SAINt JHN 3 below

A name change and a new lease on life, meet SAINt JHN, the former Carlos St. John.

The last words I wrote about Carlos St. John came nearly seven full years ago. This was when St John, a Brooklyn native of Guyanese descent was putting the finishing touches up on his In Association mixtape. Then he was chasing his dreams during the height of the blog era in hip-hop, weaving through submissions, trying to be heard as a different New York artist.

Fast-forward a few years and I see Carlos’ name pop up again. Only this time, Carlos has been stricken from the record and only SAINt JHN remains. “Roses” finds its way onto a version of The Mack List. “3 Below” shows up two months ago. Somehow, a second life for SAINt JHN had emerged from working behind the scenes. Usher’s “Crash” has JHN’s hands all over it, same for “Rivals”.

Being grateful and humble about it all, the sabbatical between releasing his own music and sharpening his pen for others has resulted in a full-blown boom. Now, he’s not chasing the ears and attention of people he may never meet in the flesh. They’re running to him now, waiting for the next step to sync up with.

 

“Melody over frustration…”

 

When you rap, there’s a parameter you have to follow. All of the words have to connect in one form or another, otherwise they just spool out into nonsense. Looking back on old St. John records, it’s evident that he was rapping purely from the focus of getting all of these thoughts out. There was focus, yes but not where all of the ennui gets shredded out and balance found. His videos and look then matched it, suave and charming. Now he’s just as charming but rougher around the edges. The toothy grin he flashes in the “Roses” video is clear evidence.

In a weird way, subletting his ideas for other people allowed him to find his own distinct sound. Rummaging through pieces of Caribbean melody with the Brooklyn edge that molded him as a youth, the results have been fantastic. “Roses” brims with sinister keys and a constant pulse of despair, “3 Below” with a star makers gaze and bounce. The opening chimes of “1999” lead you down a road of bottomed out drums and distorted chants.

“I think I deserve to be in every room that I’m in. I think qualified to be there,” he told The FADER last October. “My talent says it all and my skill set says it all. My ability to craft records says it all. I still have out of body experiences. If you put me in a room with someone else I’m going to be like, “Yo dude do you know who you are? Do you know? I know. I grew up listening to you.” But, I feel like I belong wherever I am.”

Keep an eye on SAINt JHN. The transition from underdog to background and back has been a joyous one for his creative spirit. Festivals have come calling, bigger perches as well. It won’t be long before he’ll come to realize that “what’s in a name” means how big the bag will be.

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