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‘Roses’ singer-rapper Saint Jhn has some thoughts on ‘off-world vehicles’ and silk pants

Saint Jhn
(Jason Denison)

Saint Jhn’s woozy 2016 track “Roses” became a global smash after an unauthorized remix by a young DJ from Kazakhstan spread quickly across Spotify and TikTok. But the 34-year-old singer and rapper (and part-time fashion designer), born Carlos St. John Phillips, didn’t just stumble into stardom: He learned the ropes writing songs for Usher, Rihanna and Beyoncé — that’s him on B’s “Brown Skin Girl,” from “The Lion King: The Gift” — and displays his knack for sinuous melodies over hard-knocking beats on a new LP due this fall.

Describe your album in three words.
Sexy. Ignorant. Aggressive.

“Ignorant”?
I like people with a brash, child-like innocence. Getting back to that feeling empowers you to do what you want.

Why should we stream your record?
I would never try to sell something that sells itself. Ignore it — then watch as everybody else plays it to you.

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Family and collaborators discuss the making of Tom Petty’s 1994 solo album ‘Wildflowers,’ which is being reissued as a box set with dozens of unreleased tracks.

How did COVID shape the album?
I wasn’t going to make this collection. I was supposed to be touring the world. Timing, opportunity and a certain type of handcuffed freedom made this collection.

Explain what “handcuffed freedom” is.
You can move around in the street outside your door, but you can’t go in anywhere without a mask. You can’t stay anywhere too long. You can’t go anywhere with more than six people. And you’re in a certain perpetual fear.

Fear of what?
Let me be clear: Fear isn’t a new concept for me. I grew up in East New York, Brooklyn — fear is something that I live with on my left shoulder.

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But fear of disease is new?
You can’t summarize 2020 with just COVID. They found UFOs and off-world vehicles; they found the [Jeffrey] Epstein documents. I think this is the first time we’ve gotten to see the truth in so many different arenas — politics and economics and technology. This s— is nuts.

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What are your plans for Nov. 3?
Vote.

What do you envision for that day? Folks have laid out some dark scenarios.
Bro, I saw a cop kneel on George Floyd’s neck. Breonna Taylor got shot in her crib. I’d be ridiculously presumptuous to tell you I know what Nov. 3 is gonna look like.

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Vice of choice while making the album?
I do edibles, I like porn and I keep a couple ratchets around. And scents — I like things that smell good.

Most people encountered “Roses” through a remix you didn’t commission or through one of thousands of TikTok videos you didn’t make.
I don’t make it a point to tell you how to consume my art. I make clothes and I make music. When I make some silk pants for someone, I have an idea of how I want them to wear them. But you think I get the opportunity to walk them through a 10-minute tutorial? Do what you want with what I create. I’m comfortable with that.

Has making clothes affected the way you make music?
It just taught me I’m sexier than I thought I was.


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