'While The World Was Burning,' SAINt JHN Accidentally Pieced Together a New Project
Evan Dale // Nov 26, 2020
Nothing like fucking around and ending up with a collection. But, a happy accident, by way of SAINt JHN, is nothing if not an homage to his grind. Love him or love him, the transcendent Brooklyn artist quickly turned hip-hop sex god keeps his immaculate figure by refusing to take a moment off – continues rolling out his immaculate art by doing the same no matter what else is going on around him. And that included, as he so relatably puts it, While The World Was Burning.
Quarantine and its subsequent pseudo-lockdowns; protests and racial reckonings have left most people in a strange place of diving – for better or worse – into something or a few somethings to keep time from so irrationally changing pace sans the constraints of the everyday we all once knew. But for SAINt JHN who has already had an obsession for continuously working on all elements of his craft – the rapped, the sung, the produced; the music videos, the photoshoots, the interviews; the workouts and the inimitable social media presence – the sculpting of the all-encompassing creative powerhouse and generational talent that is SAINt JHN has been a paced routine long before the pandemic ravaged our sense of schedule. In such, the sculpting of his newest, least expected collection to date, was the organic result of having more time, too, etched into his schedule upon the safety closures of concert halls and strip clubs.
While The World Was Burning, SAINt JHN forged more signature steel from the flames.
Structurally and from a business standpoint, it’s not surprising. On the heels of long overdue mainstream come-up as one of hip-hop’s most notable names, albeit from an unexpected boost via an electronic remix, any emerging creative turned ‘overnight’ A-list celebrity would be wise to build a project around the hit that brought them to a new stratospheric space of fame. And riding the wave of that electronic boost into a tidal collection of further collaborations with many of hip-hop and R&B’s most radio hit and twitter notorious names – Lil Uzi Vert, A Boogie Wit da Hoodie, DaBaby, Future, Kanye West, JID, 6LACK, and Kehlani – only makes more sense for SAINt JHN’s unparalleled growth.
While The World Was Burning, SAINt JHN was emboldening his circle, and widening his sphere of influence.
The result is expected. Though, as he puts it, ‘[he] had no intention on making this collection,’ it’s – thanks to his continued mainstream growth and his widening circle of mainstream collaborators – the collection that many will one day point to as his breakout zenith. It won’t be a fair assessment, nor will it be true, as both Collection One and Ghetto Lenny’s Love Songs have marked the beginning of his solo career with two of hip-hop and R&B’s best projects since 2018, but it will stand as the project he released while the SAINt JHN centric radio world was catching unstoppable flame for the first time. It will always be the first SAINt JHN project cosigned by the widest of modern hip-hop elites to make it official. And it is, even though unexpected, a damn good project.
With the Imanbek remix of early career, 2017 single, Roses paving the way for a more mainstream embrace through WTWWB, a showering of further remixes from here and there were also made welcome. Another Roses remix featuring Future; an Election Year edition of GLLS standout, Monica Lewinsky featuring DaBaby & A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie; a Prom version of High School Reunion custom fit with a verse from Lil Uzi Vert. Four of the 13 tracks on the project are upcycled takes on originals that should be circled back to for anyone introduced to SAINt JHN’s name through the name of another artist.
And another three are simply new tracks that likewise fold in unendingly influential artistry. Kanye West finds the fountain of youth in Pray 4 Me: an emotionally laden crux of hip-hop transcendentalism straight from the timeless indefinability that tends to define both artists’ best work. With Quarantine Wifey, JID continues carving out a corner of lyrically endowed hip-hop that seamlessly blends with today’s most melodically charged phenoms, of which, SAINt JHN is arguably the most uniquely talented. Ransom takes SAINt JHN’s most melodically entrancing rapped-sung blend and folds in the aesthetics of two other artists – 6LACK & Kehlani – who have also established a lane paving ability to reposition the meaning of genre in a post-genre world.
All features are theses on SAINt JHN’s ability to collaborate with anyone from any corner of hip-hop or R&B. He’s a chameleon and the two stylistic spaces and While The World Was Burning, he was proving to the masses what his longtime fans already knew: that SAINt JHN is the future as it pertains to indefinability, invention, and a raw inadherence to the stylistic norms of yesteryear.
And While The World Was Burning’s six further inclusions, too, define his mastery of a lane in modern music that can at this point only really be referred to by the name, SAINt JHN. There aren’t many artists that truly do not miss, but through two debut collections and this spur-of-the-moment re-assertion that he’s the sharp shooting messiah of a rebranded bad boy era for R&B rooted hip-hop, his marksmanship proves pure.
Collection One was a trap-oriented sphere of hard-hitting bass and moody melody. Ghetto Lenny’s Love Songs was a dive in the equal but opposite direction pointing towards his knack at crafting R&B rooted in a hip-hop foundation. And While The World Was Burning, SAINt JHN proved himself successful in traveling both lanes at once, never settling in the rapped or the sung; never truly born from the ashes of hip-hop or R&B; but always meandering and flexing the fact that SAINt JHN is better at maneuvering multiple stylistic lanes at once, than most specialists are at attacking their one, true skillset. He’s that good. Cohabiting next to the best artists in the game today – next to the most notorious names of ten years ago – he’s still any track’s standout aesthetic.
While The World Was Burning, SAINt JHN proved himself again, without even really trying to do so.