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With his Grammy-nominated hit “Roses (Imanbek Remix),” singer-rapper SAINt JHN’s career has been in full bloom in 2020.
But the 34-year-old Brooklyn native — whose real name is Carlos St. John Phillips — has been generating buzz since he appeared on Beyoncé’s “The Lion King: The Gift” album in 2019, crooning alongside Bey and daughter Blue Ivy on “Brown Skin Girl.” Now he’s making solo moves with his new album, “While the World Was Burning.”
Here, he shares the story behind “Roses,” how he fulfilled his Beyoncé destiny, and why Kanye West flew him to Wyoming.
A lot of people probably think “Roses” just came out this year, but this has been a long journey for the song.
“Roses” started in 2015. That’s when I wrote it. Someone told me Beyoncé was looking for ideas for her next project, and I was hustling as a songwriter at that time, so I wrote “Roses,” but … I guess they didn’t want the record. So in 2016, I was an independent artist, and I bet on myself. I took my publishing deal money, and I put it behind the record.
How did you hook up with DJ Imanbek for the remix, which ultimately became the big hit?
There were a couple of remixes of the record, and his was the one that stuck … It made me laugh, because it was a completely different interpretation of how I introduced the record to the world. He made it something that you could laugh with, dance with.
How did you eventually collaborate with Beyoncé on “The Lion King: The Gift”?
I was in Jamaica writing songs, and … I remember feeling like, maybe one day if I had a daughter, I could make her feel better about herself by singing this song “Brown Skin Girl.” Beyoncé was working on “The Lion King: The Gift,” and the song stuck out [to her]. Then, we made the song. But I wasn’t there for her part — she did hers by herself. And Blue Ivy killed it! I think the story worked out the way it was supposed to.
Were you filled with pride when the song was in her movie “Black Is King”?
Yeah. It was phenomenal. It was legendary. I didn’t have any idea how “Black Is King” was gonna turn out. You get to contribute to the art, and let the vision be executed by the person who you trust.
On your new album, you work with Kanye West. So how did that come together?
Kanye got my number from somebody, and he texted me one day, and he was like, “Yo, this is Ye. I just played your record [‘Roses’] 20 times in a row on a jet.” And I was like, “Who?” And then we jumped on FaceTime. The second we talked, he wanted me to come to Wyoming [where he has a ranch]. I went to Wyoming, and I played him the entire collection. He recorded [his part on] “Pray 4 Me” right there in front of me.
Who else is on your wish list to collaborate with?
Jay-Z. I need my verse! It almost happened for “While the World Was Burning.” He started writing something, but he didn’t finish. So I got close this time, but I’ma get closer next time. It’s gon’ happen.
So what’s the story behind the album title?
It’s 2020, and the world was on fire. This is where I was at the time when the world was burning.
It’s a crazy year, but you still had some good things happen in 2020.
It’s funny — I got a song called “Sucks To Be You,” but I guess not [to be] me.
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