With The Renaissance Project launching next month, Editorial Revolutionary Juwan J. Holmes is publishing his 3 PhotoViews from his time at Humans of Hip Hop in their originating, unfiltered format, in addition to two previously unreleased PhotoViews — including this one. This serves as a preview of the kind of content or topics of discussion that will happen at The Renaissance.
In October, Stylist, Designer and DJ saint oms ventured on his own from Brevard County, Florida to New York City. Creator of his own clothing, 𝖌𝖑🌑𝖙𝖍𝖜𝖗𝖑𝖉, saint is a revolutionary in search for an audience, even if the audience hasn’t found him yet. The weight of his journey is still substantial but he has remained tall throughout.
“The tree words go like this — fuck these niggas, or fuck them niggas. Reason why — just so I don’t go down being completely ignorant on this shit — hip hop was groundbreaking, was it not? Like it was definitely a planetary shift, if I’m not mistaken. Like when it hit, it hit below the belt type shit, and the only type of people that really changed the culture, ever, are the kind of people that wake up, looked themselves in the mirror, and said ‘fuck them niggas’, or ‘fuck these niggas’, or ‘man…fuck them niggas.’ Say ‘fuck it’ and move on, feel me? keep doing you, ’cause eventually they’re gonna catch on.”
So, tell us who you are.
“My name is saint oms. I also go by Omar, that’s my name.”
What makes you a Human of Hip Hop?
“I don’t know. Would I be a complete hip hop nerd if I went 5 Pillars [of Hip Hop]? I mean, how horrible would that be?”
I mean, it’s whatever describes you most.
“Okay, well, I definitely DJ, I graffiti, I emcee as well — I have links for all of these, if they are requested. Let me see, I’m up on knowledge — and I forgot the last pillar [breakdancing], but it’s one I don’t partake in. Point is, like, of the five pillars — Oh, my God, I could tell a whole story. I think I might.”
“I’m like, maybe in sixth grade, my parents bought me my first clock radio. Before that, I grew up in a very West Indian household, so my dad is Trinidadian and my mom’s from Queens, so I mean things were very, very strict and very limited, music wise. Like, you would listen to a lot of reggae, a lot of soca, a lot of neo-soul, shit like that, and that’s it. Occasionally some — not rap — occasionally some rock, whatever. The point is, they bought me this clock radio, right? I go in my room, I’m listening to 95.1, I’m like, ‘oh shit, is this Lil’ Wayne? Is this ‘Ye? Is this Who? What? huh, huh?’ And I go and I have the internet, too, so I’m like, googling shit, seeing who’s who, dada dada da, I’m looking at features, looking at all of this. At this point, I began to teach myself hip hop, you feel me? There was nobody for me to put me on to hip hop, so to speak. I deadass taught myself. And with that, I was also writing spoken word and drawing graphic novels at the time and shit and so, I was always…
“Tell me if I’m talking too much.”
You can talk as much as you want.
“Alright, cool, cool. But yeah, from there, bruh, I was really drawing graphic novels and writing my own poetry and shit, and I’m hearing these beats and I was like, ‘Damn, I could really write this to that, but would that be corny? Like, would I sound like the guys’ — I sound like a straight cartoon, I swear to God. — ‘Would I be like the guys, that show up to the singing shows and they go up and audition with their own songs? Would I be like that, or is that actually a thing people do? Because, like, how do rappers become rappers? I don’t know.’
In my household, it was always fables about how Bob Marley became a thing; Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu became a thing; Sade, Tarrus Riley, you know…never Notorious B.I.G., Pac — what? Oh, my God. My dad never let me wear Jays, too. I’ve never had a pair of Jays in my life, in my life, nor have I ever wanted any…just because he thought they were gang shoes, so I never had, like, colored shoes…ever. Ever. If anything, I had like the Navy Converse? I had that, high top, low-top — I had mad Chucks. Chucks for days, bruh — but I never had no fucking Jays. And I was really excluded from that part of hip hop culture, but that also formed how I carried myself, because, if you don’t have Jays, you can’t do Jays-kind of outfits, right? So you have to do other shit, like shit that niggas that wear Converse wear, or shit that niggas that wear Vans wear, stuff like that, you know.”
So what makes you hip hop isn’t the Jays or the upbringing, it’s the…what?
