Dope St Jude is a young female rapper who sees herself as a media innovator using her music to subvert power dynamics in society.
Catherine (her real name) started South Africa’s first drag king troupe in 2012, which explored different ideas of masculinity, femininity and power. The character Dope St Jude was born out of that experience.
As a long-time hip hop fan, she found a need for a song, character or narrative that reflected her experience. ‘Dope Saint Jude is the experience of a young brown girl in South Africa, moving in the hip hop scene. She defines her own femininity and imposes her own power dynamic, instead of conforming to the idea femininity that is imposed by society,’ says the rapper.
Originally from Matroosfontein, Elsies River in the Cape Flats, she feels very strongly about keeping her style of rap authentic and local, whether that means not adjusting her accent or tackling specific subjects in her music. Owning her space as a woman is equally important to her and so is showing pride in one’s identity. She feels like cultural icons have a responsibility to promote local pride. ‘It is important that influential cultural icons enforce self-love, not just in their music but also in what they put in their videos. Where I come from is not shameful, it is exciting and cool and me.’ She adds that she admires local rappers like Okmalumkoolkat, Umlilo, Boyz N Bucks and Capser Nyovest who all promote the idea that local is cool.
She also makes reference herself as being a brown girl, an idea that encompasses all black, mixed and coloured girls, in her music and throughout the conversation. Coming from a mixed race family informs a lot of her thought process, ‘I speak of being a brown girl, but I do understand that I do have more privilege than say a black girl from say Khayelitsha.’ Noting that the struggle of both black and coloured women resonates with her.
On being a feminist, St Jude says that although she identifies as a one, she does not self-identify with any one of the dominant waves. Instead, her feminism is informed by her environment, hip hop, Cape Town and her gender identity.
The aesthetics for her latest video, Keep In Touch featuring Angel Ho, see her overturn gender stereotypes by firstly having her character placed in a scrap yard (a space typically associated with masculinity) and having Angel-Ho, a male, in a hair salon (a space typically associated with femininity). The lyrics are mostly communicated in Gayle – a local, coloured, underground dialect that was used by homosexual men during apartheid, using women’s names in the place of certain expressions.
St Jude also mentions her love of fashion and stresses the importance of sartorial pride, describing her style as androgynous. The styling in the video, which also subverts gender stereotypes, sees her dressed as a hyper feminine, regal, scrap yard queen. This femininity is then juxtaposed with a more masculine street style, which sees her wearing local designers Chloe Hugo-Hamman and 2Bop.
Dope St Jude is currently working on her full EP which is due out in October. She is also working with Two Spinning Wheels productions on a documentary about her experiences over the past year.