SantogoldOne of Brooklyn’s hottest exports is Santi White, the dynamic punk-electro-dub artist who performs as Santogold. Although she was born in Philadelphia, Brooklyn has been her base since launching her solo music career. According to White, the borough is the Big Apple’s funkiest asset. “It’s go the energy that is uniquely New York,” she says, “but it feels a little less jaded than Manhattan. Like there’s still a raw energy of something untapped and exciting.”

The same could be said of White’s music. Her debut album, Santogold, offers some of the most dynamic sounds around, from the pulsing beats and razor-sharp guitars of “L.E.S. Artistes” to the shrill vocals and swooping synthetic bass of “Creator.” The album mixes influences like new wavers Blondie, reggae-punkers Bad Brains and electro-rapper M.I.A., with whom White is friends. Her goal was to break down boundaries and genre classifications as a black woman by not singing either r&b or hip hop. “I really wanted to make a record that incorporated all the various styles of music that have influenced me throughout my life,” she says, “and not make a flat, boring, one-dimensional record.”

Her eclectic songs have quickly catapulted her into pop’s front ranks. Björk invited White on tour, producer Mark Ronson asked her to write for Lily Allen and Coldplay took her on the road. Her press reviews, has been breathless. Spin magazine has called her the “next big thing,” while Rolling Stone has proclaimed her nothing short of “the future of music today.”

Given that she worked as a talent scout for Epic Records, after fronting Philadelphia punk band Stiffed, it’d be easy to think that White learned some tricks about making it in the music industry—a notion she’s quick to dispel. “Actually, what I learned was that I had no business being there at all,” she says. “I learned that I cared way more about creating art than I did about the politics of record companies and that, unfortunately, creativity was becoming less and less a part of the record label agenda.”

Since leaving Epic and writing and producing an album by the singer Res, White has been focused 100 per cent on her solo career. “It requires so much to be an artist,” she says, “like honesty, vulnerability, courage, patience, confidence, determination, curiosity and enough defiance not to give a fuck every time people tell you you’re not good enough. I guess I’m not making music for anyone but myself at this point.” But, she adds, “I’m really happy that people like it.”

Meanwhile, Brooklyn remains a source of happiness—and inspiration for her. “There’s so much here,” enthuses White, the current cover girl for Missbehave, a Brooklyn-based women’s magazine. “All different people, from neighbors who have lived here for generations and boys who never leave the corner to artists and screaming teenagers. There’s great food, fashion, art, grime and sophistication, old and new. There’s a place for every part of me here. What can the world learn from Brooklyn?” she asks. “To be bold and unafraid.”


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