“I would say it’s how it hits you, man, to be honest. I feel like it’s subjective.”
So how did it hit you?
“It hit me, it hit me…awkward. It hit me… It threw me off balance. Feel me? I’m walking around thinking about all kinds of bitches and hoes and shit, when I never heard of that shit prior. I’m like, what the fuck is a Doggystyle? What is The Chronic, what is all this shit? Why is his name Doctor Dre? I thought he was beefing with him…but then in this picture they’re clapping each other up and shit, but then he shot him, oh, but then…they’re all dead now. Come on, and they got shot?
“And now…so I’m from Florida, and X [XXXTentacion] got shot, and died…and I was deadass, the distance from my house to that very spot, is that far from where buddy got popped down. I went in the Apple Store to try to charge my shit, and I just went on Pitchfork, fucking around on the iPads like I could afford that shit when I couldn’t, like, ‘yeah, I’m a bad bitch…’” *Laughs* “I’m punching in like ’Yo, Yo, let me check my email real quick…’ you feel me? And I’m on Pitchfork, hip hop stories, pop music and pop culture source… Breaking news: …. And I was just like, ‘no, that’s crazy.’ The first event I ended up going to of his — this man’s music really saved me from killing myself — the first event of his I went to, was his funeral. You feel me? And that, bro, within itself, was so hip hop. You saw people from every neck of the woods…I saw a nigga from Afghanistan, that flew to watch X be put into the ground, type shit. Complex there, I saw Jinx, all of them in their off-white, this and that, all their hip hop drip, feel me? I’m just like, damn.
“But hip hop, taught me how to express myself. I guess I’ll give you the definition I saw on Urban Dictionary, it’s like, ‘a way of being…’
Well, is that your definition?
“I would say yeah, I would say yeah. I think that’s fair…to be hip hop…it’s kind of like, I used to study like to be a rasta. My household was that West Indian. They ain’t even with that shit, but I was just like, ‘Yeah, Rastafara’, like, ‘boop, boop, boop’, you feel me? ‘You know what I mean?’” *Laughs*
“Anyway, Anyway. Yeah, I used to study to be a rasta, and they would talk about how it’s offensive to call a rasta a Rastafarian, because it’s not a -ism, you know, it’s not a diet where you can choose or un-choose, when you feel like it. It’s not -It’s a way of life, a way of being. So I feel like, being rastafarite, I don’t know, being devout Muslim, devout Buddhist or some shit, it’s just the same as being hip-hop. You can almost call it a religion of some sort. It’s definitely socially constructed.”
“I don’t know if I went to deep with that…we can go deeper if you want, a little…”
So, you say it’s like a religion.
“Of sorts, yeah.”
So what would be the first commandment of this religion?
“I mean, it’s tree words, bruh, it tree words, bruh, it’s tree words. The tree words go like this — fuck these niggas, or fuck them niggas. Reason why — just so I don’t go down being completely ignorant on this shit — hip hop was groundbreaking, was it not? Like it was definitely a planetary shift, if I’m not mistaken. Like when it hit, it hit below the belt type shit, and the only type of people that really changed the culture, ever, are the kind of people that wake up, looked themselves in the mirror, and said ‘fuck them niggas’, or ‘fuck these niggas’, or ‘man…fuck them niggas.’ Say ‘fuck it’ and move on, feel me? keep doing you, ’cause eventually they’re gonna catch on. Now, songs…Niggas used to actually sit and listen to albums, now we only listen to the first hot shit, the newest hot shit…and it’s a minute and 30 seconds long. Whereas niggas used to come, go, ‘Yo, you got that new dada dada da record?’ And it was actually — [signifying a vinyl record] — like, this fucking big? You feel me? You know what I’m talking about. And we don’t even know, but we know. We call ourselves 90’s babies, when we don’t know what the fuck that shit was like, we wasn’t poppin’ in the ‘90s! We weren’t this age, moving around, doing shit, fucking whoever, doing whatever — nah, we’re babies, we’re products of those people — and we claim that time because of the beautiful hip hop culture that came out of it. It literally is a way of life. We have our own history and everything.
So, what’s your favorite part of hip hop?
“I would say the individuality, sir, I would definitely say the individuality.”
