A premature victory lap is the best way to describe SAINt JHN‘s latest album, While The World Was Burning. After a 19-year-old from Kazakhstan remixed ‘Roses‘, the American-Guyanese rapper was thrusted into the true spotlight. Amassing over a billion streams on Spotify, that remix defined 2020 through its explosion on TikTok. That remix also spun into other remixes featuring Futureand J Balvin. It also reached the top 5 of the US Billboard 100, while topping the charts in various other countries.
Even though the album was released on November 20th, it was reworked to add an additional track featuring Kanye West called ‘Smack DVD‘ in the middle of the project, while also moving Gorgeous from fourth in the track order to tenth.
While The World Was Burning contains two songs that are reworked versions from his previous album, as well as Future’s Roses remix, making only ten of the songs on the album new music. The original ‘Monica Lewinsky‘ was featured on Ghetto Lenny’s Love Songs and featured A Boogie wit da Hoodie. This version includes some additional instrumentals, a new verse from A Boogie, and an additional verse from DaBaby.
Also from Ghetto Lenny’s Love Songs is ‘High School Reunion‘, a song about his fears of being alone and hurting the women in his life. This version includes a new verse from SAINt JHN, and a Lil Uzi Vert feature.
While The World Was Burning is just a capsule of vibes. What the album lacks in a true attempt of substance and depth it makes up in the production and features.
Sonically SAINt JHN has found what works for him. From sharing ariose vocals with 6LACK and Kehlani on ‘Ransom‘ (which also takes the crown for the best feature) to the horns on ‘Freedom is Priceless‘, he flips with regularity between rapping and crooning.
With the exception of the A Boogie’s verse on Monica Lewinsky, the other standout feature comes towards the end with JID’s verse on ‘Quarantine Wifey‘.
The rest of the features are just middle-of-the-road verses from artists that have produced unremarkable music this year. Kanye’s verses on ‘Pray 4 Me‘ and ‘Smack DVD‘ are fine for what they are as he raps about how he can call Elon Musk and Donald Trump.
The success of ‘Roses’ hasn’t really translated to this album. To date ‘Gorgeous’ and ‘Sucks To Be You‘, the two singles released ahead of the album did not chart on Billboard Hot 100 but the album has peaked at 34 on the Billboard 200, and 16 on the Top R&B/Hip Hop Album chart.
The thing is if artists like Kanye West, Future, and Lil Uzi Vert want you to release an album, you should probably do it. But are you doing it for the validation of other artists, or are you doing it because you care about the product you’re producing?