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Interviewed by
Monday 14th March, 2016 12:27PM

After four years since her last full-length release, American artist Santigold (real name Santi White) has returned with a brand new record. Titled 99¢, the album is a poignant yet playful look at the hyper-consumerism that is plaguing the planet. UnderTheRadar contributor Fluffy took up the chance to speak to Santigold recently and learn a little bit more about the inspiration behind record, as well as ask about her long love affair with punk music, and how she got her name...

UTR: So, how are things in the world of Santigold?

S: Everything's good, but it's pronounced Saunti-gold.

Sauntigold, sorry.

I know, even the guy connecting us said it wrong.

I'll make a point to have it pronounced correctly.

No, I know. I'm on a mission because people have been saying it wrong ever since 2008, then all of a sudden I realised that most people are saying it wrong, so I was like “That's it!”. But anyway, things are really busy in my world right now; really, really hectic getting ready to put the record out and go on tour.

So you grew up and were born in Philadelphia, yeah? Is that where you're located at present?

No, I live in Brooklyn. I've lived in New York and Brooklyn, damn, since 20 years.

I see, well I had a bit of a humorous icebreaker question to follow that up but it seems a little less relevant now.

Why? What were you gonna say about Philadelphia? I mean I did grew up in Philadelphia.

What's your favourite character in It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia?

Oh, I've never even seen that, forget it [haha].

So I understand your stage name was given to you by a friend in college?



Well, it was a nickname when I was about 12 years old actually.

Oh, okay. Is it just about the word play or is there a bit of a backstory behind it?

I used to wear gold jewellery all the time. I used to have these big gold earrings... I was into the whole like fly girl look, y'know? Like Salt N Pepper, that whole era where everybody wears gold all the time in hip hop. I was super into it when I was really little. There was this cheap gold called Santogold so my friends started calling me that and it stuck.

I understand you have quite a diverse musical background. You played in Philly punk band Stiffed and you were produced by Darryl Jennifer of Bad Brains...


Are you still into punk music? Have you heard any new, sweet bands pushing the boundaries, lately?

Hmmm, I don't listen to new punk rock really. I love all old punk rock and I love new wave. I love Bad Brains, they're one of my favourites. Everything from Dead Kennedys and Descendants to even the more, sort of electronic stuff that still draws from punk. Like Devo is one of my favourite bands. There is new punk rock stuff. It's just that I haven't heard anything that's new and interesting. And not just like throwback, y'know? But my roots are seriously in punk. In all of my music, the guitar sounds and the drum choices I make, come from my love of punk rock. Unless, you go on the flip side with reggae, dub or hip hop. But any sort of rocky sound goes back to my love of punk rock.

Awesome, awesome. How was Darryl to work with?

He's amazing. He's one of my idols and he's like the coolest, sweetest guy ever. He's real laid back. I opened for Bad Brains one time, back then and that was a dream come true. And then I went on tour with HR, the lead singer of Bad Brains which was really interesting. Its a long story but it was so great.

In college, you majored in both music and African-American studies. I imagine that was pretty eye-opening. Did you find it shaped a bunch of your personal politics?

I was a painter in college as well and I was going to be a visual arts major and a music major. But I was taking too many African-American studies classes, because to be honest, you don't learn that stuff in high school or in grade school. You learn all this stuff about American history, basically all they teach you about African-Americans is that you were slaves. Then you learn about European history and Russian history and every other kind of history and they don't teach you African-American history. So by the time I got to college and I could choose my courses I was like: “I think I'd better know something about African-American history”. So I was taking all these classes and then I decided I wanted to graduate early and having so many African-American history credits and I was like: “okay, I guess I'm just gonna double major in this and music”. But it's interesting because there's so much cross over because of the stuff that I was really interested in with the music major was Ethno-musicology and music culture. Influences of different cultures and different music and how certain types of music has moved throughout the world, especially African historic music, which has definitely influenced my music tremendously. I also studied traditional hand drums when I was in college, a lot of Cajon drumming and and West African drumming, I played for dancers taking dance classes and stuff. So I have a completely non-Western sense of rhythmic relations to bass and I'm really interested in not singing on the one and with the drums. All that stuff that's in reggae and African music and I think all that stuff has definitely found its way into my music.

Your new album 99c just came out. Could you tell us a little about the creative process and musical direction?

I think its just, y'know, an evolution of what my music always has been which is basically a collage of music where it's bits and pieces of all my different influences. Everything from punk rock, reggae, hip hop, electronic, seriously everything, R n B even on this record. There's stuff like everything, just this mash up of all these ideas. On this record I think there's even some African music influence which found it's way on, finally. But it's all kind of pop music at the same time. It's really accessible with big hooks and choruses. This music, I feel like its very, well, not across the board completely because I like when my records have varying different landscapes and when you have a song that has flow or is more serious and then you have upbeat, but I think over all this record has a brighter tone and there's a real message in this record. I talk a lot about consumption and hyper-consumerism [haha]. Buying things! This record's about buying things! About how I felt like a product and how there's so much marketing now, you spend so much more time marketing yourself and selling yourself then you do even being an artist. I talked about narcissism and all these things and I did it in a really playful and satirical way. So your listening and the song's all fun and happy and then you're like “Oh, my goodness, it's actually talking about something interesting”. I did that on purpose because in the world right now there's so many serious and heavy things going on and I didn't think that anyone would really listen if my record felt too heavy. I think there's a lot of things that need to be reflected upon, with all this new technology and the rate of consumption. Everything's disposable and the lines between virtual and real are so blurred. And this, a lot of people need to pay attention to before we end up in a place we do not want to be in. So I tried to basically hold up a mirror to and say “Look, take a look at where we are. Is this okay to you? Because it looks pretty absurd to me.”

Very introspective, that's cool. On that note, your single 'Can't Get Enough of Myself' seems to be a very positive ode to loving oneself. Do you think that people are becoming more aware of the plastic reality that they're being force fed by advertising corporations and overcoming this stifled sense of self esteem that's being instilled in them?

I don't know. I hope so, because that's kinda what I set out to do with this record. I think people need to be more aware of it. I think people are so distracted right now. I think we're in a cultural time where it's all about just keeping people distracted. Whether you're doing your little social media or whether you're on drugs. I mean like every song right now is like: “Im on drugs”.

Yeah, it seems to be a recurring theme.

Everyone's just like “take yourself E,Es” and whatever. So I don't know how much awareness there actually is. People are just going with it and that's what I'm saying, it's like a dangerous thing because technology is going so fast and we're not grounded in any kind of real values. We can't let technology lead us because there's a lot of things we really need to pay attention to. Everything's not disposable and that's really important to know. Look what we're doing to the Earth, we're treating it like it's disposable and it's not. I think if we don't take a minute and reflect on what it is we're doing, what's wrong with it and where it is we want to go, then I think that it's not really a good thing.

For sure. One last question! Will we be graced by a visit to our shores by your lovely self, touring the new album?

I hope so! I really hope so. I haven't got anything locked in yet. I heard about something possibly on the horizon but I don't know. C'mon, get me out there guys, c'mon!

I'd buy a ticket in a heartbeat, for sure.

Alright, awesome. I hope I get to come!

99¢ is out now via Atlantic Records


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