Santigold shows up in so many places that it can be hard to believe that Master of My Make-Believe is just her second album. The new record affirms why she’s featured on tracks from the Beastie Boys, Kanye West, M.I.A., GZA, and many others. It also displays her formidable song-writing chops.
The follow-up to her sublime debut, Santogold, is a varied mix of styles and influences, but Santi White’s thread runs through the entire thing. This is her record and her musical journey, gathered and sewn together from her punk days in Stiffed and her days opening for the likes of Jay-Z and Kanye West, M.I.A., and the aforementioned Beastie Boys.
Santigold effortlessly blends elements of hip hop, pop, reggae, dance hall, and even punk rock in the construction of Master of My Make-Believe. She doesn’t grind down the elements to make them fit her mould, though, and seems to have a real sense for dissimilar forms. Everything runs through Santigold’s filter, but her wealth of experiences serves her purposes. Much like the Beastie Boys took punk and hip hop as two whole art forms to create their sound, she achieves the same here.
Master of My Make-Believe opens with “Go!,” a track that features Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. The song is damn near a militaristic march, stating Santigold’s intent with the authority of a drill sergeant. The beat is perfectly suited for her insistent attitude and her vocal flares jestingly remind listeners she means business.
The album’s first single, “Disparate Youth,” follows with cooled-down synth and a hard-hitting snare to match. Santigold’s vocals are simple but striking, blending perfectly with the hedge of synthesizers and the sudden slashes of rock guitar.
“Freak Like Me” seems to come from Nicki Minaj’s “Stupid Hoe” playbook, but Santigold’s take is more spirited and engaging.
On the other end of the melodic continuum is the stunning “The Riot’s Gone,” an exquisite piece that shows off Santigold’s vocal prowess and vulnerability. The refrain is purely beautiful and the arrangement, pulsing with synthesizers and percussion, makes for an unequivocally gorgeous song.
Santigold’s Master of My Make-Believe is a sonically diverse, fascinating, intuitive look at her world and her reality. Sometimes emotional, sometimes funky, sometimes acerbic, sometimes comical, Santi White is always worth a listen.