Santigold on living the legend of Afropunk: ‘I feel like an OG’

By | August 23, 2019

Santigold is back in Brooklyn to perform with her people — and her fellow punk rockers.

The 14th annual Afropunk festival closes out the summer at Fort Greene’s Commodore Barry Park this weekend, with more than 50 other acts scheduled to perform, including Jill Scott, Leon Bridges and FKA twigs. The fashionable fest was spun from James Spooner’s 2003 documentary “Afro-Punk,” which explored black culture and racial identity in the overwhelmingly white punk-rock music scene.

Santigold, who’s released four studio albums, including her breakout LP, “Santogold,” in 2008, has deep connections to the festival: Early in her career, her punk-rock band Stiffed caught Spooner’s attention, and in 2003, the band played an afterparty for an “Afro-Punk” screening. Matthew Morgan — now co-owner of the festival — is her former manager.

“I’ve been involved with Afropunk since way before it turned into a festival,” the 42-year-old singer-songwriter, born Santi White, tells The Post. “From the beginning, I was always left of whatever was expected from a black artist.”

‘It’s become broader, where now it’s just a really inclusive, celebratory space for black culture.’

Before Afropunk became the global conglomerate that it is today, Santigold — whose stage name comes from her love of wearing gold earrings as a kid — remembers when it was just a few bands playing downtown venues like the Delancey.

“In the early years, the shows were in little bars and it was so fun,” says Santigold, who spent two decades living in Brooklyn before moving to Los Angeles two years ago. “Now I feel like an OG.”

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She recalls one night in particular as being “sort of the root” of the festival.

“They had a ‘Bad Brains night,’ honoring one of the first hardcore black punk-rock groups, one of my favorite bands,” she remembers. “It was amazing to see all these black bands cover Bad Brains. It was special. Cut to a billion years later and Matthew turned it into this huge brand.”

Although Afropunk was created well before Instagram, the global festival — with offshoots in Johannesburg, Atlanta, London and Paris — and its fashionable ensembles seem tailor-made for scrolling.

“Over the years, it’s become broader, where now it’s just a really inclusive, celebratory space for black culture,” says Santigold, who has also written music for Christina Aguilera, Lily Allen and soul-rock artist Res.

SantigoldTerrence Blakely

That culture is one reason why Santigold says she’s happy to be back in town.

“I’m looking forward to being in Brooklyn and seeing the black people throughout Brooklyn, because we don’t have that in LA,” she says. “It was shocking. There’s a lot of different cultures and races in LA, but it is very segregated. Brooklyn is so wonderfully not.”

Still, Santigold says, she moved west because she wanted to “slow things down” and “try new things outside of music” — but some things didn’t exactly go according to plan.

“I thought if I moved out of New York it would be slower,” she says. “I was wrong. The opposite happened. I found out a week and a half after I moved that I was pregnant with twins.”

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Now, with three kids, including 17-month-old twins, having a pool and parking — and the LA weather — has been a blessing, she says. But being back in Brooklyn is fun for her kids, too.

“My 5-year-old, even though he moved to LA when he was 3, he keeps going around saying, ‘I’m from Brooklyn. I’m New York,’ ” she says with a laugh.

Living | New York Post