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Jimmy DaSaint: Speaking From The Streets.

November 5, 2014

JimmyDaSaintSmallText by Jared Whalen. Image by Marie Alyse Rodriguez.

“I’m from the streets,” says former federal inmate Jimmy DaSaint, a man of many titles. “I’ve been through it all and I’ve seen it all. The music industry, the streets, the drug dealing, prison. I’ve been shot and I’m saying, ‘I’ve been through it.’”

DaSaint is a multitalented artist with a colorful past. His persistent work ethic has launched him into the spotlight as an urban novelist and icon in the Philadelphia rap community.

But as often is the case, ambitious minds have dark motivators.

As a youth, DaSaint was introduced to the harsh realities of the West Philadelphia streets. By the time he was 15, he says he was arrested multiple times for burglary, trespassing and fighting.

DaSaint managed to pull his life together and graduate from high school. In the early ’90s, he fronted the rap group Inner City Hustlers and began making a name for himself in Philadelphia.

In 1995, tragedy struck when four members of the I.C.H. family were murdered in a small Philadelphia row home. The horrors of violence continued in 1997, DaSaint recounts, when he was shot multiple times, leaving him in a coma for a month.

Upon his recovery, the members of I.C.H. regrouped and attempted to rebuild their legacy. These ambitions, however, were short-lived.

In 2000, DaSaint was arrested for the distribution of narcotics. At the time, he was in his late 20s.  He was sentenced to spend the next decade of his life in a federal prison.

Making the best of a bad situation, DaSaint made the conscientious decision to start fresh. Rather than dwelling on what would happen after his release, he used his incarceration to create something from his experiences.

While in prison, DaSaint began writing novels. Drawing from his life, his writings became relatable stories of street life and gang violence.

“I just had so much to talk about,” DaSaint says.

DaSaint says he wrote more than 25 novels while locked up. In 2003, A&B Distributors, a Brooklyn-based publisher, discovered his work and signed him to a two-book publishing deal. Since then, 15 of his novels have been published, and he says he has 15 more ready to go. His books often surround familiar themes of street violence, drugs and hip-hop culture and they frequently use Philadelphia as the geographic backdrop.

“That’s why my novels stand out,” DaSaint says. “It’s coming from a real individual who went through real situations in life. I had to face them, but I’ve overcome them all.”

Upon his release in 2009, the artist quickly began rebuilding.

“It wasn’t bad for me,” DaSaint says. “I had a name in the book world and in the music world. It was just gradually getting back in the swing of things.”

In addition to promoting his books, DaSaint began publishing Urban Celebrity Magazine, a hip-hop lifestyle print publication.

“Stay persistent,” is DaSaint’s mantra.

“Jimmy has true fans that extend past the bars of his core readers,” says Tiona Brown, managing editor of Urban Celebrity Magazine. “Although many of his fans are incarcerated, I’ve seen his books capture a diverse population.”

For the last four years, he has put his focus on music. He runs his own publishing company, DaSaint Entertainment, which produces hip-hop and R&B groups and promotes concerts throughout the city. He works with several artists, including Young Savage, Brill Gates and FYI. And he runs the Philly Hip-Hop Awards.

DaSaint and I.C.H. have regrouped, releasing multiple albums and singles, including the group’s 2013 album, Riding on my Enemies.

“I’m just doing a lot,” DaSaint says. “But I do it for the city.”

DaSaint plans to keep pushing forward with his music and publishing. While he says writing is on the backburner, he has still managed to write three books since his release from prison. Future endeavors include expanding into script-writing and movie production.

DaSaint attributes his success to personal persistence, ambition and the help of those around him.

“When people see you trying to do something for yourself, people feel that positive energy,” DaSaint says. “People pick that up and want to help you reach and achieve your goals.”

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