Interview: St Jude talks hip hop artistry, measures of success and new single The March

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st. Jude The March Artwork

St Jude aka Carl Jackson is a London based emcee, who has built  a solid reputation in the past few years as one of the artists with real integrity! Originally from East Grinstead, the lyricist released his debut EP, ‘Desperate Times & Lost Causes’ in 2015 on the independent label 4D Presents. He has since followed it up with singles ‘The Wheel’ and Rich in Spirit, which has further showcased his talent on the mic! We spoke to St Jude about his latest single release for ‘The March’, which is an international collab featuring SEVEN other emcees from UK, USA and Italy.  Check out the interview below, and don’t forget you can follow him via twitter. This single is available to download here.

What is the story behind the name St. Jude? Does your music in general have Christian connotations?

I’m not religious personally and my music doesn’t have any explicit Christian message. Although I do believe in treating people how you hope to be treated. St.Jude is the patron saint of desperate times and lost causes, I chose this name for two main reasons. Firstly, because I went through a lot of shit growing up and people said I was a lost cause that wouldn’t amount to anything. So it’s partly a ‘fuck you’ to all the nay-sayers in life that project their insecurities on to others and spread negative energy.

Secondly, in Catholicism St.Jude is the one you pray to when all else has failed. When things turn desperate and the usual suspects haven’t answered, you turn to Jude for guidance – I thought this was an interesting metaphor for life and music. Everyone can see the world getting more messed up and those who are supposed to serve the people, like politicians, the media, the police etc, are all corrupt and serving the agendas of the privileged few.

When all these institutions fail the people, who is left to speak truth to power? It’s the artists! And that’s why throughout history you find the disenfranchised gravitating towards poets, musicians and MC’s. The traditional options have failed them, so they seek answers from the people they feel represented by.

Jude the Apostle was supposed to be a vegetarian – do you feel like hip-hop in general should focus less on beef and more on the good herb?

(laughs) I like what you did there! I have mixed feeling on this you know. Hip-Hop is competitive by its very nature, so it’s good to have competition and MC’s striving to out do one another. But to be honest, I think artists should focus on whatever inspires them and whatever reflects their reality. Whether that is feuding against rivals, puffin’ the herb, or commenting on world affairs. I ain’t a prude who wants to pigeon-hole emcees. As long as it sounds good and they’re being themselves.

Some of your influences include Akala and Immortal Technique, none of whom are traditional mainstream rappers, but rather see success as spreading a message. What is your measure of success as an artist?

That’s a great question! Originally, I was only about ‘Conscious Rap’. If it didn’t have an educational element or a message I wasn’t interested; initially that was the only kind of music I wanted to make, whereas now I’m trying to be a bit more diverse. Whilst I’ll always have a passion for this style and the artists you mentioned, I don’t want to be labelled as a ‘conscious rapper’, because once you’re put in that box, it’s all that is expected of you and it can be quite limiting.

I want every project to sound different and to show different sides of myself. There must be some kind of growth to your music or what’s the point? So, in short, I measure the success of an artist on many things. But one thing I especially admire is versatility. Can this artist sound amazing on boom bap? Can they kill it on grime or trap? That’s the kind of shit that gets me excited!

How did you select the features for the track out of all the available talent on the international scene?

All the artists are either friends or people that I rate highly. Simple as that! The UK is a melting pot of different cultures, languages and styles. I wanted this track to demonstrate that diversity.

Was there a deeper reason for choosing a Middle Eastern-inspired instrumental for an international collaboration? Does it have to do with the current political climate?

It’s not to do with the political climate as such. But both the movements I’m involved with (4D Presents & Cultured Sounds) focus on fusing hip-hop with different types of world music. There is so much amazing music in the world, why limit yourself to just funk and soul samples!

I was also inspired by Mic Righteous’s track ‘Gone’ which had a dope middle eastern vibe. But I also wanted something with a half time groove. So, I holla’d my boy Opus and he happened to have exactly what I was looking for.

Many Western hip-hop artists are big in Far Eastern countries like Japan – where do you see cross-cultural collaborations in music going next?

For sure! You got some serious heads in China, Vietnam and the Philippines as well. Hip-Hop is a global phenomenon now which is amazing to see. The problem I have, is that it seems to be a one-way street. You never see any Far Eastern rappers getting shine in the West. I understand that it’s mostly due to the language barrier. But dope beats topped with an interesting flow and delivery will bang hard regardless. It transcends language!

I’d like to see more international collaborations between East and West. The world has so many dope localised scenes, they just don’t seem to connect with one another. I’m hoping to see that change in future.

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