The Break Presents: SAINt JHN
Brooklyn had a resurgence in 2016. Desiigner, Young M.A, Phresher and Casanova all broke out this year. The New York City borough, which has been the home of some of the greatest hip-hop artists of all time, has an interesting class of next-gen MCs with a plethora of different styles.
One new MC that shouldn't be overlooked is SAINt JHN. Born in Brooklyn and of Guyanese descent, he's bringing new sounds to hip-hop. The budding MC grew up on Caribbean music but was inspired to rap after seeing his older brother rhyme in the neighborhood. He would gradually get better by taking his time to perfect his writing. He went by his real name, Carlos Saint Jhn, and spent his time writing songs for other artists while dropping original music.
Earlier this year he would reintroduce himself and drop the song and visual to "1999," a bounce-happy rhythm that showed off his wordplay but also his ear for melodies. With recent tracks like "Roses" and "Reflex," SAINt JHN is ready to make a leap to the next level.
"I want to continue building an audience," he tells XXL. "I want people to care. I want to make the records and contribute to the content that makes people care."
Name: SAINt JHN
Age: "I feel like when I say my age I’m either too young to think the way that I’m thinking or my age doesn’t make sense with how I see the world. I don’t get into it. I just think about the music."
Hometown: Brooklyn and Guyana
I grew up listening to: “Jay Z. I didn’t discover Jay during Reasonable Doubt because I wasn’t present at that time listening to music. I think it was Vol. 3 on cassette in Guyana. I was in South America, listening to it in my bedroom. I was on this hard ass bed. I don’t even know why [Vol. 3] made sense to me at that time but it did. It was everything.
"I started making music when I was 12, 13 years old. I started because of my older brother. My dad wasn’t present in my life. I only lived with him when I lived in Guyana. My brother was the only older representative as a male. So if he was a rapper, I was a rapper. If he was a fisherman, I was a fisherman. If he was a cop, I was a cop. I just followed him down any dark path. I came home one day and I saw him rapping in the corner of a cypher. I didn’t even know what a cypher was and that was it.
"The very first thing I did was steal his raps [laughs]. I was in junior high and I would just rap his shit. Kids thought I was a genius. I always took rapping seriously but I didn’t know how to start. It’s like when you’re introduced to something but you don’t have the technical skills to know how to start. I was like spinning in a room for a good nine months then I picked up a pen and wrote my first terrible rap and that was a great thing for me.
"My first rap that I ever wrote I was in Guyana. I lived in New York and Guyana in three-year intervals. My first year in high school, I was in Guyana and I was just rapping. I came back to the U.S. with this five-star notebook of terrible raps, I felt like Hov. When I rapped some for my brother it was utterly grotesque. He was like, “Oh wow that’s terrible.” It took me a whole year to get any type of good. In that year I wrote one rap every three months. It was literally like a science class for me."
Most people don’t know: “I’m actually funny. My sense of humor is active. I probably look really overtly serious but I don’t take myself serious."
My style’s been compared to: “I leave the boxes for the people who are looking for boxes. If you want to put me in a box, you’ll put me in it. I guarantee no two people would have the same box [for me] though. I listen to a lot of different things. If I feel like waking up and listening to Garth Brooks that’s what I’m going to listen to, if I feel like listening to Tom Petty that’s what I’m listening to. Not to mention I grew up in Guyana and I largely listened to reggae. So I don’t know what box I can be in."
My standout records or moments to date have been: “My biggest accomplishment so far is the ability to fail and do it again. This is a game of attrition, you just got to keep going and be able to pick up and continue to move forward. I’ve done some other cool things but that’s the biggest."
My goal in hip-hop is to: "The bigger picture for me is I grew up in a time where I got to see a living icon. I got to see a Jay Z come to prominence and that means so much more to me. You walk around New York or any place you’re from and you see statues of people, these ideas of people that have lived. Jay Z is from the gutter of Marcy Projects. I didn’t have any role models growing up. I had to look at the TV like every other Black single parent kid and I was like I can do it. I can be successful. Whatever I imagine I can make happen. I want that."
I’m gonna be the next: “I’m going to be the next superhero. The next representation of someone that stands for something that you can aspire too."
Follow SAINt JHN on SoundCloud.