What about it?
“Well, there’s always one point I find, where one of these old head kind of has to shut up, and say, ‘aye, aye, aye, look, remember it’s niggas like him that changed it for us, way back when, so you gotta let him rock, or let her rock, y’all gotta let whatever’s happening happen, no matter how much you want to get your panties up in a bunch about it, and I feel like because of that I feel like it’s an environment where everyone can succeed. It’s an environment where everyone is included, it’s just a matter of…I don’t know, it being the right time for what you’re trying to come with next.
“This seems dramatic, but I’m just reaching for my chap stick. The purpose of this outfit was to look rosy…I don’t feel rosy.” *Laughs* It’s fine.
*Laughs* “Leave the outfit part in there.”
*Laughs* Okay, what was I going to say…
So, who do you think, is there somebody out there now that’s an ‘old head’, that’s saying it’s ‘okay’, or helping the change go forward?
“Change the state of what, exactly?”
The state of hip hop in general, you said it’s always that one person in the system?
“I don’t think it’s ever one singular person, I feel like it’s just — just how we’re all able to tolerate different shit, it’s different people that go ‘you know what, I can give so and so a pass’, kind of how like it hurt, but a lot of these New York niggas were like, ‘yeah, we gotta give 6ix9ine a pass’, ’cause it’s niggas that troll like him that…you know what I’m saying? So they couldn’t get too, too mad at him, you know? It was, somebody…Joe Budden, that was like, ‘I gotta kind of be okay with X, I’m kind of okay with X now because I like the bad guy, everyone likes a good bad guy, everyone likes a good joker, you can’t love the good without the bad’, and that whole saga between him [XXXTentacion] and Ski Mask was interesting for that reason, you know? I just think it’s mad people right now. Right now, I would definitely say Ebro and them.
“Like, the way that they chopped down that Lil’ Nas X record, because…the beat is ripped, the verses are shit, so Dave East was definitely correct, but you would be bugging if you did say that that record was not a damn banger — and it also fits the time criterium, for what niggas are willing to put up with these days. Like, we don’t want no 10 minute song. I’m sorry, I don’t care how fire it is at 7 minutes and 30 seconds, like, we’re not going after that, no, it’s the first minute and 30. Even the DJ is not going to listen to a song that that’s long. How do I know it’s not just you saying the same shit over the same beat for 10 minutes, you feel me?
“But yeah, I feel like they were really brave for doing that, where other people were scared or too uninformed to mention that the beat wasn’t unintentional, it was obvious Billy Ray Cyrus was hopping on this shit, and his verses are actually shit. But how do we actually know this nigga actually owns horses? How do we actually know if he owns a Porsche, how do we know if he’s not just capping all the time? In that case, he’s no different from every nigga that caps on a damn song.
Is capping okay?
“I mean, yeah, ’cause it’s a big part of hip hop culture, but you got to like cap when you can, I feel like you can’t come out cappin’, you know, you can’t come out lying from the jump, ’cause then who are you? That’s how you become a damn MC Hammer ass nigga. And then, get way over your head and devoids you of everything. That’s my personal opinion. Like, ever since I moved out here, I’ve heard a lot of people say ‘you gotta fake it ‘till you make it’ out here, ’cause niggas is not gonna fuck with you, if you talking about the bottom or the beginning all the time. Like, you’ve been ‘beginning’ for how long, bro? Why don’t you have anything? Why don’t you have any returns on your investment?’ But, where I’m from, people tell you straight up, ‘I don’t care’. We don’t have to lie or pretend, like the Kendrick Lamar record, ‘you don’t have to lie to kick it, deadass, you don’t have to lie. I will tell you.’ I don’t care if you’re on or not. But yeah, I feel like that mentality is so hip hop as well because there’s so many tales about, I don’t know, someone pulling up to the club and they got fake ice on, just so they can get back into the section and talk to so-and-so, who knows DJ so-and-so, who knows the Editor-In-Chief at The Source or some shit, you know? Random stuff like that.
What about those situations where like, Joe Budden is not okay with the Migos, or Nicki Minaj is not okay with Cardi B, or Remy Ma is not okay with Nicki, and on and on?
“That’s the culture, though. The culture is inclusive of beef.”
Well, I don’t mean beef, but when they say the new thing is not okay.
