Queer artist Dope Saint Jude has a thing or two to teach us

Catherine St Jude Pretorious a.k.a Dope Saint Jude is a queer performance artist that tables social, feminism, gender and sexuality issues in her music.

The Cape Flats-born rapper started out as a drag king but eventually ditched it because it was one-dimensional.

She then taught herself music production and created the Dope Saint Jude character, the persona she now performs as.

Dope Saint Jude x @artclubandfriends custom made Sturvy Grrrl piece for @boilerroomtv 📷: @dunetilley

A post shared by Dope Saint Jude (@dopesaintjude) on

‘Essentially, I see myself as a performance artist using hip-hop as a medium. Not necessarily a rapper because I didn’t grow up in the traditional rap-hip-hop scene, where standing in corners, exchanging raps was a thing.’

She stepped into the international arena when the video for her 2015 single ‘Keep In Touch’ with producer and rapper, Angel-Ho was featured on Afropunk. She went on to release ‘Xxplosive’ featuring Jazaryn, ‘Real Talk’ and ‘Brown Bass’ singles, the same year.

 

Her latest mixtape, Reimagine was released in 2016. It’s a six-track album featuring Janeli on ‘Light of the Moon (Clair De Lune)’ and Andy Mkosi on ‘Brilliant, Arresting, Extravagant’. It also includes the intro, the outro and two other songs, ‘Spose 2b’ and ‘Romance And Realism’.

We caught up with the artist at the Boiler Room event to talk about the rap-scene and culture in the local space.

You started your career in the queer scene and the influence is apparent in your music. Can you elaborate on this?

I think I’m very performative as I’m very inspired by drag queens because they’re incredible performers. If you look at my performances, you’ll see that it’s multi-dimensional, from the rapping, to the outfits and the dancing. My music deals with a lot of political stuff but in a fun way. I think queer people have always been able to make light of tough situations. That’s essentially what I do with my music.

Reimagine was released last year. What song do you resonate with the most and why?

The outro because in it, I mentioned my mother. Funny thing is, I only just returned home when I produced Reimagine. And in the six months that it took me to produce it, I was spending time with her. But after it was done, literally two days after its release she passed away. So, it’s like I produced it for her. The whole body of work focused on stuff that she taught me. It’s very clean and about my story. I don’t feel sad about it, it’s like a beautiful send off. Being able to perform it was pretty cathartic.

It’s a self-produced body of work, what lessons did you take away from this?

The reason I produced my own work is because I wanted to be completely involved in the artistic process. I didn’t want to be just the face of a song, I wanted to create a complete work of art that has a narrative running through it. But I’ve found producers who I am willing to work with, going forward.

You’ve emphasised that it is an honest story-telling of your life and a way to address racial, socio-economical, gender and sexuality issues. Can you elaborate on that?

I studied politics and public policy in UCT, so I’ve always had a very deep interest in what makes up our society. Now I’m using all of the things I learnt and still learning in politics in my music.

SA is only slowly jumping on the queer culture conversation now, what are your thoughts on that?

Conversations about the queer culture have always been there but I think there are spaces where it’s more talked about now than before. Because internationally it has become trendy so now it’s like within certain spaces you can be queer and be viewed as cool.

In 2015, you sampled Erykah Badu’s ‘Bag Lady’. How much influence does she have on your overall sound and flow?

Definitely, Erykah Badu has had an incredible impact on me but as a whole individual outside of music. As a young woman, she was this black artist with an afrocentric approach in her music. It’s important that she exists for representation, for us to see what’s possible for us. 

 

What does being part of this Boiler Room experience mean to you?

I feel like i’ve been recognised. I’ve been travelling a lot overseas and I never felt like here at home there was an appreciation for me as an artist, although this is an international brand that’s hosting this event but I do feel like my country and my city are taking notice of me.

You recently came back from your European tour. What did you learn from this experience?

White people overseas are lit. I really enjoyed performing there and of course, I like the euros but it was quite an experience for me because all my friends are these woke black women and then I go over there and people want to touch my hair and ask me why is my hair clean. Honestly, the subtle racism, micro-agression really shocked me. I realised that we just have to be happy with our struggles here because there really isn’t a big answer overseas. Romanticising the idea of going to another country and you realise that it actually isn’t as you had pictured can shock you.

Why do you think women in rap are put on such a high pedestal?

I think it’s women in general, in whatever field that they’re working in — they will always be scrutinised. It’s overall sexism but I’d say rap is heavily men dominated. Hence you find that women rappers are always pitied against each other. The world is communicating the message that great black women can’t exist at once.

Listen to Reimagine below:

 

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