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Dope Saint Jude’s Grrrl Like is a Feminist Anthem for Our Era

Dope Saint Jude’s video for ‘Grrrl Like’, the lead single off her upcoming EP dropped on all major platforms this week. Influenced by MIA, Santigold and Major Lazer, the track infuses feminist thought into a pulsing, hard-hitting and infectious beat that radiates confidence and insistent energy – urging all grrrls to celebrate ourselves, in all of our glorious complexity and richly textured diversity.

Since the release of her debut EP, titled Reimagine, the young Capetonian artist’s music continues to make profound and relevant visual and sonic statements, journeying beyond rhythms and lyrics, to focus on marginalised communities. As an artist who speaks to our era, the visual imagery that she creates, constructs diverse images that offer up profound portraits and necessary representation for black, brown and LGBTIQA+ communities who have historically been viewed through narrow and tight prisms of personhood. 

Through the repetition of ‘I’m a grrrl just like like like like like like like like…’, Dope Saint Jude leaves the definition of grrrlhood open-ended and expansive, allowing us to fill in the blanks and project multiple understandings of grrrlhood that traverses a wide spectrum of gender and identity.

Haneem Christian and Thandi Gula.

Grrrl Like is a slickly produced, fun soundtrack to our lives that has operates on multiple levels. Beyond its political messaging, it is a surefire track to elevate dancefloors in the sweaty summer season, echoing how Dope Saint Jude reveals that her artistic intent on her upcoming EP also focuses on fun, escaping the singular focus on identity that can be a challenging borderline for artists whose work centres marginalized communities, but who seek to create art that revels in all the aspects of who we are, incorporating our identity and other aspects of ourselves. As she explains: ‘I have found it necessary to create art that isn't always fixated on my experiences of race, sexuality and gender, as it can become exhausting for me to only focus on those topics.’

With Grrrl Like, Dope Saint Jude has given us the gift of a thrilling feminist anthem that projects ambition, celebration, acceptance, boundary-breaking and the permission to be our whole selves, tightly packed into just under three minutes. She recently spoke to Elle about the concept, focus of and influences behind the song and video.

Elle: Your work always infuses aesthetics and sound with an aware and nuanced social consciousness. What was your aim with the video?

DSJ: I wanted to subvert the traditional hip hop "squad" video and fill it with grrrls. This video has a group of grrrls owning spaces in the city and instead of the guy riding into the sunset with his woman, we see two grrrls doing this. The styling was done by Gemma Swan, and we wanted it to be a bit hip hop and a bit punk with afrocentric details in the style.

Elle: You’ve spoken about the influence of the ‘90s Riot Grrrl movement. How did ‘Grrrl Like’ come about and how do you define ‘grrrl’ in our era?

DSJ: I use "GRRRL" because I am referencing riot grrrl in the video, which is a feminist punk movement. My aim with the video was to bring it into an intersectional and South African context. The term "Grrrl" is not limited to just cis women, it is a political term for anyone who identifies with femininity or any kind of grrrlhood. If you identify with "grrrl" then it is for you.

Haneem Christian and Thandi Gula.

Elle: Music scholar Adam Haupt has written that you are “transforming South African hip hop by queering a genre that has predominantly been male and heteronormative.” That sensibility echoes throughout ‘Grrrl Like’. What is the message that you seek to get across with the song and video?

DSJ: To be honest, I just wanted to make a track and video that celebrates us. I wanted something that reflects and celebrates my people!

Elle: I really love the production and lyrics of the track. Who were your primary influences when creating it?

DSJ: I considered live performance when creating the track, so I wanted really big sounds. I didn't want the traditional hip hop trap sound, so I incorporated influences from MIA, Major Lazor and Santigold in the production of the track.

Elle: How did you go about choosing your collaborators for the video?

DSJ: The cast is made of people who embody the spirit of the track. I am releasing a zine with my project, and I asked some of the contributors to be a part of it. I have worked with Jabu Newman in the past, and naturally, I wanted to have her on board as we share a similar ethic. I met and stayed with Gemma Swan in London and she helped me with the project from it's inception.

Elle: I’m really excited about your upcoming EP. How do you locate Grrrl Like within it, and what can your fans and followers expect from it in terms of sound and sensibility?

DSJ: The project sees me develop quite a lot as an artist. My sound is elevated and I am my usual vulnerable self. I have also included some tracks that are just more fun, as I have found it necessary to create art that isn't always fixated on my experiences of race, sexuality and gender, as it can become exhausting for me to only focus on those topics. My fans can expect a robust project with highs and lows and a distinct message.

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