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In the Field with Dope Saint Jude

Updated: Oct 26, 2020

Dope Saint Jude first popped on the scene in 2016 with her EP, Reimagine, and hasn’t looked back since. The South African artist and activist, who identifies as a black, queer woman from Cape Town, now based in London, is unapologetically herself, representing heavily for the LGBTQ community and a staunch supporter of women’s rights, and she isn’t afraid to put it all out there. 

Dope Saint Jude followed up with the release of her Resilient EP in 2018, and resiliency is a recurring theme throughout the rapper’s music. To accompany her EP release, the rapper launched a DIY zine that featured queer and female voices and used the money from the zine to give back to her community, specifically focusing on the arts.

In her latest music video for “Go High Go Low,” Dope Saint Jude’s energetic personality is on full display from the high energy dance moves to the bright neon lights of the Golden Dish restaurant. The presence of the Golden Dish restaurant is an ode to her hometown, and the restaurant itself is a staple in Cape Flats. It was the only restaurant that served minorities during apartheid when people of color were not allowed to patron white-owned establishments. 

The ladies of In the Field Radio had the pleasure of going In the Field with the rapper who is currently quarantined in London to discuss quarantine, music, the state of the world, South Africa, and more!

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. The interview aired in its entirety on May 4, 2020, on 91.3 FM WVKR. Tune in every Monday at 10 PM EST. Also available via the TuneIn or Simple Radio app by searching WVKR.


Erin Boogie: How are you doing during quarantine?

Dope Saint Jude: I’m fine, honestly. I’ve been gardening a lot. I didn’t realize I liked gardening, so that’s a new discovery. 

Lady D: And cooking! I saw a burrito that looked really yummy. Were you always into cooking?

Dope Saint Jude: Yes! Yes, I’ve been cooking. I’ve just been doing- like I’m a domestic goddess now. I’m like cooking, cleaning. Like finding any excuse to DIY.

Lady D, where are you based?

Lady D: I’m in New York, too. 

Dope Saint Jude: I’ve been to New York once. I did a show for some art collective, and I stayed in Williamsburg, and people tell me that isn’t the real New York.

Lady D: Did New York live up to your expectations?

Dope Saint Jude: It was cool! I actually went to a few places, and it was during Halloween, just before Trump was elected, so it was a while back, and I’ve never been in the US for Halloween, and it blew my mind. You guys take it seriously. I was on the train, and everyone was dressed up. It was kind of magical.

Erin Boogie: Especially in New York City, that’s such a big deal. They’re famous for their parade.

Dope Saint Jude: Yes! I actually joined the parade. I jumped over the fence, and I joined the parade. It was so much fun.

Lady D: That’s what happened to me during the women’s rights march. Like I’d went to Webster Hall to pick up the tickets for the event, and it was the women’s march going on and I just seen like a bunch of ovary signs, and “P*ssy bites back,” and all types of stuff and I just got there and was like screw it, I’m marching too. But speaking of women’s rights, that’s your thing. It’s very important to you, women’s rights, and feminism. I did actually see— I just want you to talk about, a little bit, what you're continuing to do now; I did see the zine. I was wondering if the zine was still there.

Dope Saint Jude: Yeah, I have a few more copies of the zine, but I released it with my EP in 2018 and right now— and so I used the money from the zine to-- I work with a high school in South Africa, one of the schools I attended, and we used the money to support the arts program and to pay for some of girls fees. Right now, what I’m trying to do is figure out how I’m going to repeat that cycle. 

Lady D: I was watching one of the episodes. I was like, is this a comic with a storyline or—?

Dope Saint Jude: No, it’s like a once off kind of zine, and it had like essays and poetry and comic strips from different artists, mainly from South Africa, but some of them were from the US and from the UK and so on. It was a pretty cool project to put it all together. I just curated the zine, and I did an intro, and I co-wrote a comic with someone. 

Lady D: And it supported two schools. In South Africa, what are the school fees? This is for children? They got to pay to go to school?

Dope Saint Jude: Yes, you have to pay to go to school in South Africa. Unfortunately, education is not free. And the school fees, like, they aren’t that expensive, like let me just do an estimate of what the dollar to rand… so for the primary school fees, the kids pay like-- honestly, they pay like $10.00. For the year. So that isn’t a lot. But they still need to pay this, and then the high school kids pay about $160.00 a year. So we sponsored about ten primary school kids, and then we sponsored a few high school kids, but I mainly focused on the arts program because the school actually has an incredible, talented group of girls, but they don’t have any extracurricular activities, and they are so good at singing, dancing, anything creative they are amazing at it but they have no resources. So I’ve been helping them kind of build, in particular, an arts program.

