Black Saint aren’t like other most dance acts crafting floor fillers — this London collective actually have something to say.
Take the their booty-shaking debut single “Could You Love Me?” — a unique cross-genre pollination between r&b, trap and house. Its beat is irresistible, but it’s also that rare dancefloor smash which stands for something larger than getting your bassface on — with a video, lensed by acclaimed director Josh Cole, which shines a light on the Romani communities of the U.K. “You’ve got a responsibility to put something out there that has integrity and can make a difference,” explains band member Justin Osuji. In a conflicted world, this message has rarely felt so urgent.
Black Saint is the end result of years of graft from a group of passionate musicians who bring a plethora of influences and skills to the table. Glasgow-raised Justin Osuji draws from his past as a Virgin-signed solo artist and his Grammy-nominated production work for the likes of Faith Evans and Kimbra in his writing. Meanwhile, lifelong friends Jermaine Davis and David James channel the pulse of London nightlife and soundsystem culture, putting a fresh twist on the sounds that soundtracked a generation of clubbers. Together they create sonic alchemy, with 2016 house banger “Could You Love Me?” — featuring an incandescent hook from U.S. R&B artist Marcus Cooper — already racking up several million streams online.
An unexpected boost came for the song, as Osuji explains. “On Instagram, Marcus Cooper filmed himself in Miami with Flo Rida and a whole bunch of other rappers, and they were playing the track in the background and just going hype for the track. He played it to Usher — who wanted to take the track.” While they briefly considered it, they realised that, in Osuji’s words, “We didn’t want to give it away because this is our thing, this is what we really wanted to do.”
After the collective uploaded the track to SoundCloud, it was picked up by taste-making dance blog Selected, and started to rack up thousands of plays a day. It has since been streamed over 10 million times.
A key part of the collective’s success is the house parties that they’ve been throwing and live-streaming since autumn 2016 — a reaction to increasingly expensive London club culture, and a throwback to the formative nights they spent in London dance venues like The End and Vauxhall Colosseum. “A lot of it now’s down to how much money you’ve got, how much you’re going to spend,” James says. “We want to tap into taking all that away – it doesn’t matter what you look like: what colour you are, whether you’re rich or poor. If you love good music then you’re going to love one of our house parties.”
As you’d expect from a band with “Saint” in its title, the collective are determined to stand out from the crowd. As Davis says, “there’s a culture behind the music that we want to invite people into.” A new single and EP tapping into their jungle and garage influences, including Davis MCing on record, will ensure that. But it doesn’t stop there: Black Saint are already planning world domination. “Ultimately we want to give back that real experience, like when you go to a James Brown or Earth, Wind & Fire gig,” says Osuji. “We’d love to be able to incorporate that into what we’re doing fully and a proper live show.” He pauses, laughing. “Maybe we’ll get a hologram of James Brown!” With Black Saint’s drive and ambition, even that feels possible.