IN CONVERSATION WITH SAINTÉ
Sainté – one of the UK’s most promising young rap talents. Since his pioneering debut EP Local MVP including viral hit Champagne Shots, the Leicester raised artist established his individual sound characterized by hazy and honest elements with influences of American luxury rap and distinct UK vibes. Together with his second EP Out of the Blue, which came out shortly thereafter, and several other releases, the 22-year-old rapper has achieved more than 180 million streams to date and has become an integral part of the young UK rap scene. Today, Sainté has dropped his third EP Vacation alongside a short documentary film shot at Lake Como, both reflecting his typical luxurious and escapist style as well as his open and introspective vibe. Characterized by two major recent components of his life – moving to London and those heroes that anchor you throughout times of upheaval – Vacation portrays the continuation of Sainté’s incredible artistic journey.
One of the places the multi-faceted talent will perform his brand new EP is the legendary Boiler Room Festival. This year the iconic event will take place in Amsterdam for the first time, presenting the most important new artists and collectives throughout three days of diverse sound.
I sat down with Sainté and had an inspiring conversation about his fascinating journey, the close connection he has with his community, the development of his new EP and much more…
How are you doing, how’s life at the moment?
It’s exciting. Life is good, bro. I can’t really complain. I’m so excited to have released my new project today and now, you know, just be able to perform the new music.
I can imagine! Exciting times ahead. Can you tell me a little bit about your development, how you started doing music and how it developed from that point onwards?
Honestly, music wasn’t something I was directly aiming for. I wanted to play basketball. I grew up watching basketball, that was my goal. There are pros and cons to these challenges and difficulties of playing basketball in the UK. Also, I was studying. I gave myself a gap year last year, to see what I could do. And people started to gain a liking for my music. I was like, Let me see what I can do independently. And then – timelapse – we’re here. I call it a beautiful mistake, it was a beautiful experiment.
Are you still pursuing basketball at all? Or are you only focusing on music at the moment?
I haven’t played basketball in a long time, for two years. But I’m gonna get back into it. I still love it. I’m even getting signed NBA jerseys coming to the crib and for me it’s like a hint to pick up basketball again. It’s not over, see what comes with time. I’m probably not gonna go back into it professionally, but most definitely for fitness and fun. Just for the love of the game.
Right now your music career is thriving, you’re selling out concerts and achieved more than 180 million streams. Would you ever have expected that? How does it feel?
It’s crazy. It’s hard to pinpoint the feeling or to be specific about it. It’s definitely a mixture of emotions. It’s weird and scary, but not in a bad way. Just for me, not being from London but situated in central London right now. People approach me on the street, it’s kind of weird. I’m still getting used to thinking that it is normal that people spot me. You know, I’m a small town guy. I come from Leicester and now living in a big city like London, I’m just not expecting everyone to recognise me or come up to me being like, We love your music or Your music changed my life. It’s definitely amazing.
When you have a reach on people, it comes with responsibilities, which I’m aware of. I know what I can do with the platform I have and I really want to support and help other people that are in similar situations or people that want to be creative to do whatever they want to do. So that’s how I see my branding and my music, my art. I want to inspire other people.
So, are you using your reach to drive attention to specific matters?
For someone who is starting to do music, the first thing that comes to your mind might be big artists like Skepta, Drake or Pharrell and it seems so far away, right? So I was just doing music for fun and I didn’t see it coming, to get where I am today. There’s definitely a lot of people that are just like me, that can’t imagine bringing it far. So, now that I know I’ve done it, I am going to continue to do everything I do, and hopefully even better over time, I’m gonna keep doing it. So if people look at my journey, they’d be like, This guy actually didn’t know what would be coming, he was in the same situation as me. So what stops me from doing it? That’s what I want to drive attention to, yeah, you can do it! But what stopped me in the past is thinking it’s impossible. Now, though, I see that it is possible, you really can do it.
It’s good to have that mindset that you should always try. And no matter what resources you have, there will always be that something for that someone, somewhere. Whatever, if it’s something tiny, say you have a studio room, but there’s not even good equipment in there. You have a starting point, nothing’s impossible. Focus on consistency and patience, it will just come with time.
I see careers and their development like different meals. You know, like different meals with different ingredients and recipes. It takes a different amount of time to cook. How to get to that level, the right cooking point. It’s like, maybe someone’s career is meant to be medium rare. And maybe another person’s career was really well done. But in the end, you will reach that one meal, your goal, your specific dream. So, for example, your friend is doing really well, that’s because that is what’s needed for them right now. And who knows, maybe it is taking longer for you to do good. But you taking longer might mean that you stay on top longer than the other person. You’re patient, you’re working. It’s all about time, you should never ever rush it. Don’t watch other people too closely. It means the burning of fuel in your own kitchen.
