Music genre: New wave punk with everything else thrown in
Better than good. Better than gold. Santogold. Santi White (of Santogold) is likened to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, as she mixes punk guitars and New Wave synths with electronic beats. It’s pure post punk skullduggery for the soul.
On her first day as the only person of colour in a Philadelphia private school, Santi White hid in a corner at recess. “I didn’t know what to do,” she recalls. But before long, the charismatic daughter of a lawyer had conquered the school’s social scene. “I was part of this clique, the Fearsome Fivesome,” says White, who now mixes electronic beats with punk guitars and New Wave synths under the name Santogold. “We were mean to everyone. The school called my parents, and my mom said, ‘I don’t give a f*ck! She’s the only black girl – I’m glad she fits in.’
After studying Cuban, Haitian and West African hand drumming at Wesleyan, White got a job in the A&R department of Epic Records in New York. (She now lives in Brooklyn.) But when an old friend, the alt-R&B singer Res, called for advice on finding a producer, White left her job to write and produce Res’ ahead-of-its-time debut, How I Do, which combined rock, reggae and R&B.
White – who recently went solo after singing in the punk band Stiffed – made her debut as Santogold this year on an album that ranges from the dub-influenced “Shove It” to “L.E.S. Artistes,” which sounds like a Cars/Strokes mash-up, to “Creator,” which strongly resembles her friend M.I.A.’s latest album. “Nina Simone and HR from Bad Brains are my two biggest vocal influences,” she says.
Santogold’s style has been compared often to that of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and M.I.A. Santogold said of the M.I.A comparison: “We’ve worked with some of the same people and have similar influences. But the way we go around implementing those influences are very different, and I am in no way influenced by what the press are saying.”
Some of Santogold’s material has been compared to that of the Pixies, whom Santogold herself has cited as an influence. Santogold has also said that she is inspired by 1980s pop music.
“I felt that a lot of pop music from the ’80s had a depth to it, and I hope to bring back some more good pop songs.”
White has also stated her liking for New Wave and cites Blondie, Grace Jones, Devo, Fela Kuti, James Brown, Aretha Franklin and reggae music as influences.
In a May 2008 interview, White stated that critics and online music vendors were labelling her music as hip hop, rap and RnB.
“Everyone is just so shocked that I don’t like RnB. Are you shocked that Good Charlotte isn’t into RnB? Why does RnB keep coming into my interviews? It’s pissing me off. I didn’t grow up as a big fan of RnB and, like, what is the big shocker? It’s stupid.”
Everyone, get the Santogold album. Every song on it is a win.