This article was originally written and published February 11, 2016. The republished article has been grammatically edited since. All facts correspond to the date of which it was published.
Everyday, Hector Telmo wakes up early in the morning, buttons up a clean ironed shirt, and makes his journey from his tong lau style apartment building in the Kowloon area of the city to the office where he works as a sales representative. Although he may seem to live a typical 24 year old’s life in Hong Kong, he sees himself in his world a little differently than most, and mixes his days into something better for himself. “I get paid to meet people, learn and dream”, he tells me over the phone. To Telmo, otherwise known as SCF- Saint Crossfade one of the city’s rising youths in the arts, aka SAiNT, knowledge is power in the way it enables him to dream great things and to get out there and make it happen.
SAiNT, a Hong Kong-born Filipino has made his way around the local underground music scene for the last six years since he was 15 years old. He started writing his own lyrics and uploading original tracks on Youtube with hip hop English-Tagalog rap group, Quatro Malukas, then found himself expanding his network of musical talents with D.O.P.E. Boy through organizing the H.K.U.G Cyphers, a collaboration of local underground hip-hop artists from diverse cultural backgrounds, featuring the likes of underground Filipino hip hop artist EazyBeatz, Hong Kong-based Indian DJ, DJ Mojito, and Hong Kong-Chinese local underground rapper USB. He’s closed the gap between local Chinese and ethnic minority hip hop artists, performed on stages for Xlarge Live Music & Event Management’s Hip Tu Da Hop Party Volume 2 and has shared the stage with various international emcees for XLarge Live’s 2013 Da Joint of Dragon Tiger Leopard event, in addition to other parties and events all before the age of 23.
However, after a falling out with some members of D.O.P.E Boy, SAiNT has transitioned, working closely with fellow former member, DJ Mojito, from hip hop rap to club music. Making their latest single together, Free Love, for which they also shared a stage performing the song for Beatship HK.
But six years and counting of live performances and music production, on top of a full-time job is not a smooth road. The lyrical artist speaks on keeping his dreams fresh and his momentum consistent in a city that is notorious for its hectic lifestyle and lack of outlets for creative practices, despite its diversity in popular culture.
“It takes faith and guts to keep at it”, he says. Over the years, he’s had his share of downfalls. He admits having momentarily lost his momentum before the break of D.O.P.E Boy, and along the way had to make the decision of letting go of some people in his life as well as sacrificing time with friends and family. He opens up about his experience with his former group and the falling out with some of its members. “I was trying to get ahead, I handled everything from filming the music videos and recording the tracks [but] the others didn’t really want it as much. They were in it for the popularity and the fun that came with producing music”.
Despite that, he’s learned that staying positive has kept his momentum going. “If you enjoy what you’re doing, the world will eventually give it back to you”. In addition to having faith, he insists that realizing what you want is what will prepare you to face the struggles of reaching your goals. That includes being confident in yourself and fearless in approaching people. He also emphasizes the importance of learning as much as you can in the moments you’re in, and “aligning yourself with people who have the same goals as you” and cutting out the ones who won’t help you reach them. “I used to think there was no hope because I was surrounded by people who had no direction”, he says in reference to his experience in D.O.P.E. Boy. “Just do what you love, and love will come to you. The people who have the same interests and goals will align themselves with your goals”. Even when asked about the lack of creative platforms for mainstream musical arts in Hong Kong, he remained optimistic about the range of opportunities that can be found. He states that there are always events happening and that there is a big hub of creative and passionate people, but only a few people who can make it happen.
Yet, it’s not uncommon for ambitious artists to eventually settle for stable jobs to earn a living but according to the rapper / singer-songwriter, even stable jobs can be unstable; when you’re not in a position of control of what happens to the business you work for, nothing is stable. Although he works full-time in sales, he invests his time and income in his music production. “Time is our most valuable asset and the time we spend on not doing what we want is time we can’t buy back with the money we earn from stable jobs”. SAiNT has been fortunate enough to have met with the producer of American-born Hong Kong rap prodigy MC Jin, worked with Singaporean hip-hop artist Shigga Shay, and through his role in Without Equal Productions, he has had the opportunity to meet clients who have enabled him to connect with people of various occupational sectors, from choreographers and dancers to marketing teams. Nonetheless, SAiNT’s list of milestones isn’t credited simply to his good fortune, but also to his confidence in himself and courage in reaching out to people. The concept that art is hard, he claims, is just a mindset. “You have to know what you’re best at and focus on nurturing that”. Being in the sales and marketing industry professionally, he acknowledges the importance of seizing opportunities — considering every person to be potentially beneficial to his career. “Life is like business”, he says, “and business itself is an art form [in the way] you have to strategize and connect the dots”. He also shares that good marketing plays a huge role in getting your name recognized, and that includes marking yourself and reaching out to people. He further elaborates with the use of an analogy of working as a sales person with no experience in the field, “Rejection is out of your control. You can approach 100 people, and stop 10 and if you’re lucky; you can get 2 sales, but the probability of getting 10 out of 10 is just 1”.
SAiNT also prides himself of his hard work and determination. “I never stop. If i think of something, i’ll do it. If I don’t, it stresses me out. I’m always working on something, and when I do, i’m putting it out”.
Now, alongside DJ Mojito, there is a flow of opportunities that allow them the freedom of organizing their own events and parties, in addition to the consent to film in certain bars and clubs if they wanted to. This April, SAiNT has taken up an opportunity to speak out about music and the H.K.U.G Cyphers at the EthniCities: The Art of Seeing Diversity event in Taipei.
To learn more about SAiNT, visit his official page.