“I mean, that’s personal opinion, but again, like, there’s always going to be like, ‘okay…I guess…we could give it to them this once…’ and then years later — ‘okay, we gave it to her, and y’all are saying I wasn’t on the bandwagon back then’ — when you actually weren’t, it was like a forced hand type of acceptance, not ‘okay, this is me of sober mind and intention, accepting that I was okay with this,’ you get me?
“But also…stanning is a big part of hip hop, too.” *Laughs*
So, how do you feel that hip hop has treated you?
“Treated me? Hip hop…was faithful. Was definitely faithful. Definitely, definitely faithful. I don’t know, I don’t feel like hip hop has fucked me over, I don’t feel like defending the culture has had me going out sad, it’s a dope community to be a part of, especially from the perspective of where I’m at now. Like, being a DJ and using a hip hop medium to mix a plethora of genres, whether that be with or without hip hop. You get me? So like, sometimes I might be mixing EDM with trap music with alternative, wrap that all up with some goddamn…Big K.R.I.T. or some shit. Hip hop. Or just, exclude the hip hop entirely; or do an entire hip hop mix. But deejaying gives me a really interesting perspective on the landscape of music as it changes, and it really gives me a good opportunity to appreciate everything that hip hop is.”
So within the religion of Hip Hop, where is the DJ at?
“The DJ, you can say the DJ is in a couple of different places. You could say, according to Shaolin the Fantastic and them…okay?” *Laughs* “That was a joke, a dad joke…” *Laughs* “…but a joke nonetheless. You can say that according to Shaolin the Fantastic and ’em, that the DJ is the father of hip hop, because we create the get down. I do get down all the time. It is beautiful. I’m just like — ‘Yo, so many bags, in this bag, that I’m creating, right now, because hip hop…and I want to produce music…’ — says every DJ that does some cool shit, right? Then I may be doing that with or without hip hop.
“Sorry, I got sidetracked. But, before there was hip hop, there was the DJ that was taking soul music and R&B and all that other shit and just like, mixing it together to make the part that niggas rapped on. You know? It’s like, the MC and the DJ, God…everything goes together so well, because the MC is rapping on what the DJ did, but niggas knew about the function from the Graffiti!”
So, is DJ like one of the  Disciples, or maybe Joseph or…
“I would say they’re closer to the alter, bro, I would say they’re closer to like, actually making the murals and setting plays and actually writing the shit.”
So they’re right up there.
“Yeah. The emcees are like, the pastors. Alright, so like, if we’re looking in the Catholic Church. The…father…is the one sitting all the way in the back, I believe?”
Oh, I couldn’t tell you exactly. *Laughs*
“Last time, I went to the Catholic Church, it went like that, years ago, so the father is basically sitting all the way back there, making sure everything’s going straight, but he really orchestrated the whole thing…then you have the preacher, the pastor, who be talking — that’s the MC. Then you have, dancing, break dancing and shit, which — choir, choir.”
Yeah, yeah, that makes sense.
“I don’t know who’s in the audience though. Knowledge, maybe — because it’s being past from all these, and here you have your church — if that makes it five.”
Who’s the deity of this church?
“Music.” *Snaps* “Music.”
“Mary Jane plants outside, Mary Jane plants, yeah…but the DJ is like the Ankh, so to speak, and the DJ is the Cross, and if you know about the Cross and the Ankh, the — again, hip hop teaches knowledge — the Ankh is like the female, the soil, and the Cross is the male, so it’s basically said that both of those are required to have, those two are present in everything. Male and female energy, so to speak, their representation in everything. Even down to sacred geometry, and that’s another thing hip hop taught me, that’s like…knowledge of the world that we can’t see, but we know that is there…um, really just take time out and look that way, or whatever way up is from where we are.
“I hope all of this can be heard.”
Yeah, it should be. Do you think there’s enough feminine energy in hip hop right now?
