“This is a hustler’s story”: how Saint Jhn got a grip on his staggering success

For Saint Jhn, success smells like Roses.

The Guyanese-American artist first composed the colossal breakout hit back in 2015 – originally as a pitch to Beyoncé. After she declined, he decided to half-sing, half-rap melodies in his own smoky tone. Roses, which initially dropped in July 2016, proved slow-burning success, and found a devoted audience in Russia and the former Soviet republics. Last year, a 19-year-old train station worker from Kazakhstan named Imanbek Zeikenov gave it a remix, working in a thick, catchy bassline and new club-ready beat, before throwing it back into the world.

Now, Roses is one of the biggest songs on the planet. The Imanbek remix has been the most Shazamed song in Britain this year and in March it spent two weeks at number one in the UK charts. Future and J Balvin are among those who’ve eagerly hopped on the various remixes. Worldwide, Roses has racked up over 796 million Spotify plays and has become wildly popular on TikTok, where clips of the song have been used over five billion times.

Shirtless on a 60ft balcony overlooking Los Angeles, Saint Jhn is enjoying his moment of vindication. He’s looking back on how far he’s come since the days as a songwriter-for-hire, selling his musical ideas to the likes of Usher and Hoodie Allen. ​“When you’re playing for a team you don’t own, you’re just practising,” Saint Jhn muses. ​“It was like gladiator school. I was sharpening my sword at somebody else’s cost. It forced me to create things that you couldn’t deny. When I arrived at that point and people still weren’t hearing me? That’s when I was willing to bet on myself.”

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