Music Features

Before Its Time: Santigold Was the First True "Genre-Bender"

Twelve years after its release, Santigold's debut album remains a near-flawless cocktail of new wave, dub, and hip-hop bliss.

2008 was a big year for music.

In the hip-hop world, Lil Wayne and Kanye West would both release career-defining albums, while releases from bands like Vampire Weekend, Cut Copy, Hot Chip, and M83 would put the soon-to-be indie heroes on the map. Radio pop would become saturated with Lady Gaga's The Fame and Beyonce's I Am...Sasha Fierce.

And then, somewhere at the intersection of it all, we were introduced to Santigold.

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Man, we knew Japan was a few hours ahead of us, but we didn't know they were that far ahead—for the second time in months, our friends across the Pacific have been the source of a leaked track listing for a long-delayed rap album. This time it's A$AP Rocky's major-label debut, LongLiveA$AP, that had its tracklist leaked, from the website for Sony Music Japan. Check it out below!

1. Long Live A$AP

2. Goldie

3. PMW (All I Really Need) (Feat. Schoolboy Q)

4. LVL

5. Hell (Feat. Santigold)

6. Pain (Feat. OverDoz)

7. F**kin’ Problems (Feat. Drake, 2 Chainz & Kendrick Lamar)

8. Wild For The Night

9. 1 Train (Feat. Kendrick Lamar, Joey Bada$$, Yelawolf, Danny Brown, Action Bronson & Big K.R.I.T.)

10. Fashion Killa

11. Phoenix

12. Suddenly

13. Pretty Flacco (Remix) (Feat. Gucci Mane, Waka Flocka Flame & Pharrell)

14. Ghetto Symphony (Feat. Gunplay & A$AP Ferg)

15. Ticket

16. Like I’m Apart (Feat. Florence Welch)

17. Purple Swag (Remix)

Need help sorting it out? We've made some charts!

That's a lot of guests, only a few short of Cruel Summer! How are they distributed?

And what kind of artists are they?

LongLiveA$Ap drops January 15. Still more than a month away, but that's not a "Problem":

[Vulture]

Credence Clearwater Revival's "Proud Mary" is a very easy song to do a very boring cover of—in fact, you might have to go back to Ike and Tina Turner's classic nice-and-slow (then not-nice-and-slow) version of it 40 years ago to find a rendition of it that was even slightly interesting. UNTIL NOW. Not that Santigold's "Proud Mary" cover for BBC Radio is gonna set the world on its ear or anything, but it turns out John Fogerty's jam sounds surprisingly good performed with just vocals, synth bass and 808 handclaps.

Of course, we'd have to see Santi performing a super-high-energy version of it in a spangly silver dress to know for sure if it was Tina worthy. We have confidence—at the very least, she could get those two creepy backup dancers of hers to do it for her. Listen to her version at the NJ Underground site here, and check out an old school Ike and Tina performance of it below:

Put away those Sigur Ros and Bjork albums—winter is officially over, and spring has sprung, meaning it's time to start cranking those good-time tunes. Well, let's maybe not go nuts with that quite yet—we're still a couple degrees short of bathing suit weather, so you don't want to wear out those Kool and the Gang and Snoop and Dre records before it's even low-riding temperature. So here we are to give you a nice mix of March weekend tunes, some downright sweltering, some a little chillier, to help you transition into enjoying being outside again. And remember what Baz Lurhmann and/or Kurt Vonnegut always say—wear sunscreen.

ARCADE FIRE, "ABRAHAM'S DAUGHTER"

First and foremost, we know what this weekend's really all about—The Hunger Games, out as of midnight on Thursday, and projected to have one of the biggest opening weekends in film history. What's more, the soundtrack album looks set to debut at #1 on the charts next week, with over 175,000 copies sold—the first chart-topping soundtrack since Twilight: New Moon spent a week at pole position back in November of 2009. It's a pretty cool album, with a consistently creepy, woodsy folk vibe, and an early highlight comes courtesy of Canadian award-show superstars The Arcade Fire with their lurching opener "Abraham's Daughter." Katniss would certainly approve.

OL' DIRTY BASTARD, "BROOKLYN ZOO"

The best news of the week concerned the many-nicknamed Russell Jones of the Wu-Tang Clan, best known to hip-hop fans as the Ol' Dirty Bastard, who will be portrayed in an upcoming movie by Michael K. Williams, best known to TV audiences as the gay, drug-dealer-robbing thug Omar Little from The Wire. As two of the most singularly and undeniably charismatic characters in the last 20 years of pop culture, the fit certainly seems a natural one—though we'll have to see a braided, yellow-teethed, crazy-eyed Michael/Omar spewing "I drop science like Cosby droppin' babies / Enough to make a nigga go cra-aa-aa-aa-zuh!!!" to know for sure. We can't wait.

