In Conversation With:
Since releasing his first track in 2019, burgeoning Leicester artist Sainte has been making waves with his distinctive, laid back sound. As a unique voice in British hip-hop, he’s been garnering attention worldwide. Recently enrolled to Billionaire Boys Club’s Class of ‘21 roster as well as providing the soundtrack to Louis Vuitton’s latest campaign -- Sainte’s workrate demands recognition.
A few weeks after shooting him in his hometown of the 4, we met up with the artist and his close friend, Michael in Soho House, London before his performance at Cloud X festival. Sainte arrives in a newly purchased Arc’teryx fit, Prada bag, Atlanta Braves fitted and black Air Forces -- a subtle flex to match his humble aura.
Discussing his time in London, he begins to tell us stories of eating lobster for the first time in Mayfair and witnessing the theatrics behind making souffle at boujee restaurants. As a server pours us four glasses of lemon water, we proceed to chat about his upbringing, the YSM movement as well as his forthcoming project...
OS: Tell me about your journey into music?
Sainte: It started off in Leicester. I was always surrounded by music, but basketball was my main thing and everyone knows sports and music go hand in hand. We’d just find ourselves freestyling on the bus and it ended up getting serious. I just decided to make a song for the fun of it. The buzz that came from that experiment was just motivating, so I felt like I needed to test it out more. But I got here, so it was a good mistake. “Mistake” is the wrong word -- it was just an experiment that went completely well.
What was the name of the first song? Can we find it on the internet?
[Laughs] I'm going to say my first song was “Envy Me”. There was a track before that, but I took it down.
Someone’s gonna read this and say “I’ve actually got that saved, let me share it”
[Laughs] My first track was called “Money”, but I hadn’t found my sound yet. On “Envy Me” I was trying to go outside of my comfort zone -- more of my personality was in it. I made what I was listening to at the time which was jumpy Trap beats, that’s what I enjoyed but I hadn’t found myself as an artist. I didn’t think I was going to be one at the time or that I needed to have my own sound ‘cos I didn’t really understand music properly then. I mean it’s still a cool song and it started everything so I can’t hate it, but now my sound is a lot different.
“...I made what I was listening to at the time which was jumpy Trap beats, that’s what I enjoyed but I hadn’t found myself as an artist.”
How would you describe your sound now?
Best way I can describe my sound is: you need to be laid back and chilled to listen to it. It's something you can just kick back to. Just organic, that’s the best way to say it.
You can also get quite pumped to it, “Old Times” sits in that unique space between the two.
It’s sick, I enjoy it because I hear a lot of different things from different people. One night a group of girls sent me a video of them pre drinking to my music. Literally not long after, one guy sent it to me while he was on a drive, saying he’s winding down to it. That’s how I want to create my music. I don’t always have a thought process, I go by the rule of listening to it in two different moods. Not that I listen to my music, but I’d like other people to be able to do that.
You don’t listen to your music?
No, I don’t. The only time I listen to my music is when I’m working on it or making sure it’s clean. By the time I finished doing that, I’ve heard it so many times that I don’t want to listen to it anymore.If someone passes you the AUX, what are you putting on?
Larry June, Curren$y, Drake, Pharrell, Neptunes, old N.E.R.D..
They all have that easy listening, chilled and melodic sound where you can vibe to in any setting.
Yeah, I listen to everything depending on my mood. My music taste is discombobulated, it’s literally an all you can eat buffet, that's how I can describe it.
In terms of musical influences if you had to pick a few, what would they be?
They come from different sounds, I’m inspired by all sorts of genres. The music I’ve released now people have heard but they’ll be surprised with what’s in store.
For me, it’s the people that have done more than just music, who have their own identity and put it into their craft -- Larry June, Curren$y, Pharrell, Kanye, Drake, Sade, Alicia Keys, Whitney Houston. From the UK, you got guys like Sampha, James Blake, Skepta and Slowthai. They’re being themselves and showcasing it in different ways. There’s so many, we’ll be here until tomorrow if I listed them all.
