Edited by Attica Lundy Cooper
Saint Soprano was born David McKithen in Buffalo, NY on August 23. He grew up poor, and like many boys did he turned toward the street for a way out of poverty. The one thing he remembers most about childhood was the feeling of going without. Another thing he remembers is is first experience with music. His mother was heavy into church where she was a lead singer, so he mostly heard gospel music around the house. It was his first experience with rap that sparked his love for music though. He was sitting on the floor watching “Brenda’s Got a Baby” on his mother’s floor model T.V. He doesn’t remember how old he was but he was watching it on “The Box” and it made a lasting impression.He later came to love jazz and country music as well and they all have minor influences in the way he interweaves the tales of his music. The love of music stayed with him, but life pushed him to make more pressing decisions. Freedom is often taken for granted. You think that because you are born with it that it won’t easily be taken away. You eve risk it when you’re poor, believing it’s something you’ll always have…then it’s gone. One bad choice can land you in a place out of reach from everything and everyone you love.
In prison, Saint discovered that music was therapy for him, it became his release. Without it he would become angry. His fear and failure attributed to his drive to succeed in the music industry. So, he studied the industry, law and business. As well as music in general. He worked hard at developing a sound of his own. A sound he describes as “exploratory”. He uses music to take off mentally with his listeners, he also calls it “vivid”.
The first song he ever performed was a freestyle he performed in the prison yard. It made him feel exhilarated…the inmates’ response was amazing and right away he knew he had to keep that feeling for himself. He realized that the lifestyle that he had lived before prison was the lifestyles rappers wrote songs about. He had been through a lot and knew that someone had to tell the story from the vantage point that he was living at the moment. He knew that someone else had to feel like he was feeling.
Initially, he wanted to ghost write because he didn’t want the fame, but quickly realized that no one would deliver his pain and passion with the same vigor or finesse that he would. The confidence wouldn’t be there if they didn’t live it.
He had already earned his stage name along side his brother “Diablo” (Jamar Mack) in the early 2000’s. In 2004, Diablo was murdered by Niagara Falls Police. In memory of his brother, he kept that legacy going. He worked and developed talents in music, writing, and acting. He will be releasing a book of poetry as well as a web series in the near future to further showcase his writing skills.
Black Forbes List Entertainment is a label he co-founded and C.O.O. of and as such he retains 100% of creative control of his music. From beat selection all the way down to concept cadence and delivery. Under the label’s umbrella, on the hip hop side Zeemerland, Lil Afrikka, Mo Montana and Slime Osama were signed. In R&B they signed Porter, who has a surprising sound; and in production they signed Mahor League Productions, Orch Godz, JHeim, and B Eaze. In video, they signed Shooter Productions and Shattered Images. Another one of his brothers, who once rapped under the name “Nikki Nailz” produces most of his music and is responsible for a large portion of the engineering. The team came together to create music described as passionate and gritty.
The majority of his songs are street tales, meaning he is giving listeners something the streets of Buffalo, NY (the forgotten city) gave him whether that be experience or game, struggle or success and in his music his listeners get it all. Specifically, he speaks about life, death, dealing drugs, spirituality, dealing with loss and trying to find his way.
For over a decade he performed in prison ciphers, and after his release he continued performing and has been doing so for over a year. As an artist, he feels that it’s his job to paint a picture and make the listener see it. As a true MC, his feels his job is to make the listener engage all of their senses as opposed to just sight and touch. One of his favorite songs to perform is “4 the flex” produced by JHeim because of the reaction it draws from the crowd who have experienced it. Performing makes him feel like family with his listeners and every video he’s ever made has a wild story behind it. The wildest however, was the time Lil Afrikka crashed a car into two other cars trying to “flex” for the video. Alot people were angry that day. Parole has stopped him from doing tours and many shows, which has been a nightmare, but he still gives a high energy, crowd interaction packed and possible crown surfing filled shows whenever he does perform. His act has been described as reality rap, meaning he raps what he’s been through and gives the real him without holding back whether he is performing or recording.
His immediate career goal is to get Black Forbes List Entertainment on the cover of XXL Freshmen magazine; then Forbes magazine. He doesn’t believe in obstacles and thrives on just making anything he wants happen. Even the lack of funding brought creativity in delivery, promotion and financing in his opinion.The hunger to make it financially and the response hes received when he tells his story have been his biggest influences.
Saint says that if he could change anything about the industry, he would like the DJ’s to stop being greedy and get in tune with the streets. Those are his fans, the streets, the single parent, the prisoner…anybody living in the struggle. That;s who makes up his “street team” and that’s who he wants to continue to do what he does for. Along with his family, who are his biggest fans of course.
His advice to the youth today: “Stop listening to these rappers, it’s never cool to be a drug addict. If you don’t have to be in the streets, don’t be…those of us who had to/ have to be are still searching for a way to make it out and prison ain’t really a right of passage.” His stance on how to get the public to support live music: “Be sincere; give it your all and speak to the plight or agenda of the people…your people Be who you say you are, behind the scenes and on camera.”
Find his debut album Phantom of the Opera, which dropped August 3rd; and look for his solo mixtape Reinkarnation: Makavelli Returns which dropping next.
Shout out to Q45, Take Money Ent., Justice 4 J Batters, Free Savage, Free Pop, ….#BullyFam!