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At Home with Sainté

BasementApproved visit Midlands rapper Sainté at home to discuss his new EP 'Out The Blue', his outsider's perspective, and his ever-changing sound.

As I chat to Sainté on a blitz November afternoon in London, I am immediately struck by the peaceful and relaxed aura that surrounds the rising Midlands rapper. “I’m gassed that you’re here Harriet, I grew up watching BasementApproved – everyone hashtagging, and tagging you guys on their instas,” he says to me with a smile. “I didn’t do it though, ‘cos I wasn’t a fashion boy – I had steeze, obviously, but I didn’t need the validation”.

Originally from Leicester, “a small city, soon to be a big city on the map”, the 22-year-old seems distinctly at one with himself. His Leicester upbringing has “definitely had a massive influence on my mindset and the way I carry myself, the way I think, or even look at things,” he says. “Because I’m from a small city, I’m all about cosy vibes, being nice to everyone, communicating and being close to everyone. I think if I was from a big city I’d probably be less bothered about building something with everyone around me.”

Pre-music, Sainté’s main endeavour was basketball, a talent that progressed so far that he was playing semi-pro during his second year at university. “Towards the end of playing basketball, I’d always be freestyling on the bus,” he reminisces fondly. “Basketball was the dream and the goal, but obviously we’re in the UK so it’s a bit tekky, you know.” Despite his athletic skill, music always held a place in Sainté’s heart. “I was always into music, rapping and doing music myself,” he explains, describing his entry into music as a career as “an amazing mistake.”

“I was experimenting just dropping tracks, then I released Champagne Shots and Envy Me and it just picked up slowly and slowly, to the point where the tracks were getting millys and millys,” he explains. “I was releasing tracks just for fun.” This is quickly qualified: “I probably would say I’m still releasing tracks for fun, ‘cos I’m still enjoying it. I’m doing what I want to the point it still feels like a hobby.” 

Sainté has had an incredibly strong 2021. Having dropped his debut project Local MVP earlier on this year, the 4-track project has amassed over 21 million streams, with the aforementioned stand out, ‘Champagne Shots currently sitting at 13.5 million streams. “It was defo the moment,” he recalls with glee. “It just made me think, ‘I’m gonna take this seriously now.’ With that music video, I was like, ‘oh my gosh, I’m going to London, I’m getting an Airbnb’… to me, that moment was like, ‘this is serious.’”

"Getting into music was an amazing mistake"

Out the Blue, Sainté’s most recent EP, was released a few weeks ago, and the satisfaction for the project finally being out in the world is clear in the rapper’s voice. “I’m so glad it’s out,” he exhales. “We were sitting on that EP for so long, to the point I was getting frustrated and I just wanted to leak it. It was such an amazing process though. It was sick because I had my first few features; I hadn’t really worked with anyone before, so that was special.” He’s not lying in his praise of external influence on the project. With features from A2, Knucks, Chi Virgo, Odeal, Tay Iwar and Miraa May on the EP, it’s clear that Sainté possesses a knack for production as well as rapping, the eclectic squad of talent perfectly complementing his own tracks.

With a new EP release, of course, comes a new EP release launch party, and there is a glisten in Sainté’s eye when he tells me about the night. “It was crazy. You’ve seen My Super Sweet 16 on MTV, yeah? To me it felt like that. I’ve always wanted a birthday like that.” Again, his positive and humble mindset comes to the fore as he speaks. “Everyone’s in the same place, at an event that you have organised, and they’re all having fun. It’s not even about being there for me, just that you’ve come to have fun, and you’re here having fun was just so sick. It was packed, everyone was involved, friendly, kind, good vibes. It was amazing.”

"We were sitting on that EP for so long, to the point I was getting frustrated and I just wanted to leak it."

As someone still relatively near the genesis of their career, I pose that Sainté’s sound may continue to evolve over the years, a sentiment with which he agrees. “I released the music I did before lockdown, but because it was the only sound people had heard from me, they thought it was the only sound I could do,” he explains. “But I always had plans on releasing a different type of music. There’s still music that I wanna release now, but I’m working on it behind closed doors. I’m always tryna do what I’m doing right now, it’s just a case of releasing it and obviously slowly releasing it into the audience. I feel like right now, they’re still used to the old project which is understandable. But I think people are gonna like the new projects even more.”

When I ask the hardest lesson that Sainté has learned in life, he pauses before answering solemnly. “Patience and being consistent”, he says. “It’s always something that I’ve believed in and done, because of doing basketball and sports. There’s levels to it, and it hits you on different levels. There’s times where it really seems like nothing is happening, but it is happening. Some people would say my career has gone fast; it can still bite you in the back, ‘cos you get used to it being fast, so when stuff goes at a normal pace you’re like ‘rah, nothings happening’. To me, it’s more about just adjusting to different situations, and being able to look at things from different angles.”

Putting his all into projects is also crucial to Sainté. “Sometimes it’s a quick process, sometimes I just wanna put my heart and soul into it more than usual, so I’ll write something, finish it, then come back and touch it up or change it, or sometimes I’ll piece different projects together, and it makes one. It’s defo a process.”

As we continue to talk, the conversation opens up to his love of writing, and in particular his love of poetry. “I’m writing all the time – I don’t need a beat to write, it’s more like when I feel inspired I just write something. I like poetry too. Just write what’s on your mind and in your heart.”

Fashion too is obviously an area of interest. Taking aesthetic inspiration “from everywhere”, he tells me how much he enjoys dressing the way he does in Leicester, “cos no one’s dressing that way, so you get to put people on, which is sick to do, I feel good doing that.”  His favourite piece of clothing ever? “Damn, that’s hard!” he laughs, before asking me mine. My assured answer of my cream Avirex jacket (easy) does little to help with his indecision. After a while, he says: “I have this vintage blue Moncler puffer, which turns into a gilet too. I like varsity jackets too.” His go to fit is somewhat unique, a necessity for the 6”2 rapper with a “long wingspan,” as he calls it. “Whenever I wear things in my normal size my hands are poking out. But I’d say joggers that aren’t like joggers, like my Nocta bottoms – I like wearing them with something smart on top.”

February will see Sainté tour for the first time — “4 dates, 4 cities, 4 nights…I’m excited man!” — though this is not all the rapper has on the horizon. “I’m planning a couple of merch drops, involving myself with my fan base a bit more, and just giving back to the community in Leicester especially too. Merch is gonna be crazy.”

"In Leicester no one's dressing that way, so you get to put people on, which is sick to do, I feel good doing that."

As our conversation comes to a close, the overbearing positivity, calmness and humility that struck me when we first started talking arises once again. I ask Sainté what he wants to be celebrating at the end of 2021, and he answers with little hesitation.

“A lot of the connections I made, and that’s not even business-wise,” he says. “Friendships I’ve made, the people I’ve met, celebrating achievements for not just myself, but the people around me. For me it’s never about myself. I’m just happy to see me and my people that I’m really close with develop, grow and excel. That’s what success is to me”: you and your peoples succeed[ing]. Not just yourself, I’m failing if that’s the case.’

Written By
Harriet Russell

Photography
Fin Flint