Björk and M.I.A. are already fans, and now Santi "Santogold" White is ready to take her New Wave-in-a-blender sound — as well as her eclectic yet practical style — to the people. Her self-titled debut album is set for release in the new year.

Santi White, aka "Santogold," owns up to a lot of things that most stylish women wouldn't dare: She never wears heels, prefers jeans over skirts, despises makeup and she perspires — a lot. "It's kind of aerobic for me, when I perform," says the Brooklyn-based solo act. "So I always wear stuff I can really sweat in — something practical, something I can jump around in." Case in point: a stretch cotton bustier top from Jeremy Scott, one of her most recent purchases, which she dolls down with bright jeans and sneakers from her vast collection. Today, though, she's dressed for recording in an olive fedora, wrinkled plaid shirt, Sass & Bide jeans and turquoise leather boots. "Usually it looks like I'm wearing pajamas," says White, in between bites of a late-lunch taco at Chung King Studios in New York, where she's working on her self-titled debut album (Downtown Records), slated for an April release. "I look terrible, but I'm just laying around the studio and singing — you don't have to look good."

Born in Philadelphia and educated at Wesleyan University, where she played lacrosse and double-majored in music and African-American studies, White has been cultivating her Eighties- and Nineties-influenced style since she was a teenager in, well, the Eighties and Nineties. But, unlike most women who grew up during those decades, White never discarded her big, fake gold earrings inscribed with her name. In fact, it's those same baubles, which she still often wears today, that inspired her childhood nickname-cum-musical moniker.

Spend a few minutes talking style with White, who cites Marc Jacobs, Grace Jones, New Wave music and Salt-N-Pepa among her influences, and it becomes clear the performer approaches fashion with the same eclectic sensibility and confidence that infuses her electro-punk-meets-New Wave-Jamaican dub-meets-indie-rock sound. "In art, you find things that inspire you, that make you feel creative, and when you get dressed, it's the same thing," explains White, whose myriad jobs have included executive assistant at Sony A&R, assistant fashion stylist for rappers such as Nate Dogg and Lil' Bow Wow, frontwoman for the post-punk band Stiffed and, most recently, pop songwriter for Lily Allen and Ashlee Simpson. Regarding the latter stint — penning lyrics with Timbaland and The Neptunes' Chad Hugo for Simpson's upcoming third record — White's general positivity gives way to disillusionment. "It's like a song factory," says the singer of working with the uberproducers. "It's different. It's tense and a lot of pressure."Now, a new sort of pressure is mounting in Santogold's camp with the nearing January release of her first single, "LES Artistes." White has a hefty reputation to uphold: Since she formed her musical outfit a year and a half ago, she has quickly garnered critical praise, not to mention high-profile collaborations and requests, from heavyweights such as Björk (who invited White to open for three of her fall 2007 tour dates, including a night at Madison Square Garden), M.I.A. and Mark Ronson. Now a close friend, Ronson first enlisted White to help him write a track for Allen's "Alright, Still" and then to sing a cover of The Jam's "Pretty Green" on his lauded 2007 album "Version." Stella McCartney also included a Santogold song, "You'll Find a Way," in her fall runway show.

On the topic of the Sri Lankan musician M.I.A. — and especially her style — White verges on exasperated, if not a little defensive. "I mean, clearly we have a lot of similar influences, especially in fashion," she says. "Sometimes it's hard when you have these similar influences and someone's out before you and you have to always go out of your way not to wear your normal glasses because she's already taken a picture in some that look like yours, you know?" But it turns out the two women are friends and sometimes shopping buddies, and come next month, they're set to share the stage when Santogold opens for M.I.A. at Philadelphia's Electric Factory on Dec. 1.

Onstage and off, White certainly knows what she wants and what looks good on her, even if that means rocking an oversize Marc Jacobs bag with a pair of comfy pj's. As it turns out, the suits at Downtown Records have caught on to her look. "They've never offered me a stylist," White says. "They've always said, 'You got it, right?' And I'll hear people in the background saying, 'Just tell her to come how she dresses.'"

— Nick Axelrod; styled by Kim Friday


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