TANLINES, "REAL LIFE"

"Real Life" has been a Popdust favorite since its single release back in 2010, but it's only now seeing the light of day on LP courtesy of Tanlines' debut full-length album Mixed Emotions, out last Tuesday. One of the most rhythmically and melodically satisfying songs of recent years—just try to get either those pounding drums or flourescent synths out of your head after listening—"Real Life" brings the spring in just about any season. Don't be fooled by the island accent, though—the duo is totes Brooklyn, and one of the dudes is named "Jesse Cohen."

ACTION BRONSON, "STEVE WYNN"

Chef-turned-MC Action Bronson—seriously, he used to work at his dad's Mediterranean restaurant and everything—has been getting a lot of deserved buzz over the last 18 months, most recently for his excellent Blue Chips mix tape. The mix doesn't have much in the way of obvious standouts or singles, but a representative track is the loopy, warmly produced "Steve Wynn," highbrow enough to feature references to Nobel Prize winner George Whipple and delicious-sounding steamed red snapper, but stoopid enough to include similes like "Eyes wide like a chick who got the dick in the butt." Compelling stuff.

ALEX CLARE, "TOO CLOSE"

UK soul signer Alex Clare's Diplo-and-Switch-produced ballad "Too Close" has been scaling the iTunes charts lately, largely due to its visibility in Internet Explorer commercials aired non-stop during the NCAAs, likely among other places. (Yes, IE still advertises—news to us too.) Good to see it getting the exposure—the song is a stunner, a tense, heartbreaking torch song whose dubstep breakdown actually takes place in the chorus, being twice as effective as a result. (Clever, clever, DipSwitch.) In a year that's already packed a healthy number of untraditional smash hits, "Too Close" seems fairly likely to be next in line, which is totally cool by us.

For more mixtape jams, including some fun and/or Fun. remixes, click NEXT.

SANTIGOLD, "DISPARATE YOUTH (2 BEARS REMIX)"

We've talked already about the greatness of Santigold's "Disparate Youth," the second leaked track in as many tries from Santi's upcoming Master of My Make Believe to raise our expectations for the album to near-dangerous heights. Improbably, the recent remix of the song by 2 Bears might even be better, despite cutting out the chopped-guitar hook and dreamy "ah-ah"s that provided the meat of the original song, and accelerating the song from a dubby shuffle to a grimy two-step—turns out that Santigold's voice sounds awesome over some squelchy synth-bass and a more up-tempo dance beat. (If you're impressed with this, be sure to check out 2 Bears' fine 2012 debut LP Be Strong as well.)

5IVE, "SLAM DUNK (DA FUNK)"

Not only were One Direction able to correctly guess how many members there were in 5ive during our Boy Band Quiz—not that that is necessarily a huge accomplishment—but they were able to spot the quintet's "Slam Dunk (Da Funk)" as a real boy band song title, even singing a couple bars of the late-'90s classic. OK, "classic" might be a tiny stretch—even if you were to deem one 5ive song as such, it would probably be the more popular "When the Lights Go Out"—but c'mon, can you get any more 1997 than this? (You can not.) Be sure to remember to vote for Scott Robinson in the Great Boy Band Hair-Off, by the way—he's trailing A.J. of hte Backstreet Boys 68% to 32%.

RYE RYE, "BOOM BOOM"

Speaking of late-'90s pop, you can't get much more representative than the Vengaboys' "Boom Boom Boom Boom," brilliantly interpolated bye Baltimore rapper/singer Rye Rye on her latest single "Boom Boom." It's a great job of freeing a fine hook from a song that, while catchy, becomes quickly insufferable, and the super-fun '80s video game video certainly helps. Is Rye Rye gonna finish that debut album already or what?

WILL SMITH, "MEN IN BLACK"

Looks like the days of Will Smith performing the theme cuts to his hit movies are sadly behind us, so let's take a look and listen back to the song that started it all for Big Willie in his post-DJ Jazzy Jeff days. C'mon, sing it with us: "The title held by me / MIB / Means what you think you saw, you did not see." Probably not what Patrice Rushen imagined would make up the enduring legacy of her biggest hit, but absolutely unforgettable for anyone who came of age in the late '90s.

