Juneteenth: New Santigold Single ‘Ain’t Ready’ is an Anthem of Self-Determination

As we undertook the second annual celebration of Juneteenth as a national holiday yesterday, June 19 (thanks to the 2021 signing of the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act), it was a telling statement on American racial division that 32 states have not yet officially recognized it as an actual paid state holiday (the other 18 have declared today, June 20, as an official day off). One can feel free to guess at the motivations behind the delays…but it all seems spiteful, at best.

The new Santigold single ‘Ain’t Ready’ wasn’t necessarily written to coincide with Juneteenth…but its message nevertheless hits the mark squarely, which is often what happens when you make art from a conscious point of view. It began as another of the ever provocative Philly songstress’ signature collabs, undertaken first with Canadian producer Illangelo, birthed as an instrumental piece, and then completed with contributions from Dre Skull and Sbtrkt. There was also a bit of destiny about it, as she now recalls its inception.

“The whole melody just poured out; there were no words but all the emotion was there. To me, the song sounded full of struggle and perseverance, and I wanted the production to sound tough, to mirror that grit.”

Despite its purely sonic initiation, when the words were later added, it ended up as very much the anthem of empowerment and self-determination that it was surely always meant to be. Indeed, with its mantra of, “All want it, yeah, we want what we had,” it feels nothing short of imperative.

“I struggled to find the right lyrics at first,” she recounts, “but when I got them right, and I started singing them one night in my studio alone, I cried. This was my own battle song. It’s about taking the hits that life brings and getting back up. It’s about change and moving forward. It’s about faith and vision. And it’s about stepping into your own power.“

It’s the second “preview” – following ‘High Priestess’ – of her upcoming album Spirituals, due out September 9. That title, as one might readily surmise, has a very specific significance.

“I loved the idea of calling it that,” Santi explains, “because it touched on the idea of Negro spirituals, which were songs that served the purpose of getting Black people through the un-get-throughable. In the absence of physical freedom, spirituals have traditionally been music whose sound and physical performance allow its participants to feel transcendental freedom in the moment. That’s what this record did for me.”

To make a Juneteenth donation to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, go to naacpldf.org.

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