Afro Punk Classic: Stiffed featuring Santi White
By Sound Check
August 26, 2010
Before she was Santigold (nee Santo-) she was Santi White, front woman of the Philly punk band Stiffed. Watching the band rock out on a frigid New York night some six years ago, trying to summon enough foresight to guess at White’s legacy would have been as fruitless as scrutinizing an embryo ultrasound and trying to guess whether or not the baby would be cute. As Stiffed’s el capitan, Santi White had become the subject of a highly un-likely reality that would have made for great TV: record exec turns song writer turns performer. Thin, makeup-less and in too deep to contest the charge of musical extraterrestrial, just like that non-descript little knot of cells and tissue, Santi White in Stiffed showed little evidence of the depth of talent and innovation that was to come once she emerged chrysalis-like into the unique writer/performer we know today as Santigold.
By remaining true to herself and refusing to compromise, Santigold has emerged as an innovative, inspiring and truly one of a kind artist. Her style fuses the sounds of dub, punk, reggae, eigthties pop, and electronica to create unique riffs and rhythms which have been described by the artist herself as “unexpected,” and “genreless.” Santigold’s vocal style has been compared to Gwen Stefani, Missing Persons, Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs and M.I.A. Her influences sweep the spectrum from Grace Jones and Siouxsie Sioux, to Fela Kuti, James Brown and Aretha Franklin.
While still in the incarnation of the performer Santi White, I witnessed a performance from this artist that left me a little bit perplexed, a little dissatisfied, and yet somehow grateful that the thin, wide eyed girl behind the mike was fronting a punk band, if for none other reason than it gave me another precious chance to affirm that in my passions, interests, and artistic world view, I was not alone.
It’s as if, first as Santi White, later as Santigold, one rad singer heard the silent clamoring of a million music aficionados locked in their bed rooms listening to everything good, and decided, like some tricked out, technicolor, post-punk-dub-fairy, to anoint us with a sound, that, for its crazy, riotous color composition and synthesis of styles and textures, has become not only an awesome sonic boom, but a mirror we can all see ourselves in―our diversity and differing tastes. Santigold’s sound is the music equivalent of an all ages party, and the beat there is good.