Erin Boogie: And that was in Cape Flats?

Dope Saint Jude: Yes, in Cape Flats. 

Erin Boogie: What was it like growing up in Cape Flats?

Dope Saint Jude: Well, I’m not sure if you know the kind of landscape parts of Africa--

Lady D: I’m looking. It was like the coast. I was like, “oh my God!” Then I was scrolling on the map, and I saw an Air Force base, and I was like, “oh, I’m about to try and get over there.”

Dope Saint Jude: So first of all, like what makes the Cape Flats interesting is the fact that-- so during apartheid South Africa was divided into three racial groups oh white, black, and colored.  And in South Africa, colored is a term that is used quite frequently, and people actively identify as colored. It’s like being mixed race but coming from generations of mixed-race people, so a culture kind of formed around that because if you put a group of people together and force them to live together for a hundred years, a culture is bound to form. So there are people that actively identify as colored and so—

Lady D: So black is not colored?

Dope Saint Jude: Well, you see, you get people like me that identify as black and colored. I identify as black in the kind of like broad Steve Biko sense, but I also have to acknowledge that I have privilege as a colored person. So I can’t claim the same struggle as a black woman in South Africa even though I am black. In South Africa, I wouldn’t qualify as black. I would qualify as colored. So there’s a fine line between acknowledging your privilege but also not divorcing yourself from the struggle of blackness, so it’s really complicated. I grew up in the Cape Flats. It was a colored community, and it was just kind of like, I don’t know, it’s a pretty wonderful place but really colorful—lots of culture. I honestly don’t really know how to describe it. I guess it’s all I’ve really known. You know what I mean? It was a really interesting place to grow up because I had a very… I was able to understand the landscape of South Africa just by living there because you’re living in the middle ground in between black and white, so you get to see how people are struggling, and you also get to see extreme wealth, and you’re kind of wedged in the middle of it. 

Lady D: Do you go to the supermarket and pick up meat and stuff, or are people like Nah, we got our own animals, and we’re gonna raise them and kill them?

Dope Saint Jude: Well, I grew up going to the supermarket. We didn’t really slaughter animals. Like my grandmother would bring chickens and then slaughter them. It depends on how far and how deep you are in the culture because in African culture because even if you’re wealthy and you shop at supermarkets, like culturally for weddings, funerals, people still slaughter animals as a symbol of celebration. So, we don’t do that all the time. It’s more symbolic now. 

Erin Boogie: What is the hip hop scene like in South Africa? 

Dope Saint Jude: The hip hop scene is really big. It’s the biggest scene in South Africa. The biggest in the music scene. To be quite honest, for the most part, it’s quite American. It’s quite influenced by the American culture. So our mainstream hip hop artists are quite like Drake; like they’ve got that similar— Ferrari. Ferreri’s and cars and bling-bling and all of that but there is another music coming out of South Africa called gqom. I don’t know if you’ve heard of it. It’s spelled G-Q-O-M. Gqom. So that music is a mixture of house, hip hop, and kind of like an underground bassy sound, and it’s really popular in South African right now. So that is the most exciting music coming out of South Africa, and it’s playing all over the world. You can go to clubs in Europe, in the U.S., and they play that kind of music. I don’t know if you’ve heard of Sho Madjozi or… I can’t think of the other gqom artists right now, but it’s really popping off all over the world. And it’s a derivative of hip hop.

Erin Boogie: How does it compare in London?

Dope Saint Jude: Oh wow! Well, the hip hop scene in London is very much like grime, and I would say London is a lot more conscious about their hip hop. Like talking about things that matter. You do have the turn-up, but for the most part, London can be quite conscious about their hip hop, you know? They value artists who have something to say—actual critique of the status quo. 

Erin Boogie: I know grime is really big in London right now. A lot of the producers have bled over into the United States.

Dope Saint Jude: Grime, and there’s also drill. Have you heard of drill?

Erin Boogie: We have a huge drill movement in New York right now.

Dope Saint Jude: Really?!

Lady D: Do you feel like drill really just started getting poppin’ over here? But I feel like drill over there was there. Cause remember that song, “Two plus two is four is math.” And the “boom, boom, boom, boom, boom.” That was a drill beat. Everybody was on it already before we were.

