It’s not often a figure like Daniel Sebuyange comes our way, and rarer still at such a remarkably young age. The rapper, writer and producer, better known as BLUE SAINT, is barely out of his teens, yet unleashed a stunningly ambitious debut record in 2014 with the lengthy EP Enter Mynd Part One. A concept album set amid the grimy, dystopian milieu of his semi-fictional city of Mynd, it’s audaciously ambitious, a vivid, realised vision from a mind, it’s worth remembering, that’s still just 20 years old.
Yet when we meet the man behind that mind, Sebuyange is completely understated. “It’s my third or fourth [interview] – I’m still not very good at it,” he says with a self-effacing smile as we begin our conversation. “I’m starting to settle with it…” Soon, though, we’re on the subject of his record, the Congolese-born MC spilling out his vast visions on amazing tangents of enthusiasm and urgency.
“In part one it chronicles Blue Saint,” he explains of the story behind the record, “like, a few weeks in the life of Blue Saint. We enter Mynd, this place called Mynd, on the intro track. Then the story follows Blue Saint in the high-rise part, where there’s prosperity; then near the end of the story Razor Raze, the antagonist, wants to create chaos, social upheaval. You start hearing him more.”
It’s a fictional vision, in which Sebuyange plays both characters himself, that’s been a long time in the making. The musician became part of Writing On The Wall’s Liverpool Young Writers scheme at just 12, and along with music there’s a strong literary bent to his influences. “Yeah I love literature,” he enthuses on the subject. “It varies just as much as my music taste. Right now I’m into George Orwell, Aldous Huxley and Yevgeny Zamyatin, but then I really like Harry Potter! It varies; it’ll go from Harry Potter to Yevgeny Zamyatin… Genre-wise I’m into sci-fi, fantasy, dystopias. They’re just weird, strange, out there.”
“I’m into story-writing; before I started rapping, I wrote stories and stuff,” Daniel continues on the link between literature and his music. “When I was really young I’d imagine I was different people in a story. Before I chose the name Blue Saint I had this name ‘Razor’, but then I didn’t really feel like the name fit well with what I was trying to express. The theme of the EP is dichotomy, duality. As human beings we’ll have two sides to ourselves, different emotions and what-not… It touches on my experience, what I’ve been through, but also uses the alter-egos to express it more.”
It’s not just writing and rapping that are the strings to this artist’s bow, however. Daniel also flexes his muscles as an actor alongside a straightforward university degree, and allows all of that breadth of experience to inform his music. It’s perhaps understandable, too, that it took a measured few moments to decipher which of his myriad musical routes to actually follow.
“I took a break from music for a year to find myself, figure out what I actually want to do,” Daniel remembers. “The EP shows the style I always wanted to go down but I was afraid to put in voices, skits and sounds. I thought I’d have to just sound like a normal, standard rapper. I was kind of afraid of doing that, then I took a year out and spent time listening to artists like Janelle [Monae] and Kendrick [Lamar]. I saw Kanye West saying ‘Just do you! Just do you!’”
It’s an ambitious effort, reminiscent in embryo of that new brand of far-reaching conceptual urban music pioneered by Monae and Lamar, and it’s a reach Daniel was aware of from the off. “It’s weird,” he says of his earliest sessions. “When I first came in I always had an idea of a concept for the EP, ages ago. I remember being younger, I created characters.”
“I’d already made that alter-ego, and when I went to the studio about three years ago – [he corrects himself] got given the opportunity to go to the studio – I didn’t really know if people would wanna hear the big concept thing as a first release. So I went to the studio and thought ‘I’ll just release a mixtape, random songs’, whereas I was talking to the sound engineer and I remember telling him about this concept and saying ‘I’m gonna release it in two years, when I’ve got a bit more of a name’.”
“But he said ‘you should definitely go with it’. That definitely encouraged me, and I remember telling other people about it and them saying ‘that sounds really sick, you should go with it.’” And go with it he did, the finished result a vivid, embryonic 42 minutes that hints at a vision vastly beyond his years. Once a filmic, introductory title-track gives way to Welcome, a masterful flow begins to reveal itself recoiling against a leaping instrumental of string-laced beats. Frankenstein reveals a sinister flipside of glitchy electronics and an unhinged, distorted vocal, while there’s also a sumptuous injection of mellow diversity on Conscientia, and the record’s highlight, Lamith Tramell, unveils an affably swaggering boom bap edge.
In short, it’s a remarkable first official effort, and sticks out for more than just its quality in a Merseyside that, while indefatigably well endowed when it comes to the arts, is still left lacking a little when it comes to the likes of his own stylistics. Though he argues that “There’s a few more people doing hip hop, but we need more: not just hip hop, new musical genres.”
Enter Mynd Part One reveals a vast breadth of influence, pulling together that aforementioned literary edge and a deep-seated surrounding of music in the rapper’s own life which informs that desire for an infusion of the new. “It was a natural thing as there was always music there, around me, whether it was Congolese-based tunes, hip hop or RnB. I’d listen to music from my country, a lot of RnB, Beyoncé and stuff. It was maybe around ten that I started listening to more hip hop. I think that’s why I’ve always been into a lot of different music styles; I’ve always listened to other sounds.”
So will we see those other sounds informing on the upcoming part two of the concept? A branching out towards neo-soul, for example? “I don’t know about that,” Daniel muses. “I’ve already been incorporating it into the music I’ve been making. The only reason I don’t think I could do a neo-soul album and stuff is I’m an… OK singer. I’d love to incorporate them a lot more, though.”
Whatever shape it’s going to take, the process is already very much in the works when it comes to the next chapter. “I’ve already come up with the beats, collaborated with a few of my friends, producing on the side and figuring out what sound I’m going for, and shaping the storyline as well.” We can only wait with an open Mynd, then, for the next move from this most remarkable of rising stars.
Words: Paddy Clarke / @paddyclarke
Enter Mynd Part One is available to purchase now from bluesaint.bandcamp.com.
Thanks to the people at Liverpool Central Library for letting us use the Picton Reading Room for this photo shoot.