The Untold Truth Of Saint Jhn

Guyanese-American singer, songwriter, and rapper Saint Jhn has slowly crept up the charts with his unique style of music that combines his upbringing in Brooklyn, New York with his Guyanese background. 

Born in Brooklyn, Saint Jhn, whose birth name is Carlos Saint John, split his time growing up between Brooklyn and Guyana. His big break came after attempting to write a song for Beyoncé in 2015. The song Saint Jhn created was "Roses," which would later jump into the Billboard Hot 100 after being remixed by Imanbek and going viral on Tik-Tok.

"I didn't know that it was going to be the biggest song in the world," Saint Jhn told Billboard. "I thought [the original] 'Roses' was the biggest song in the world in 2015. I still believe that. I didn't know this was the mechanism or catalyst for this to be exactly what I thought it was going to be."

But every rose has its thorns. Let's look into the untold truth of Saint Jhn.

His biggest hero is his brother

Before Saint Jhn was a hit-making singer-songwriter, he began his career as a rapper, thanks in large part to his older brother. In an interview with Billboard, Saint Jhn revealed his biggest hero was his two-year-older brother who would rap on the streets of Bushwick, Brooklyn.

"He felt like a puppet master — whatever he did, he controlled the audience," said the artist, referring to the crowd of people that would surround his brother. "The crowd would go, 'Oooh. Owww. Ping! Zap!' It was like a f–king Batman comic book, and he was writing it."

Speaking to The Fader, Saint Jhn shared how his older brother took the place of his absent father, and how the artist copied his every move. "If he was a fisherman, I would've been a fisherman. If he was a captain in the army, I would've been a captain in the army. I would have followed him down whatever dark hole he went down," said Saint Jhn.

Following his brother's rap skills, the "Roses" singer "committed before [he] even knew [he] had other options." The artist told the mag, "I committed before I really understood that there were really other things to do. Like, who knows? I might've been a marketing executive somewhere if somebody would've told me that that was possible or if he would've said, "You can do something else."

Saint Jhn started a fake PR agency

Saint Jhn's first two project releases came under the name Carlos St. John in 2010, according to Billboard. The artist was just getting started, living on a friend's couch in New York. Of his earlier sound, Saint Jhn described the projects to The Fader as "more aggressive." The artist was hoping to get as many of his thoughts as possible into one song by rapping.

"It was less musical than it is now," said Saint Jhn. "I don't think I had the background in music at the time, I just had things that I wanted to say, things I wanted to get off of my chest. I might've been angry — I'm a little less angry now."

During his early years making music, Saint Jhn created a fake public relations agency to promote his work: Taylor Foor PR. "Taylor Foor sounded college-educated and gender ambiguous," the singer said to Billboard about the PR agency. "It sounded like someone you should respond to. And it worked."

Thanks to Saint Jhn's fake profession, the artist met Azeem and collaborated on a track called "Hurricanes and Tornadoes." The song was discovered by a music exec who flew Saint Jhn to Los Angeles to become a songwriter. "He says to me, 'Do you want to rap or do you want to make a million dollars?'" Saint Jhn told Billboard. "That changed everything for me. It was the first time somebody was reaching out to me and was interested in something that I could contribute."

He tried to write songs for Rihanna

Saint Jhn's attempt to make it big in the music industry as a songwriter worked... kinda. "They tell you that one song will change your life in songwriting, and we believed it at the time," the artist told Billboard. "They give you that carrot on a stick. We were just trying to get there." 

Saint Jhn did "get there" eventually with a writer and producer credit on Usher's 2016 single "Crash". The artist told The Fader the experience "was humbling," despite the artist being met with criticism that the songs he wrote weren't usable for other artists.

"For the first year of hearing that, it was the most depressing thing — I tried to be as generic as I possibly could and take my perspective away, but I just couldn't," the songwriter told Billboard. "I can only create from the vantage point that I have. I didn't realize that meant that I had my own identity."

His own identity got in the way of his opportunity to write for Rihanna (none of his pitches were picked up by the "Diamonds" singer) and put him back in New York two months after arriving in Los Angeles.

He suffered from anxiety

Despite not landing any Rihanna records, Saint Jhn still went on to great success with his own music just a few years later. In 2018, the singer released his debut album Collection One with his soon to be hit "Roses." According to The Face, the artist then dabbled in modeling with a Gucci campaign. A year later, in 2019, Saint Jhn appeared on Beyoncé's The Lion King: The Gift soundtrack on the single "Brown Skin Girl." Simultaneously, the artist also released an album titled Ghetto Lenny's Love Songs. By February 2020, all of Saint Jhn's success began to become too much, with the artist postponing his European tour (pre-COVID-19 requiring all artists to do the same).

"I was experiencing anxiety for the first time in my entire life," the artist told The Face. ​"My breathing was f–ked up and I developed additional symptoms I couldn't quite identify because it was my first time. I didn't want to put myself in jeopardy or risk my mental health and my physical well being."

In a way, Saint Jhn feels his intuition played a role in his decision to take a breather, with the way the rest of 2020 turned out. "I've worked so hard and I want to be here for a long time, so I did the tough thing and canceled the tour. I think my body was just saying: ​'Chill out for a second. Maybe my intuition was saying 2020 was gonna be f–ked up anyway!"