Santogold is the nickname of Santi White, a Brooklyn-based singer and songwriter who released her first self-titled album in 2008. For a while she was being hailed as “the new M.I.A.” which I think is now the officially recognized term for “brown girl who isn’t doing rap or R&B”. Okay, she’s a bit like the British musician with Sri Lankan roots and mad style, but she’s even more like, well, Santogold.
White herself addresses the kind of pigeonholing that women of colour face in the music industry, calling out critics for formulating descriptions of her music based on what they expect to hear from a young black woman from Brooklyn, rather than what her music is actually like:
It’s totally racist. Everyone is just so shocked that I don’t like R&B. Are you shocked that Good Charlotte isn’t into R&B? Why does R&B keep coming into my interviews? It’s pissing me off. I didn’t grow up as a big fan of R&B and, like, what is the big shocker? It’s stupid. In the beginning I thought that was funny. I’m an ‘MC’, I’m a ‘soul singer’, I’m a ‘dance hybrid artist’. And some guy said I looked like Kelly Rowland! I just thought it added to the mystery, because there was so much wrong stuff being written about me.(from a great interview over at Lipster).
But let’s let her music speak for itself, shall we? The video for L.E.S. Artistes is definitely an “auteur” piece, and it shows off her style not just as a musician but as a total perfectionist who’s in complete artistic control of her work and her image. And, if you’re at all baffled by the video (as I was - death by paintball? Whaaaa?), there’s also a helpful “making of” video that explains the vision behind it (after the cut).