as a successful songwriter and model. Today, he is an artist of many platforms blending into an aesthetic of the ultimate modern entertainer. His music has encapsulated everything happening in the high-energy, questionable-morals corner of hip-hop’s elite and redefined it to his own specs. His fashion is as eye-catching and flaunting as it is downright inventive and courageous. His production, explosive. His lyricism, deep. His motive, driven by his lyricism, may very well be love. That love, driven by the rest of his image, seems to be for himself.
He is an icon, having spent no time in the limelight being anything else, which is why his fervent rise towards music’s ceiling has come as such a surprise to each and every new listener. And, if you, yourself are new to SAINt JHN, you better get on board now, because there is no artist in hip-hop, or in all of music for that matter with a stronger grip on its heading.
When he released 1999 at the tail end of 2016, his gross extravagance was set in motion by the premiere individual effort under his rebranded moniker. Unsurprisingly, the single which was well-ahead of its time in its production, dark energy, and hyper-melodic delivery, caught traction and helped to define hip-hop’s early stages of transition into its current experimental, melodic state. Boldly, when SAINt JHN grabbed ahold of the subsequent momentum and wisely followed it up with another release, he did so with the emotional, slow-paced, and honest Some Nights.
With it, SAINt JHN was instantly relocated from the school of new wave, hype-hop artists whose music is pronounced with big bass and unsettling keystrokes, to a wide-ranging artist who can’t only get the party bubbling over to a state of utter absurdity and uncontrollability but can also fold heart wrenching vocals and thematics seamlessly into his sound. He flipped his own script, suddenly invited relatability into his delineation, doubled the width of his sonic expanse, and is now hip-hop’s newest craze.
He took the modern trend of bubbly rappers daylighting as soft R&B artists and made it dark. Like the Jodeci to Drake’s Boyz ll Men, SAINt JHN is here to bring a little relatable anti-reality to an ego-heavy scene constantly in search of redefinition. The world is tuning into his emergent entertainment empire and worshipping him like the cult leader he swears not to be.
A lot of his success is owed to his incredible range. Most hip-hop artists these days – whether we talk Travis Scott, Kojey Radical, Smino, Anderson .Paak, or any other artist from a slew of definably distant spectrums – have a lot more than lyricism and flow to bring to the table. They’re talented vocalists, producers, and instrumentalists. But, they all lack – even Kojey and Scott – a certain art-school-dropout, bad boy image that accompanies hip-hop’s exploding SoundCloud undercarriage. Where we find the Lil This and the Lil That, we find polarizing hatred in their wake. Where we find Future & Migos, we find the same. But, between the space of Uzi Vert and Earthgang – between the space of Toronto’s Kingston and Atlanta’s Atlanta – we find Brooklyn’s SAINt JHN, not tight roping grey areas, but altogether inventing them as he goes.
His debut album, understatedly titled Collection One, exists as a standout project even amongst the absurdly successful hip-hop year that 2018 has been. Released on March 31, it set the tone that high quality, high energy, and inventive individuality were the expectations on everything that followed. 13 tracks long, only excluding 1999, Albino Blue, and the potent Hermés Freestyle from his canon to that point, and including other leading singles, Reflex, Roses, 3 Below, and an extended version to his game changing Some Nights, Collection One comes together as a microcosm of everything that SAINt JHN stands for. A telling blend of arrogance and honesty, extravagance and vulnerability, the high energy and the low. Riding a constant wave up and down, through light and dark, surrounding love and lust. Each track seemingly carries with it a slew of applicable differentiations that evoke emotion after unpredictable emotion. It is a confident and dangerous work of art more telling of our times than most.
And with its release and expectedly massive success, SAINt JHN has only continued to flourish, taking in the fame, the road, the love, and the hate, and using it to grow artistically across his creative sphere. From the release of more music in the wake of Collection One – see, McDonald’s Rich – the continued growth of his influence in fashion – modelling for Gucci in their Guilty campaign and fostering the growth of his own line, Christian Sex Club – and the explosive upkeep of his one-of-a-kind social media presence – it’s all a work of it art – SAINt JHN doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon.
If there is one artist to watch – one villain we don’t deserve – it’s him. At a time when individuality is held at higher regard than ever before, SAINt JHN who is ruthlessly unapologetic about being the most caricatured version of himself, is shining. While coupling his absurdity with innate talent that few artists have, creative risks that few are courageous enough to take, and confidence unmatched, the era of SAINt JHN is upon us, so get on board or get the fuck out of the way.
Not a cult.