Dope Saint Jude is cut from a different cloth. Although her music carries the bravado of your stereotypical rapper, the Cape Town native stands out because she makes a point of adorning it with her own raw, edgy and unapologetic flavour.
Ahead of her appearance at the Cape Town International Jazz Festival next week, Saint Jude and her musical director are carefully preparing and planning for her show to make sure everything goes according to plan.
“It’s such a big production,” she says. “It’s my first time working with the band. All my music is being translated into live music, stuff that I’ve composed electronically. And then I also have dancers and guest vocalists. It’s like a really big production, which I’m quite excited about. It’s just a lot of planning and logistics.”
It’s the biggest show the 27-year-old has had to put together. At the festival, which takes place from March 31 to April 1 at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, Saint Jude will be performing alongside the likes of Thandiswa Mazwai, En Vogue, Ernie Smith, Judith Sephuma and Digable Planets.
It’s a massive show, one which she never expected to be invited to seeing as she’s a hip hop artist, and because the festival features “a certain level of artists which I hadn’t realised that I’d reached as yet” .
After all, it was only last year that Dope Saint Jude released an EP titled Imagine. This was her first solid body of work, one on which her versatility was on full view as she wrote, rapped and produced the entire project herself.
“It explored a lot of different feelings, genres and emotions. It’s honest, truthful, and, I think, musically it’s pretty good. But obviously I’d say that about my own work.”
She’s right, it’s an impressive body of work. Her music is striking in that it’s playful and layered with what feels like a genuinely joyful persona. She’s talking about her life and it’s appropriate and entertaining how she layers these tales of her Cape Town life with her everyday lingo.
“I think I’m just naturally a socially conscious person. So it just comes through in my music. It doesn’t make sense for me to make music about things that I don’t care about. I care about that stuff. Living in South Africa, you have to deal with all those kinds of dynamics every day so it just makes sense that I put it in my music.”
The dynamics she’s referring to are the inequalities that characterise life in Cape Town, and South Africa in general.
“In everyday life it’s difficult to confront those things because you deal with it every five minutes. So it’s really good to have an outlet for my feelings, so I put it in my music.”
She also makes a point of pointing out that the narrative of a socially conscious artist is something that’s been sort of forced on her. It’s not something that she has set out to do and it is not all she’s about.
“People often tie my music to political experiences. Sometimes music is about the music, you know. Sometimes I’m afraid of being labelled a conscious artist without people actually listening to the music and enjoying the music. I’m not trying to do anything with it, I’m just making music that I feel.”
Dope Saint Jude is an extension of her second name, Saint Jude, after the patron saint of “hopeless cases, and things almost despaired of”.
“And I just put ‘dope’ in front of it to be cool,” she quips. “I wanted to keep the Saint Jude because it’s significant to me. The saint of lost causes speaks to me a lot being a woman and being black because it’s almost as if I’m a bit of a hopeless cause. But then the dope makes it cool because it symbolises overcoming that, being powerful and not feeling sorry for yourself.”
This year, Dope Saint Jude plans to release her first full-length album. Having been signed to management in Paris, she’ll also be touring Europe and, hopefully, showing the rest of the world just how dope she is.