Yes, you have to pursue your own goals.
Now you’ve also released your brand new EP Vacation. Can you tell us what it is about? And what inspired you for it?
I feel like with this project, it’s self explanatory. Everyone’s like, Why did you call it Vacation? And I’m like, You will see when you listen to it. It’s gonna make sense because when you listen to it, you can be in your house, but when you close your eyes, you won’t feel like you’re in your house, you feel like you’re away. And during the whole process of making this project I was on the move. At one point I even was in Amsterdam, we went to Italy, to Lake Como, to Germany, Switzerland and many more places. You know, this whole traveling and vacation was a part of the actual creation. At one point, we were shooting the music video for Eragon, which is one of the tracks on the EP. I was actually writing another track at the same time. So it all was a simultaneous process.
And when I look at what I’ve done so far, for example my first EP which is Local MVP. Then my second EP, which came out a few months after, is Out of the Blue. I was actually just a local guy. I’m looking at it as a time period. I’ve now moved, invested in property, which is where I am, in London right now. So I was coming out of the blue. And I also emerged into a scene out of nowhere. I was at home mainly, until moving to London. And then, having the first stretch of moments where I’m traveling with my team now to make music videos, it’s kind of a vacation. And when you’re listening to it, you feel like you’re actually with me. I can explain about how I moved around and how I’m traveling a lot. You see me at different places, on my Instagram, for example, and it’s like, Oh, we’ve been seeing all this happen, we’ve all been on vacation. So with my projects and my music, I feel like I’m moving with my audience and listeners. And I feel like we’re all a community, like a big family. We just don’t all see each other in person. But musically, we’re all in the same place.
I remember when we met in Paris, you were like, We’re all friends. I really appreciated that.
You’re saying it, that’s a really nice point.
I don’t just say things and not mean it. My whole thing, music, the sound, the style, I want everyone to feel like they can be a part of it, you can be a part of that. I’m not doing what I’m doing to get a step above anyone. It’s like, I am in Paris. I’ve seen you there, you’re there for good music and so am I. So we’re all friends.
Honestly, I think that’s another reason why so many people feel so connected to your music, also because you transfer these values through your music and people can internalize them.
You said that everything came out of the blue for you, coming into this scene, this industry. Your style is especially distinct in the UK scene but still has diverse influences as well. How would you evaluate Vacation in this regard?
Inside gems… I actually had a few interviews and haven’t told this to anyone, you’re the first person I’m telling it to. My first EP, Local MVP, is actually about to hit 100 million streams. On Vacation, we’re paying homage to this and you can hear some similarities to Local MVP‘s production, delivery, style, how I’m rapping — but on steroids. For Local MVP, I was only in Leicester, but when I made Vacation I was actually traveling, so it’s like the real deal. You can see Local MVP as the starter at a restaurant, like the prawns, the hummus, while Vacation is the main dish.
You also connected Vacation to a short documentary film. How did the idea of that come to life?
As a team, we were always thinking of what we could do with this project. We wanted to show and make people understand what we were doing in a way that is tasteful and cool but not force fed. Usually, when someone’s dropping a project they say, Listen to this project, or This is the project, like, steering your face. I was like, How can we do the same thing, but actually give something that people will appreciate, that will sit there and won’t age? And to us, that is a short documentary. It’s nothing too serious or big. It’s still early in all our careers, for the whole team, early days, so I’m not gonna give you a full, serious Kanye West kinda documentary. But, I’m trying to travel and progress with my audience, musically. It’s a documentary that shows people how we made this project and how much fun we had. So we’re including our listeners and audience as a part of the journey and process.
Especially through this, I think, your audience feels even more connected to the project, as we see how it came to life – it makes people feel included.
How come that you chose Lake Como for the documentary film?
