Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Oh look, and it's not Amy Winehouse

Not that with a heavy duty punk pedigree she'd want to be making a sprite can disappear in her mouth, but I'm really glad that Santogold has gone the post-punk/ dub/ electro/ whatever- other- genre- I- could- come- up- with- if- I- weren't- doing- this- about- 24- hours- too- late route, instead of doing pussy raps. It's rare enough to see black women finding genuine success in the music industry, and it's always a nice bonus when they're actually innovative and like, good (sidenote: no disrespect to kim, but I think we all know that black women have super-limited options in this arena, and at this point in the major label/ clear channel/ viacom/ the sex tape is actually in my contract age, those options may be all but exhausted). Santogold, NeƩ Santi White, has been pretty much slaughtering the internet with a handful of singles that reveal an incredibly versatile voice and a preternatural ability to slip right into the groove of some of the roughest beats I've heard since I stopped listening to hardcore. Which actually makes sense, since White cites a heavy relationship with the punk scene since high school, at one point fronting the post-punk/ new wave band Stiffed for about three years. Listening to her, you can hear echoes of pioneers like the Slits, Siouxsie and The Banshees, and even bass- heavy crusties like Crass.

This is not to say that Santi White is all screams and yelps (though it may be obvious that I'm a big fan of her doing so). While she rarely breaks out into straight-up rapping, Santogold also has a pretty tight rhyme flow- one that rivals a lot of people who are getting paid to be actual rappers. Ms. White even maintains a solid rhythm in her singing, which is alternately ethereal, haunting, and withering. Santogold appears to have no problem getting ululation, double time raps, and sweet melodies into about 10 seconds of audio and having it sound like it makes perfect sense.

It's not uncommon to see women doing the type of music that Santogold does like on paper; Gwen Stefani and Fergie on pop radio and a whole bunch of other up-and-comers, like M.I.A and Kidsister on indies, are making names for themselves doing a playful rap/ singing thing, informed equally by late '80s girl rap and contemporary global urban music. What sets Santogold apart, aside from her mind-bending vocal abilities, is the ease with which she calls on her influences and makes them cohere in a totally seamless, un-contrived way. in "shuv it," a background heavy in dub, ska, 60's pop, and classic hip hop braggadocio comes through loud and clear, but the song still sounds totally new. And it's amazing.

-dial 917


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