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Dope Saint Jude: Hip-Hop, Feminism, Race Politics & Cape Town Queer Culture

Cape Flats-born rapper Dope Saint Jude talks hip-hop, feminism, race politics and Cape Town queer culture.

Catherine St Jude Pretorius, otherwise known as Dope Saint Jude, is a socially conscious advocate for feminism, body politics, class, race and gender neutrality in Cape Town. Born in the Cape Flats, Miss St Jude brings a slightly controversial, edgy and playful energy to the music scene, particularly within the coloured community. In addition to rapping, she's also guest lectured on hip-hop as a social vehicle at a few of Cape Town's top universities.


After landing on our radar a year ago with "Hit Politik," she's since released videos for "The Golden Ratio" and most recently "Keep In Touch," featuring new kid on the "Nu-Queer" block Angel-Ho. Shot and edited by Chris Kets (who previously worked on Boolz' Langa-shot "Aphe Kapa"), the clip sports a quirky array of voguing ninjas, bucket hats and brief vocabulary lesson in Gayle (Cape Town queer slang). On the heels of her latest video, Dope Saint Jude spoke with us about Cape Town queer culture, being a "boss bitch" and a coloured woman in Cape Town's rap scene and more.

Shiba for Okayafrica: So tell us a bit about Gayle ("gay slang used in urban communities of South Africa"). I've never heard it used in music before, is there a reason for that?

Dope Saint Jude: Gayle is Cape Town queer urban slang created by predominantly coloured men. It was created as a secret language for queer people to communicate with one another in spaces where being queer was considered deviant. I first came across Gayle hanging out with friends in the Cape Flats. I immediately picked up the language as it is extremely colourful and expressive! I did further research into the language and found it hard to find an online dictionary for it. This is because the Gayle language is constantly evolving and is picked up by spending time in communities where Gayle is spoken. One really needs to immerse oneself in the culture to pick up the language.

OKA: And you? What does the persona of Dope Saint Jude encompass and how does "Keep In Touch" emulate that?

DSJ: Dope Saint Jude is so many things, but if I can convey one important thing about me it is that Dope Saint Jude is an example to all girls. Dope Saint Jude is an academic, a thug, a rapper, a hustler, an activist, a producer, a community worker, a filmmaker, a party animal, a lover, a sista and a BOSS BITCH! 2015 is an exciting year for me because I am dropping my EP and mixtape, a few more music videos and I am directing my first documentary. I am also facilitating my community project called iNtombi Workshop, where we focus on arts education at a high school in Elsies River, my hometown.

OKA: As a coloured woman in Cape Town's rap scene, how do you see your presence being felt?

DSJ: My coloured identity has always been a difficult thing for me to deal with. I am a first generation coloured person, as I come from a mixed race family. I recognise my blackness, even though I am coloured. I feel a great sense of responsibility to my community and to young women, to be a role model and to work hard. I think it is so important for us to have our voices heard, to change voice of the media and to create the climate we want in South Africa!

Keep up with Dope Saint Jude on Facebook, Twitter, SoundCloud, and Tumblr. Download "Keep In Touch" here.

Music

6 Samples From 'Éthiopiques' in Hip-Hop

A brief history of Ethio-jazz cultural exchange featuring songs by Nas & Damian Marley, K'naan, Madlib and more.

This article was originally published on OkayAfrica in March, 2017. We're republishing it here for our Crossroads series.

It's 2000 something. I'm holed up in my bedroom searching for samples to chop up on Fruity Loops. While deep into the free-market jungle of Amazon's suggested music section, I stumble across a compilation of Ethiopian music with faded pictures of nine guys jamming in white suit jackets. I press play on the 30 second sample.

My mind races with the opportunities these breakbeats offered a budding beat maker. Catchy organs, swinging horns, funky guitar riffs, soulful melodies and grainy and pained vocalists swoon over love lost and gained. Sung in my mother tongue—Amharic—this was a far cry from the corny synthesizer music of the 1990s that my parents played on Saturday mornings. I could actually sample this shit.

The next day, I burn a CD and pop it into my dad's car. His eyes light up when the first notes ooze out of the speakers. “Where did you get this?" He asks puzzlingly. “The internet," I respond smiling.

In the 1970s my dad was one of thousands of high school students in Addis Ababa protesting the monarchy. The protests eventually created instability which lead to a coup d'état. The monarchy was overthrown and a Marxist styled military junta composed of low ranking officers called the Derg came to power. The new regime subsequently banned music they deemed to be counter revolutionary. When the Derg came into power, Amha Eshete, a pioneering record producer and founder of Ahma Records, fled to the US and the master recordings of his label's tracks somehow ended up in a warehouse in Greece.

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