FUN., "WE ARE YOUNG (ALVIN RISK REMIX)"

You know a song is really, really big when not only is it charting on iTunes, but so is one of its random remixes. Fun. and Janelle Monae's "We Are Young" has been holding strong at #1 for several weeks, and now a rave-up remix courtesy Skrillex labelmate Alvin Risk is chilling in the mid-'80s, ensuring the further unavoidability of the Fun. hit. The remix isn't brilliant, but it is effective, cranking up the four/four beats, emphasizing the song's piano hook and anthemic chorus, throwing in some synths and excising the useless Janelle Monae section entirely—"inevitable" is a word that comes to mind. (As if this wasn't enough, a cover version of the song by Mix It Legends is at #75—maybe it's cheaper to buy on iTunes than the original?)

Santigold's new single is fantastic, first off; just making sure we're clear there. So when an in-depth interview about her upcoming album plus the state of music comes out, of course we're going to tell you to go read it in full. So go do that. But first, some things worth knowing:

"Big Mouth"'s video wasn't a diss, jeez.

You know when we predicted, because it was obvious, that Santigold would probably shrug off claims that oh my god, there's a mermaid in the "Big Mouth" video when Santigold says the words "ga-ga-ga" and one plus one equals ONE THOUSAND-WATT DISSING? Santigold shrugged off those claims, just like we said. Hooray for being right!

That was actually not intended in the way everyone thought. I am not that familiar with Lady Gaga or Katy Perry, I swear to God. I missed that. I can't say the director missed that, though-- it might have been his brilliant interpretation of my song, but we never discussed it.

She has a point; the mermaid thing--especially if you get Katy Perry involved--is pop trivia, trivia that you'd have to be following either or both artists really closely to know. Now let's just let this whole fake feud die. There are actual shots being fired elsewhere.

LMFAO, however, has been thoroughly dissed.

They're not the only ones to be thoroughly dissed, although it's up to you which "music awards show" Santigold said disappointed her. (Those Billboard Music Awards were iffy, huh? It's like we've blocked them out of our minds.) Also up for interpretation: what brought on the quote "I'm disappointed with the state of music right now, but it's not really about anybody specific. I think there's a lack of true art, and the fanfare is valued over actual substance."

What fanfare? Maybe the sort of fanfare that sounds more like whoopee-cushion "fanfare"--or at least that's one way to interpret this quote:

I just felt really sad that people go along with stupid wack shit. I'm sorry, but LMFAO performed at the Super Bowl? Aren't they a joke band? That type of shit makes me cry. I'm like, "Really?"

Really.

But Beyonce's awesome. In fact, here is how "Run the World (Girls) might've come about.

Right after artists diss someone in pop, this is usually where they clarify things with "but Adele's awesome," like a wheaty, green counterbalance to the sugared-and-larded confection mentioned before. Everyone thinks Adele's awesome; so does Santigold.

Admitting Beyonce's awesome, though--which she generally is--is a step further. It's a step that makes sense, because Santigold's on Roc Nation, but the part about introducing Beyonce to collaborator Major Lazer's "Pon de Floor," which became "Run the World (Girls)"? That is some inspired camaraderie and/or fandom.

It's silly to hand out superlatives this early into 2012, but Santigold deserves one nevertheless: Most Surprisingly Awesome Comeback. (As opposed to the many least surprisingly awesome comebacks, or surprisingly un-awesome, or unsurprisingly un-awesome... you get the idea.) In 2011, Santi White had a pretty good debut album nevertheless relegated to "sounds like Santigold" comparisons and the stray likening to M.I.A. This year came her album cycle--finally--which began with "Big Mouth," a pretty great song only sliiiightly marred by kinda-sorta-shade, and continues with the even better "Disparate Youth," reportedly the first single.

We've given away our bolt rating, haven't we? Listen below, and you'll probably agree.

"Disparate Youth" is stuffed full of parts, all pristine-- the antsy synth and piano, nag of a bassline, guitar shudder like something out of a similarly jittery, similarly New Wave Lonelady song, a percussion loop like rocks falling over one another. The trick's how they cancel each other out. Every individual piece shakes with kinetic energy, but together, they're collected, almost calm--if you don't notice this early on, you will toward the end when a pad settles over the track like a cloud. It'd make a fantastic, moody instrumental; surely someone's already doing that work.

A fantastic instrumental, of course, would miss the point. Santi's vocal presence needs little reintroduction; her voice here's halfway between droll and sneering, almost too cool for the tune. It's something like an anthem, as you probably imagined from the title, the sort with lines like "we know that we want more, a life worth fighting for" repeated until they can't help becoming mantras. "Anthem" is a loose word here, mind you; the track broods more than it galvanizes, doesn't steel itself but fades out But if anything, that's more timely; Santi's probably speaking for lots of people--or, more to the point, lots of future fans.

POPDUST SAYS: