Review: Santigold - I Don't Want: The Gold Fire Sessions

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Santigold
I Don't Want:
The Gold Fire Sessions

Santigold's surprise mixtape combines bright summery Dancehall with hard-hitting political commentary.

★★★★

As Summer begins to unwind, Santigold’s (aka. Santi White) spontaneous latest mixtape I Don’t Want has landed at the perfect time. Mixing bright dancehall full of sunny aesthetics with insightful political undertones, the result is a project which will have you hitting the dance floor whilst asking questions about our modern life all at the same time.

Opener ‘Coo Coo Coo’ begins with a loud and blaring “Are you ready?”, in reality, you are most likely not. This is because the mixtape immediately grabs you, taking you on a psychedelic Dancehall journey, never once letting go with each track effortlessly segueing into the next. It’s an amazingly fluid collection, you feel as if you’re listening to a live club set, where the tempo or rhythm could organically change at any moment.

This, of course, is no doubt down to the projects collaborator and producer, DJ and Mixpak founder Dre Skull. The songs themselves, however, are distinctively Santigold. This project see’s White at her most unrestrained and free. Bouncing from one genre to the next, one moment you have the playful aggressiveness of ‘Wha You Feel Like’ with its rapid beats, sirens and heavy reggae rhymes and house melodies. Then suddenly it’s the wistful, high pitched title track ‘I Don’t Want’. The vocal manipulation heavy, sad-pop styled track a surprising highlight.

Following track, ’Valley Of The Dolls’ with its trumpet infused melancholy continues the Sad-pop leanings of the title track. I was certainly surprised to see this was the track salvaged from former sessions with Diplo, definitely one of the projects best songs but a stark departure from both of their pair. 

That’s not to say there isn’t some underlying familiarity to a couple tracks, It’s hard not to mention Rihanna, a female artist that has brought Dancehall to a very mainstream audience over the past decade. ‘Run The Road’ in particular having a very distinctive Bajan feel about its rhythm.

Those political undertones I mentioned earlier start to rear their heads on the latter half of the project with the powerful pairing of ‘Why Me’ and ‘Crashing Your Party’. The former presenting the obstacles White has to constantly overcome, how despite not committing a crime she’s still a marked woman. 

I never steal, never fight

They got me marked with my back to the wall

Never got the keys to success that’s alright

When I get up there they push me to fall

Now you can hold me back

But I won’t be your martyr

Even if I admit I know no way out

Maybe I stall but then I go even harder
— Why Me

Whilst ‘Crashing Your Party’ goes one step further and laments how the government and the statesmen are quick to crush any peaceful rebellion, they’re afraid of change. The song hinting at media manipulation to keep us all in order and kept in our place with the use of some striking visualisations formed from the lyrics, most notably its chorus.

Check how they pillage on the tele

Nobody love the poor, I want to yell it

I’m in the beast, I’m in the belly, oh

You better run ‘cause I’m about to kill it

So give me that bow, give me that stone, give me that rake

I’m gonna take, I’m gonna take my place

So give me that bow, give me that stone, give me that rake

I’m gonna take, I’m gonna take my place
— Crashing Your Party

It’s those transitions between genres, moods and themes which make this such a successful project. White however, never lingers in one spot for too long, because at it’s heart, the mixtape is a joyous summer record. The political messages are strong and vivid but she’s right not to let it bog down the general vibe and feel of the mixtape. ‘Don’t Blame Me’ is the perfect, joyous uplift which sees Santigold and Shenesea flexing their moves amid attention from another females boyfriend. The romanticised yearnings of ‘A Perfect Life’ are enjoyable if not forgettable. Unfortunately the record fades away with a whimper as ‘Gold Fire’ gives the record a sombre and bland finale.

I Don’t Want: The Goldfire Sessions feels like a landmark moment in Santigold’s discography, It continues on from a summer filled with strong dancehall and reggae music.  And just like Popcaan did earlier this month with his latest album ‘Forever’, the pair are breathing fresh life into a tired genre and breaking down all the boundaries. The resulting tracks are intoxicating and terrific. This may not be an official album but it’s certainly one of the best releases of Summer 2018.