Erin Boogie: A lot of the artists, like Pop Smoke that started the whole drill movement over here, he was working with London based producers.

Dope Saint Jude: So what else is big in New York right now?

Erin Boogie: Right now, it’s drill. Everybody wants to be a drill artist right now.

Lady D: It’s drill. And then they killed our artist Pop Smoke that brought the drill over here. Yeah, so that was sad.

Dope Saint Jude: New York is always a place where great things start or a great incubator for the next movement. Always seems to be incubated in New York before it pops off. Like that’s where they nurture the next big thing, and then suddenly it pops off. Like the queer vogue scene, my understanding is that it was really kind of--

Lady D: We vogue in the morning! We vogue in the morning!

Dope Saint Jude: It was born out of New York. Yeah, so New York’s so exciting.

Erin Boogie: What has been your experience being a queer female in hip hop?

Dope Saint Jude: Wow. Well, my experience of it, honestly, has been really good. I’m sure that because I’m a queer woman, I’ve missed opportunities that I think I probably would have gotten if I was more straight and mainstream, but I think I have blinders on, and for the most part, I’ve had a really great experience because I feel like I’m able to build community and I feel like I can build a fanbase legitimately and authentically because I think being queer and a woman in hip hop is quite a vulnerable position to be in but also being vulnerable lends itself to being open to people and having people resonate with you much easier. So I think that because I’m a queer woman in hip hop, I’ve been able to connect with my audience in a very intimate way that I think maybe I would not have I had been a queer woman. So I’m really thankful for that. I feel like I am building a family. When I travel with my music, people come up to me and tell me quite intimate stories, or I feel like I really connect with people, and my music means something to them if they’re going through something, so that has been my experience. Really positive. 

Lad D: Congratulations on your engagement! Your songs are being picked up. You were on Netflix and BET. Are those the first two times that your songs have been picked up?

Dope Saint Jude: No, actually, I’ve been getting syncs like crazy. Like I got a sync for Apple TV, they are using my song. And a few on Netflix. I’ve just gotten one—another Netflix show. For Renault, the car company, and McDonald’s. Like a lot of companies have picked up my music, and it’s quite interesting because I’m not a mainstream artist in any way, but mainstream brands seem to latch onto my music. These big brands use my music for advertising, but I’m not a mainstream artist.

Lady D: It gets in people’s heads, and it’s actually good.

Dope Saint Jude: And maybe it just captures the spirit of what they’re trying to sell. Because these days they use feminism and they use queerness and all of those kinds of things to sell products, you know? Like things that used to be a struggle, now they capitalize off of those struggles to sell product. And the thing is there’s a part of me that wants to be like fuck that, but also I’m gonna take their money. I’m gonna get paid fuck that.

Lady D: I promote that all the time. So do you have any like— I mean you[sic] always putting stuff out. I’m like I’m going down, and I’m never going to get to the end of everything that she’s done. You’ve been out here for a while.

Dope Saint Jude: Yeah. 

Lady D: And you don’t look old. You might be foolin’ me, but… those are great genes. Has she been doing this since she was twelve? What’s going on here?

Dope Saint Jude: Yeah, I’ve been making music since 2014. Or 2015. So yeah, about six years, I’d say. And only really doing it full time for the last four years. ‘Cause when I first started, I was waitressing and bartending and working so many jobs to keep my music career, to get it off the ground, and now I’m a full-time musician, and I’m able to make a living off of it. Actually, I started out as a drag king. I used to perform in drag. Just for fun, honestly, and then when I was performing in drag, I would perform hip hop tracks, and then after a while, I found that the drag performance was quite once dimensional, but I had gotten a taste for being on stage and performing and doing all of that. I taught myself music production, and then that’s kind of how I got into making hip hop music. And I just released a track, “Keep In Touch,” and it went well, and then I was like actually, I really enjoy this. So that’s how I got into it, actually—kind of a backdoor way of getting into hip hop through drag. 

Erin Boogie: How much has your past performing as a drag king influenced how you perform as a rapper?

Dope Saint Jude: Definitely! Without a doubt, because I kind of came up on the drag scene. I was the only drag king. And the drag queens are so amazing. Like the performance and the makeup and like the pageantry, all of that, it’s incredible, and so they really set a high standard for me in terms of what I want to convey in my performance because drag is so well thought out, and it’s so subversive. Like it’s not just putting on a dress and performing. There are so many layers, and like humor, and I just find it quite diverse. And I found performing as a drag king to be boring because I wasn’t wearing the fancy dresses and the makeup and the glitter. Dressing up as a guy is way more boring than dressing up as a woman. 