Is there a specific moment or spot where everything started?
My house. And obviously I mention the number 4 a lot. When people hear how we portray the 4 or being from the 4, it’s automatically linked to gangs but it’s not even that bro. It’s just the area code, that’s where all this came from, the HQ. My friendship circle and growing up there, it carved everything. That’s where my laid-back style came from. ‘Champagne Shots’ was based on having champagne shots in my house in the 4.
How did you get your name Sainte?
I grew up in a Christian household and I'm all about helping others. I was always told I was like an angel or a saint, but I didn’t want to call myself angel, it just didn’t sound right.
What does the YS stand for?
It stands for Young Sainte Movement, it’s a collective/lifestyle. When people think of YSM they think it’s based around me, but Sainte can be anyone. If you’re a good guy you’re a Sainte. It’s anyone who wants to spread happiness, do their own thing, be themselves. It’s a Young Sainte Movement.
Do your parents listen to your music?
Yes, surprisingly. My dad does a lot. I helped him set up his Spotify, he got premium just so he could listen to my music. My mum is on Apple but she doesn’t know how to use it though. She puts on one of my songs and then when it switches to something else, she freaks out like “There’s too much swearing” and I’m like “That’s not me!” because I don’t swear in my music.
How does Christianity play a part in your daily life? Did it influence your choice not to swear?
We were raised and taught about being nice, treating others how you want to be treated. That's what I'm all about, helping others, being supportive and motivating — I want my music to have that same effect. I never heard Jesus swear, so I don’t [laughs]. I feel people get it twisted and think I’m against swearing, that’s not the case. I’ve got tracks with features who do, me personally, I feel like I don’t need to, it’s not me.
I remember as a kid I loved listening to music in the car, but I got tired of always searching for a clean version. It got to the point where I thought when I make music I’d like to make it for everyone. I want kids to be able to listen and not feel how I felt.
“If you’re a good guy you’re a Sainte. It’s anyone who wants to spread happiness, do their own thing, be themselves.”
You’ve got steez and looks like you’re interested in fashion. How would you describe your style?
It’s just my personality. For people who don’t know what I look like, how I sound is how I look. I don’t tend to follow trends; if I like it, I’ll get it. Laid back, cool, flashy but subtle, that’s how I’d describe my style.
Who are your style influences?
I don’t really have any solid influences. But people who I think dress cool are Lil Yachty, Kanye, Drake, myself I’d like to say [laughs], my friends, you guys -- I’ll say that for free. Yachty’s a strong one though, he genuinely has a story behind everything, there’s a reason why he buys it. I really like that, ‘cos if I look at something and I connect with it, I can tell a story about when I bought it.
Congrats on the BBC Class of ’21, that’s a good look. How did that come about?
Thank you. Yeah, we’ve got some stuff dropping together. It was really cool for me and my friends though. I’ve been wearing BBC for a long time, and I’ve always said that I’d work with them one day. Going from wearing their stuff to designing it with them is sick. I love fashion, so it’s really cool.
I also see you in a lot of Patta. What is your relationship with that camp?
Yeah, got a few connections there. Obviously it’s nothing where I’m on the team, but we’ve connected. They provided some of the garms for the “Old Times” video which was cool. They’re very chill guys, they love music out there.
Have you been to Dam and linked up with them yet?
Never! I need to. I need to visit a lot of places to be honest.
What brands are you fuckin’ with right now?
Nike, New Balance got a cool look to them, they’ve got personality, Arc’teryx, Chrome Hearts are doing their thing, there’s so many. Prada too. I tend to like companies that are subtle with their branding.
There’s a strong reference to ‘90s and ‘00s hip-hop in your videos. What does that era mean to you?