You know what, we actually just indirectly chose Lake Como, or it just naturally chose us. We knew that we wanted to travel somewhere. I actually haven’t traveled that much in my life. It’s funny because the vibe of the music that I make makes everyone think, Oh, he’s been on the beach, living the life. But I’m actually just in Leicester, which is in the UK. I remember just wanting to travel, you know, me coming from an upbringing where you don’t have all the finance, my parents didn’t have all the money in the world, it was definitely not the easiest. So I’ve never really traveled, and now, earning a little bit of income through music, together with all my friends, we’re all starting to experience new stuff and I just definitely wanted to travel for this project. I didn’t want to do something typical, you know, something that’s been done a lot of times. I knew that I wanted to do something vacation based. I could have just gone for a jetski, but how many jetskis do we see everywhere? I wanted to represent my sound, my personality, the branding of everything, or even just the feeling for creating the project. And Lake Como was filling all the requirements, ticking most boxes. I mean, look at how the video turned out – it’s very serious and classy, but we’re very young so we balance that out. So that was what I wanted to do.
It sounds like you guys had so much fun filming the documentary!
Yeah! I’m not gonna lie, it also was difficult doing a documentary because we started to realize how many moments and great vibes we caught. While we were editing it we noticed there were so many good parts. But yeah, all good stuff to pick from.
I feel the vibe of the film. Back to Vacation, where are you gonna perform your new EP, some gigs that you are especially looking forward to?
Well, I’m not just saying this but I’m honestly excited to come back to Amsterdam. That will be great. I have only been to Amsterdam once, but only for a day. I was just passing by on the way back from Germany to come back to London. I’ve seen a bit of it, you see everyone cycling, I love cycling. I definitely want to come back and explore this place properly. Maybe look for inspiration and hopefully create something musically or just connect with Amsterdam. There’s a lot that you guys have, Patta, Daily Paper… It’s also very cultural. It’s a place I want to explore more, but also musically – Boiler Room Festival in Amsterdam in late November, crazy lineup, I’m definitely excited to be a part of it. I’m excited to perform the project everywhere because it’s a project that I really made for everywhere. One question that someone asked me today was: Where would I say is the best place to listen to Vacation? It was funny answering this question because I was like, Whoa, the project Vacation is literally made for anywhere. You can literally be in your car and drive to Tesco or to a doctor – the purpose of the project is to create a vacation for you. You can have very bad days of rain and thunder, you want to cheer yourself up, you play Vacation. It’s cooling your anxiety down. The whole point is that I didn’t make the project for people to pick the best place to listen to it but I wanted to provide a vacation vibe that people enjoy feeling. A vacation vibe so that you don’t have to wait until summer to cheer yourself up. Because it’s not just for summer, it can be winter as well. I want to create, musically, a vacation for people through their earphones.
Yeah, I’m excited to come everywhere, just so I can prove my own point to myself by being like, It felt great performing in Amsterdam, felt great performing in America and felt great performing in Africa, I’ve done it right.
You’re gonna create a vacation for everybody, everywhere through the music.
Fingers crossed. Summer is blue, I’m trying to create the summer, always, through music.
Apart from music, though, apart from the project, apart from whatever is going on right now – what is it that you would like to pursue as well, right now or in the future?
I mean, I love music. I love art. I love fashion. I am very passionate about all that stuff. There’s so much more to what I’m doing. I feel like even now, I’m giving more than just music but I’m not even really trying to give more than music. The music is definitely a priority right now. But without giving away too much, I can walk out and tell people: Don’t be surprised when you see credits in other areas of the game, whether it’s fashion or independent businesses that are helping out for the community. It’s more than just music, there’s a lot of things I’m gonna be getting into. I love movies, maybe I’ll make music for movies.
Yeah, I feel like it’s always important to keep your lifestyle versatile and give yourself a lot of diverse creative input.
For sure, you can’t put all your own into one basket. But at the same time, you don’t want to stretch yourself too thin. So I just don’t rush into anything since I’m always aware, conscious and thinking about all these other things that are around music or not music, but I know that I’ll attend to the other stuff at the right time. It will come out eventually.
Yes it will come by time.
For now, and in the near future, you’re going to travel a lot for all your gigs. So this vibe of vacation and traveling will continue, right?
It will actually start to come into full effect, which is the fun part. It’s great, we are gonna go to LA in a few weeks, it’s gonna be crazy. I’ll actually come back from LA, for Amsterdam.
Thank you for taking the time to talk to me. It’s the little things in life, people like you, my community, that help me want to keep reaching more of these little milestones. So, thank you.
I’m about to record some stuff now, so yeah, I’ll see you in Amsterdam.
Stream Sainté’s brand new EP Vacation here and don’t miss him performing it on November 24 at this year’s Boiler Room Festival in Amsterdam. The tickets can be purchased here and, additionally, the full online program will be available for everyone to attend. We can not wait to see you there!
Interview and text THORE DAMWERTH
In collaboration with BOILER ROOM FESTIVAL