Lady D: I never heard of drag kings. I know you said you were the only one. I was like, what?! You can do that?!

Dope Saint Jude: Yes. I did actually start a drag king troupe, and there were five of us by the end of it. But yeah, drag has definitely informed my performance. One hundred percent. I owe it to the drag queens of Cape Town for critiquing. 

Erin Boogie: Talk a little bit about “Go High, Go Low?” What inspired that song?

Dope Saint Jude: That song was really about resilience and persistence. I have a lot of highs like— like basically, it’s quite simple. Like things can be quite difficult, and you have highs and lows, but you continue to be persistent, and lyrically that song is about resilience and persistence, but then the video is kind of a celebration of where I come from.

Erin Boogie: What was your best memory from the video shoot?

Dope Saint Jude: I made a lot of friends on the video shoot, honestly. I guess the best part was the drag racing guy ‘cause he burned out his tires, and if you look carefully, you’ll see the police pulling up in the background.

Lady D: Oh, they was[sic] coming for real?

Dope Saint Jude: Yeah, like the police were in the background, and they stopped and were like what’s going on here because it’s illegal. But luckily, we had a permit, but we didn’t have a permit to drag race. We had a permit to shoot, but we gave the police some food and we like were very friendly with them, and they left us to shoot. So that was a good experience. And then also just, in general, I made a lot of friends during the shoot, the video shoot. Like all the people in the cast, they were actually friends of friends of mine, and afterward, we just had a big party together, and it was just a cool sense of community and camaraderie. Yeah, it was a really great experience.

Erin Boogie: Talk about featuring the Golden Dish in your video for “Go High, Go Low.” That’s a pretty important establishment.

Dope Saint Jude: Yes, so Golden Dish is really famous for the Gatsby’s. Gatsby’s are these sandwiches in South Africa with like, you guys call them french fries, so it’s like a sandwich with french fries and meat and different layers of things. It’s like fast food. We consider it junk food here. And back in the day, during the apartheid days, black people and colored people had no restaurants to go to because all the fancy restaurants were reserved for white people. So Golden Dish was really important in the 1970s and ’80s as a spot where black people and colored people could go and eat. It was a restaurant that was actually black-owned, and they could attend, and so it’s quite a big landmark in South Africa and Cape Town so I wanted to feature them in the video because also for me personally, it’s the first place I ever had a Gatsby. It was like an iconic place you go when you’re a teenager, and you go out partying, and after you party, it’s the only place open at 4 AM. So it has a lot of significance for young people in Cape Town, and everyone knows Golden Dish, and it’s close to the heart.

Lady D: How much do you love Oprah? I kept seeing the Oprah references. Oprah was featured in the video. I looked at the zine and saw an Oprah poster.

Dope Saint Jude: I can’t even begin to explain how much I love Oprah! Why would you even ask me that? [laughing] You are quite observant. You even noticed it in the comic. I really love Oprah! She’s just so cool, and she has her own garden where she grows vegetables and then eats the vegetables from her garden. She has her own school. She’s like the most influential woman in the world. I have to say I like Oprah and she’s amazing.

Lady D: I really want you to really meet Oprah in person one day.

Dope Saint Jude: I would love to meet Oprah. I would faint. I don’t know. I probably shouldn’t. I don’t want to be one of those people where I meet Oprah, and now I’m like, “aaahhh Oprah!” I want to be cool when I meet her. Like, “oh, Oprah? What’s your name again?” [laughs] Erin and Lady D, who would be your equivalent of Oprah for you?

Erin Boogie: Ok, so I met mine, It was DMX, and I like, I did not even know what to say to him, so I just hugged him. 

Dope Saint Jude: Wow! And was he nice?

Erin Boogie: He was so nice. He hugged me back, and he was like, my phone case is actually DMX, and so he was asking me about my phone case, and I was just staring at him like it was the second coming of Jesus. I just didn’t know what to say. 

Dope Saint Jude: And when did you meet him? 

Erin Boogie: It was at a show. I work for a promoter that does a lot of live events in the area, and so he had DMX. It was totally my dream to meet DMX, so at the end of it, he arranged for me to meet him upstairs in the green room, so there were all these people standing there watching this happen.

