Across the past decade, singer-songwriter Santigold (born Santi White) has evolved from indie blog fixture to bona fide pop star and global creative force. She’s collaborated with Jay-Z, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, David Byrne, Diplo, Mark Ronson and Pharrell and has released four full-lengths to date: 2008’s self-titled debut, 2012’s Master of My Make-Believe, 2016’s 99 Cents and last year’s I Don’t Want: The Gold Fire Sessions.
Make-Believe hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Dance/Electronic Albums chart, while further honors for the star include nods at the Q Awards, MTV Europe Music Awards and the Brit Awards. In 2009, she nabbed the Vanguard Award at ASCAP’s Pop Music Awards, which spotlights creators impacting the “future of music,” following in the footsteps of past honorees including St. Vincent, The Strokes and Bjork.
The singer’s most recent dancehall LP I Don’t Want — a collaboration with musician Dre Skull — came about during a writing session, where the two bonded over reggae and Afro-Caribbean music. What initially began as a mixtape quickly morphed into the Gold Fire sessions over two weeks, anchored on an improvised, live approach and themes including anti-materialism, empowerment and resilience.
“I just wanted to make some summertime music in a quick, fun, light way, like it feels to make a mixtape, but where a classic mixtape has a bunch of songs by different artists and influences, this project had all new songs by me,” says Santi. “The idea of the Gold Fire sessions was to just capture a spontaneous collaborative moment in time, where Dre Skull and I just got to play around in one of our favorite genres and capture whatever came.”
The pair’s musical connection allowed for an organic blend of genres with ease, she adds. “Dre is such a talented producer who easily taps into all my favorite elements of this type of music. He’s also super laid back and smart and fun to talk to, and we ordered really good food the whole time!”
Earlier this year, Santi celebrated the 10th anniversary of her eponymous debut album, which included early hits like “L.E.S. Artistes” and “Lights Out,” with a special Ten Years Golder tour earlier this year, with stops at Boston’s House of Blues, New York City’s Hammerstein Ballroom, and Los Angeles’ The Palladium. She also returned to Brooklyn’s Afropunk Festival this August, performing alongside FKA twigs, Leon Bridges and more.
To help ring in the milestone anniversary, Santi put together this week’s #TBT Mixtape to highlight her eclectic sonic influences, including cuts from The Smiths, Joni Mitchell, Nina Simone, Al Green and more.
“These are a bunch of my absolute favorite songs from childhood,” she says. “Each of them made a permanent mark in some way on how I heard, felt and thought about music.”
She recalls listening to most of the cuts over and over “on repeat” growing up. “I remember just lying on the floor, absorbing every detail and singing along,” she adds. “I learned melody, harmony, and rhythm from these songs and so many others, this list could be so long.”
Give the playlist a spin and check out some retro snaps of the artist below.