“…Um, I’m gonna say no, man. I’m gonna say no because hip hop was initially started back when ‘cool stuff’ was more of a boy’s club. So, hip hop became one of these institutions by default, and became…and was grown up as, ‘boys club’. And so, we don’t have many females, and whenever we do get a female that can actually spit or got shit to talk about, what she gonna do? Rap, but also rap about her pussy a thousand times. It sounds obnoxious, but it also makes you think about how many times you listen to a song about a nigga rapping about his dick, or putting his dick in somebody, or at somebody as an insult, like, ‘why do I really care where you’re putting your dick, bruh?’ Answer me that…but you’re not smashing nothing. Like, Lil’ Pump is talking all these times he put his dick in porn stars and shit, but bruh, you just turned 18, right? You just turned legal, huh, you just turned legal, but making everybody sign contracts. Why don’t you just, not talk about it? Like, come on.
“Hip Hop taught me a lot of rules about the streets, too, like I ain’t never really ever lived on some street shit, just because, my mom is a doctor, and um, we was east side and living in really nice neighborhoods and shit, but like, hip hop really taught me a lot about the other side of things, so when I stepped outside my parent’s house, I wasn’t so culture shocked to things. Like, ‘oh, y’all don’t do this? Y’all don’t do this? Okay.’ I was very kind of blessed with that. Hip Hop is like, ‘there’s a war going on outside, you just inside with the door shut…okay, cool. We out here dying, when you ready, when you’re ready to look this way.”
If you weren’t doing hip hop, what would you be doing?
“If I wasn’t doing…that’s an interesting way to ask that question.” *Laughs*
“If I wasn’t doing hip hop, I’d probably…” *sighs*
“I’m not gonna lie, I’d be doing something very similar, but it wouldn’t be near, as close — I wouldn’t be near as happy as what I’m doing now. I’d probably be through college, doctor…everything my parents wanted me to do, you know?
Do you feel like being a doctor is close to being Hip Hop?
“It could be, but it wouldn’t necessarily be for me, you know? Because, like, that’s not me…setting my own tone, setting my own trend, that’s not me doing me, that’s me doing what somebody else wanted me to be, like I…hip hop told me that I should just pack up me and a girlfriend I wasn’t necessarily sure about, and her cat, and throw everything into a minivan in October, 2018, when shit was about to get cold-ish in Florida, to where it’s COLD-T! in New York, get broken up with, all this other shit, and how to move along with that, and meet somebody that’s perfect, and how to nurture that relationship, feel me? Like, hip hop is bigger than that, my ex.”
Did Hip Hop help you get through that?
“Yeah, um, I had nobody that I could really talk to about it, for real, because my living situation, we were still living together…but, I had already taken that step where I connected my relationship to my friends and my family, so my one cousin that I have here, just one guy, and she was DM-ing him to try to get the low down on what I was doing, and my friends, too, so I was like, ‘yeah, you know what, let me just not talk to niggas, let me not tell people shit’, so I’m walking around, listening to my favorite record, that being “Rodeo” by Travis Scott, feel me? Whenever I got to think about some stuff or whatever, I’m definitely just…Travis Scott…listening to that shit, over and over, until, I finally felt better.”
What if you were rejected by Hip Hop in a similar way that you felt like you were before? If people didn’t fuck with you, or fuck with your work.
“I mean, that’s kind of me right now, because…people aren’t fucking with me being honest, and I’m being put in a situation where I should probably start lying, kind of like puff out my chest a little bit and make myself a little bigger than what I am, when in reality — I should cap a little more, I should exaggerate my resume some, small things, things that might have to happen in order for me to make way. It’s sad to admit, but it’s the truth.”
Say, what if there were record label execs or big producers or big people in the industry, and they just didn’t want you or your work, would that hurt you?
“I mean, it would sting…because, it was never my goal, never really my goal to sign, I want to be as independent as possible. However…it would just suck to know that there weren’t after me or like, trying to sign me around every corner and shit, ’cause, ‘Hey, his shit sucks anyway! You know, he might fizzle out after the next record — oh, they still love him? Cool, cool, ’cause I think he’s going to flop.’ Like, I would like to have them wanting me and me like, ‘No, no…no, you’re silly, stop, no, I’m not going to sign, no, sorry, I’m not going to go to your walkthrough, no, I’m not going to take these deals…I don’t want it.’
What’s the latest thing you’ve learned, the latest lesson you’ve learned in hip hop?
“Latest lesson I’ve learned…is probably…probably…just to…I don’t know.”
“The latest lesson, man…sometimes we got to grind under pressure. If you know, on one hand, it’s bad sometimes…we all know about sales, when they get down, we can do certain things, we’re capable of certain things, but sometimes we’re just can’t, certain things we deadass cannot. I know there’s certain times that I have, when I’m just like…’yo, I could buckle, and I could say I’m a bitch and I don’t care, because I’m just gonna be in my bubble for a second, I would go with less heart. Just because I can’t, when I know I have a path to…I know I don’t have to close up shop that day, I don’t have to all that shit, because, the thing about it is — as much as it sucks, it’s not the person that’s the most talented that wins at hip hop or in hip hop, but a lot of times it’s the people that out last the talent, that out last the competition, so to speak. It’s never really, ‘oh yeah, I’m the best, so I’m here.’ It’s like, okay, had the rest of us stayed at it one more day or one more year, we’d be up there with you.”
So would you rather be the best in the moment, or last for as long as possible?
“I’d rather my work last as long as possible. I don’t care about the rest of my being, my goal is ultimate time travel. You feel me? Time travel in the wave of having my work being so prolific that my name is spoke ages after I’m gone, or eons after I’m dead — put me in the history books somewhere. I don’t even need to be a Martin Luther King, I don’t need a day! I don’t need a whole month to be commemorated because of me, I just want to be part of the conversation, that’s all. Like, as weird as it is, as hard as I go, I don’t want to be the best, I just want to be like, arguably cool. I don’t know, I don’t have to close up shop as much, you know? Oh yeah, I’m sorry, time travel — So, I’m basically trying to be part of the conversation. Like, you can’t just say Kanye West is the best rapper alive. You can’t just say Lil’ Wayne is the best rapper alive. You have to say like, certain people, are in that conversation. You can’t say, uh, Childish Gambino is a horrible rapper because, yeah, he doesn’t put out enough quality music for what he puts out — when in reality, he’s an amazing artist — he’s a professional dabbler. He makes a practice of dipping his hands in different things, as frequently as possible. So I’m saying, I don’t really want to go down as one thing.
If you could tell people in Hip Hop one thing, what would it be?
“I would basically tell them, you got to keep going. The thing is, in life, what I’ve learned is that the people that are most successful at whatever they do, they’re always testing, they’re always reworking the master plan — not the master plan, but the master strategy, so to speak. I feel like as members of this community, of this paradigm, believers in this paradigm, so to speak — we should also do the same thing. Just because you’re from this neighborhood or from this city or from this whatever, doesn’t mean — and this is also how people try to go about what you’re trying to do, where you’re from — is not really asking you what to do. You don’t necessarily have to know, one of the million ways to scam this bag, so yeah…so if you just work, and you constantly read and constantly think and get yourself ready for it, you’re bound to find the right way, one of the ways to accomplishing whatever it is you’re trying to do, to accomplish. But if everyone wants the same thing, so to speak, ‘cause…I don’t know. It could not be the right thing. You might need more weed. You might need a little drink — whatever’s the right mixture, you know? We might just need to meditate, we might just need to whatever, you know? Whatever meditate means to you, meditate, pray, do your meditations, whatever the hell. Get yourself right and then it will come to you. It something that everyone’s capable of, but we don’t all have the patience to do it. Some people can do…the physical form of meditation, which is yoga, but can’t sit still long enough to just…meditate. Some people meditate by getting zen over shit. But just really keep trying, because even [after] one stop, you still got it.
My last question — at any point, what will it say on your tombstone, or your epitaph? What’s the one word or phrase?
“It’s probably gonna sound hella tacky, but I don’t care. On my tombstone, it’s gonna look like thi…’Magikarp turn Gyrados’. Yo. Dat way, Dat way. From a little runt in the litter — yeah, a little ‘Magikarp, turn Gyrados’. Not even the run of my litter, because I’m the oldest of my parent’s kids — Omar means first, all this other shit. One person that you would not expect someone to come up, for the city, for its people, for the culture, for the life in itself, all that good shit…and I. After doing it. I basically died and quit before I could be judged.
“So, I’m now part of the ‘22’ club, feel me, all this is going to go down in history, and I won’t be 22 when I die — because I’m 24. So, yeah, my point is, I want to make sure I’m prolific. ‘Magikarp becomes Gyrados.’”