Definitely, a lot man. Not to discredit any artists out now, but music back then was a lot more cutthroat. When people were releasing projects, it was mandatory to be different. Not many people sounded like each other, you either listen to this or that. The style, the authentic vibes and the dress sense -- that’s just me.
You seem to love your vintage cars. If you could have one, what would it be?
I’ll take a very old Ferrari. The value’s not going bro. That car could have an engine that doesn’t turn on, but you’re rich when you sell it [laughs]. And the longer you keep it, the richer you get.
Is there a particular moment you can point to which initiated that love?
I just love cars so much. I don’t really remember it too tough ‘cos i was still young, but my grandparents always had Benz’. It was important to them and was passed down to my dad, my brother’s and to me. I ain’t driving yet but they had all the Benz’ so I’m like “Yo, I can’t have a dead whip now” [laughs] (that was before Zim went into a madness…)
When is the new project out? Is there anything you can tell us about it?
There’s Local MVP vibes on there, but I’m showcasing different sides of me, different sounds on there for sure. This project is far from it, I’ve still got a lot more in the bank.
You only released Local MVP in January this year. Are you planning to keep flooding it with music?
January 6th, my grandad’s birthday. It actually wasn’t even a thought process like that. With Local MVP it was more like “Alright, here it is.” I wrote and recorded most of the songs on that project around the same time as “Champagne Shots” but the rollout got messed up and I had to delay ‘cos of Covid, I had all these tracks so thought I might as well release them. This project here, I approached it differently. There’s some personal tracks in there, people will get to see another side of Sainte and realise it’s not all about flexing and cars -- that’s in there for sure though but… [laughs]
The Local MVP artwork too, that shit was cold.
Yeah, I love it because ‘cos there were people that didn’t understand the cover art. It’s literally just LC, for Leicester City. I’m a minimalist guy, I don’t like doing too much.
What does the creative process look like when making a Sainte project?
Number one rule with me and my friends, everything that we do has to be natural and organic. To me, there’s no right way -- the right way is your own way. With Local MVP, I never intended to make an EP, there was no plan. This upcoming one, I knew I wanted to make a project but it wasn’t a rigid process where it had to be a particular vibe, I just did what comes naturally. I’ve grown as an artist and individual since Local MVP and have experienced a lot, so it’s connecting with the beats and being able to write my story.
So is this next project your first thought-out piece?
Not to blow my own trumpet, but I’m ready to do a serious project. I know what I want to do for a project so the rollout will be crazy, I’ll make sure of it.
Being an independent artist is important especially given the power of the industry. Do you ever feel pressured to get signed?
I’m not in a rush, I just want to do everything organically. I’m not anti-label, I just want to show my own worth and figure myself out. I want to do it all by myself. I don’t like anything given to me and at the same time I want to prove myself and receive what I’m worth. If what comes is right, I’ll take it. If not, I’m happy without it ‘cos the community is supportive.
You’ve got a tight knit team, are they all friends?
Yeah man, the team’s very close and everyone’s their true selves. Everything’s in-house. Everyone has a role. I like it that way.
“To me, there’s no right way -- the right way is your own way.”
How do you balance work and studies with being a rising star?
I’m still working on it. Over the past couple months it’s been harder as everything’s been growing and speeding up. But I do my best to find that balance.
Has there been anyone that has been a mentor to you?
Every single one of my friends, actually, every single person I’ve met has had an impact on me and what I’ve done so far. It could be from one conversation talking about experiences, I’m just someone who likes to constantly learn. I might not see eye-to-eye with people on certain things but I still appreciate hearing it ‘cos it could serve a purpose in the future. So, I can’t single out an individual person, everyone has had an important role.
What are your future plans?
Any artist will tell you -- it’s to release a whole lot of music. I definitely want to have more of an impact on the game. It’s more than just music to me, it’s a movement. I just want to spread more positivity, whether it’s through music, fashion or my personality. In the future I do want to tap into businesses, maybe open up my own restaurant or cafe.