Catherine Saint Jude Pretorius aka Dope Saint Jude is one of those special artists that manages to create a world entirely of her own. In fact, it was the absence of images and themes that DSJ wished to see in the mainstream that pushed her to manifest those creatively. Hailing from Cape Town in South Africa, Dope Saint Jude came onto the scene with “Grrrl Like”, a single that channels a badass sort of feminism that’s endearing and personal. “I’m like my mama. Sometimes it’s drama. Forget the karma. Might hear me holla,” she sings on the single. The track got a lot of attention, getting picked up for a Netflix series and major ad campaigns and has laid the foundation for Dope Saint Jude to continue unfolding her musical universe. Though worth noting is Dope Saint Jude had also been busy as a poet, Drag King with her troupe BrosB4Hoes, and student of political science before plunging head first into the world of hip-hop. Now with her second EP on the horizon, Higher Self, Dope Saint Jude is again confronting limits and moving the issues that matter to her into the light.
“I’m pushing the boundaries of my sound and not trying to limit myself,” she said during our meeting on the foothills of Sacre Coeur in Paris, France. “I’ve become a lot more comfortable in my voice and in myself that I’m comfortable to make what I want to make without thinking, ‘is this going to be well received or not?” The six tracks in Higher Self is a step up from the alternative r&b undertone of her last EP Resilient. On this latest project the epic ambition is clear, tapping into auto-tune laced vocals and classical synths that are reminiscent of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, an inspiration Dope Saint Jude gave a nod to during our talk. “I was trying to innovate the sound because I really love epic cinematic sounds and I wanted to explore that ’cause I think that they lend themselves to emotion really well.”
The opener “For You” hits the mark. The opening chorus, “I go to war for you. For all the things they put you through, I go to war,” feels epic and important. Dope Saint Jude clarifies the meaning behind the track: “The song is for my mom and my grandmother. Basically, I’ve been thinking about this idea of women being given their value based on suffering. Often it’s like, ‘Oh, she’s been through so much. She’s a strong woman.’ And I think it’s time to break that cycle. So when I say ‘I go to war for you’ it’s about; I’m done with the life of suffering. I’m done ‘cause I come from generations of women who have been through the most and I don’t think thatwhat validates us as people, is the amount of pain we’ve had to endure.”
Another emotional standout is the eponymous closer “Higher Self” with Cape Town singer Lana Crowster. “When I talk about the ‘highest self’, I mean the part of yourself that is a Zen peaceful part of yourself… The part that is the best version of who you are,” Dope Saint Jude explains. “Outside of ego and outside of all of those things the part of you that isn’t threatened by other people, the part of you that doesn’t compare yourself to everyone else. When you have those days where you’re really at your best, like, I got it,” she says with a smile. “Don’t you wish every day was like that?”
The choir continues on tracks like “You’re Gonna Make It” which switches between church and a voguing anthem on dime. The Daft Punk drenched vocals on “I Don’t Know You Like That” lead into a badass bitch shoulder brush, and “Home” is one of the heaviest slow jams of the year. However, like much of Dope Saint Jude’s work there’s an extra intersectional nuance that makes the work all the more captivating. “Tony Morrison says, ‘If there’s a book you want to read that hasn’t been written, you should write it.’ And with ‘Home’, it was more in the visuals, but also the song is about the intimacy and love between two women. More specifically it’s a video that showcases the intimacy and love between two black African queer women, which is something I haven’t seen before in a media landscape. So I wanted to create more of the content that I want to see. I felt a responsibility to create it myself.” says Dope Saint Jude. “‘Cause I can’t complain if it doesn’t exist and I’m not making an effort to create it.”
With Higher Self Dope Saint Jude has created a body of work that is rarely seen and celebrated. But that doesn’t discourage Dope Saint Jude from continuing to push her message and embrace the creative spirit that has brought her this far. “I don’t know where my career is taking me, but I definitely feel like my projects are on the precipice of growing exponentially,” she proclaims with a grin. “I feel ready for that. I finally feel like I’ve paid my dues to really have my project grow and reach as many people as possible and break into new markets. Ultimately, I’m just chasing joy. I want to be happy. In whichever form that comes in. I’m not chasing fame or a lot of money. I just want to be happy. Really.”
Higher Self, out now.