Dope Saint Jude: Amazing! I’m happy for you.

Erin Boogie: Thank you.

Dope Saint Jude: And you Lady D?

Lady D: You know, I was thinking about my answer, and I know there is someone I would really like to meet, but I can’t think of who would make me… I mean, I would love to meet Michelle Obama and ask her a bunch of stuff.

Dope Saint Jude: Have you read her book?

Lady D: I did not read her book.

Erin Boogie: Have you been watching any of the Instagram Live battles during quarantine?

Dope Saint Jude: Which ones?

Erin Boogie: Like T-Pain/Lil Jon and RZA/DJ Premier. 

Dope Saint Jude: Oh yeah! I watched them but honestly, I’m not good with Instagram Live stuff. I watch them for like two minutes, and then I go off and back in. I have a very short attention span. But I did watch some of Diddy’s dance stuff. 

Erin Boogie: Who are you currently listening to? What artists?

Dope Saint Jude: Wow. I just really got into EarthGang recently. I’m really into EarthGang right now, and who else am I listening to? Let me open up my Spotify playlist, and I can tell you exactly who I’m listening to right now. Oh, I’m also really enjoying Koffee. And then I always go back to Janelle Monae, a big fan of hers. Who else am I listening to? Quite a few South African artists I’m listening to. I love house music. I listen to a lot of house music. I think a lot of stuff, sometimes I listen to classical music, sometimes I listen to old school like I got this playlist like a morning, wakeup, get ready playlist, and it’s got, you know that song “Got To Be Real?” That’s on the playlist, and then I’ve got Cher on the playlist. “Do you believe in life after love!” [Singing] So I listen to new music like 21 Savage, and then I listen to Cher. [laughs] All on the same playlist.

Erin Boogie: What can we expect next from Dope Saint Jude? What do you got coming up?

Dope Saint Jude: I am working on my album. I’m using this time in quarantine to work on my debut album, and I’m really excited about it. And I’m also writing. I just wrote a story for Girls Talk. I wrote a story about my legacy, and about my mom and my grand and how I relate to them, so I’m interested in kind of exploring that story more and releasing it in a longer form. So I don’t know what that’s going to look like. Right now, I have an essay, but I’d like to release it in a longer form. Maybe I’ll write a book, I dunno. I’ve just been writing. I’m also working on a project, on a movie project, with a friend of mine who’s a director. Yeah, I’m doing things that speak to my heart, and I’m trying to be working on more content. I’m trying to be content-driven during this quarantine. It’s so hard ‘cause it’s just like me cooking all the time or like me cleaning. It’s so boring. 

Lady D: That’s how I feel. A creative blockage right now.

Dope Saint Jude: But how do you guys feel? I mean, you guys are New Yorkers, so I’m sure you are used to all the high paced hard work all the time. But there’s a part of this emphasis on being productive in this time that makes me feel a little uneasy because I also feel like it’s a strange time emotionally for people, so maybe it is time to reflect, you know? And look inside and not like act like the world is still moving at the same pace it was, because it isn’t, and maybe we need to slow down. How do you feel about that?

Erin Boogie: That’s kind of what I’ve been doing in quarantine because before this I was— I have a regular day job and doing the radio show and trying to be everywhere at once and it got really hectic, and I started to get burnt out. So it kind of parked me on my butt and forced me to take a time out. I feel refreshed. I feel creative. I feel productive, but in a different way. 

Lady D: I feel like I have a lot of time now to do all the stuff that I wanted to be doing and focus on passion projects, but then at the end of the day, it makes me feel sad because part of my passion projects have to deal with people-ing and being out there and having events and all that and it’s just like you can’t do all that. I’m like, what are you working towards if you’re gonna be in the house? And the scientist in me is like viruses don’t just vanish. So it’s not like it’s going to stop all of a sudden one day, so it’s like what do we do? What if this is life forever? What would I be preparing for?

Dope Saint Jude: I’m thinking about you guys in this time, and also I’m thinking about your country in this time. And about your country’s leadership, and I am praying for your country. 

Erin Boogie: Thank you. We need that. Thank you for letting us interview you!

Dope Saint Jude: Thank you so much, and I hope we can connect the next time I come to New York. It would be cool to hang out. 

Erin Boogie: We could visit you in London, too. 

Dope Saint Jude: Yes, definitely.

Lady D: It was wonderful to meet you. Thank you.

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