Downtown/Lizard King ★★★★★
Starting her music career in the post-punk group Stiffed and then working as a major-label A&R scout, Santogold has emerged as the most defiant, genre-bending explosion of the past year. A Brooklynite, Santogold (real name: Santi White) has a sound that embodies many different styles and resonates as if it's coming from a Run-DMC style cassette boom box on a Brooklyn brownstone stoop. It's a sound that's intended to radiate like a Maxell 80s mix tape - very stylishly, but not practical. Like M.I.A., her most obvious contemporary reference point, she echoes British eclecticism, mixing the more urban-based sounds of hip-hop with straight pop, new wave, dub and analog electronic sounds. The album's tracks have been leaked for over a year now, making Santogold's debut one of the most anticipated releases of 2008.
Santogold features collaborations with some of the genre's most infectious players: Diplo (brought to increased recognition from working with M.I.A.), Spankrock, as well as the UK's remix specialists Switch and Freq Nasty. The Diplo-flavored tracks "Unstoppable," "Starstuck" and "My Superman" resonate that Philly-Baltimore party sound and baile funk flavor, which he made popular. Switch's Midas touch on the electronic dub remix of "You'll Find a Way" took a life of its own before the original pop new-wave version was even officially released. His work on a slew of other songs produces some of the album's best tracks. Her new wave/punk background flashes through on tracks like "Lights Out" and "Say Aha." The dub sprinkled, lightly reggae relished "Shove It" calls out her genre-bending sound. White's lyrics throughout the album reference her diverse experience in the music world. As a contract agreement with Downtown records, she was to have 100 percent creative control of the project, something that looks like a wise decision in hindsight. - Tauna Leonardo