(JUMP Presents) Can Ali White Turn to Gold?
The difference between this and the standard sibling rivalry is that White, a 32-year-old Mt. Airy native who has been rapping since he was seven and producing music since his early teens, is still waiting for his big break. But his sister, international dance sensation Santigold, is currently thriving in the music industry.
That isn’t stopping White from pursuing his dream.
“Basically, the thing is, I’m totally going indie just from being up here in Philadelphia,” White says.
White, the son of former powerbroker attorney Ron White, who was at the heart of the FBI’s city hall corruption scandal before he passed away in 2004, performs and produces as Prime Mini, making beats out of his home in Southwest Philly.
His sister, whose given name is Santi White, blew up with her 2008 debut solo album, Santogold. Her single Lights Out still gets air time on a Bud Light Lime commercial, adding to her notoriety as a new wave pop star.
Although Santigold is working on her second album, she ultimately left her younger brother in her rear-view mirror. Even when she did consider giving him a helping hand, White says, she ultimately decided to exclude him from her upcoming release.
“She knew that I had over 1,000 beats and she didn’t pick one,” White says.
White says there are no hard feelings, as the lack of a music leg-up simply reflects their relationship.
“There’s always been a sibling rivalry between me and Santi,” he says. “We’re really close. We’re real brother and sister. I remember chasing her down the stairs at three-years old when she punched me in the nose. I threw a cowboy boot at her. We’re that kind of brother and sister. I don’t think our relationship has really changed all that much.”
White says Santigold started dealing with the politics of the music industry in New York as an intern at Epic Records. She later produced an album for her then-friend and Philly-native, Res.
“I actually produced for the first Res record,” White adds. “When the record finally came out, I found out they cut my track from the album. I got paid a fee for it but I should have been on that record.”
Santigold started doing her own thing as the front-woman for the Philadelphia-based new wave/ punk bad, Stiffed, which released two albums – Sex Sells and Burned Again. She then went solo as Santogold, a childhood nickname she wrote on the home-made mixtapes she gave to her little brother (she’s since evolved into Santigold).
“I still have those tapes,” White says. “When I was younger, she told me I should stop listening to so much rap and broaden my musical horizons.”
Santigold has hip hop roots, says White, but she’s also strongly influenced by punk, new wave and dance. White, Santigold and older sister Simone are big fans of The Smiths, Depeche Mode and The Roots, with whom they hung out with when they were younger.
White’s always been a fan of Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and other innovative musicians, like Prince.
“I’d lay on the floor in Simone’s room and listen to Purple Rain,” he says.
“It was like ‘I am lovely / why don’t ya’ll respect me,’” he recalls. “She’d laugh and say, ‘We should just call you Lovely.’”
White’s early rap influences include Tupac, Masta P and the Hot Boys, the Atlanta crew with Lil Wayne, B.G., Turk and Juvenile.
After attending Clark University in Atlanta, White returned to Philly and started producing for State Property, the Philly-based rap group signed to Jay-Z’s Roc-A-Fella Records. He was also able to meet some of the biggest names in the industry – Fifty Cent, Scarface and Left Eye from TLC, to name a few.
“I got to be in three Cassidy videos, including ‘B-Boy Stance’ and ‘I’m a Hustla,’” White says.
Moving back to Philly from Atlanta opened White’s eyes to the stark cultural differences between the two metropolitan areas. White sees Atlanta as a place where celebrities and artists might be competitive but they’re still hospitable enough to help you out when they can.
“When I came back up here to Philadelphia, I didn’t feel comfortable going to hip hop clubs like I did when I was younger,” White says. “It’s a different hustle. I think people have a harder mentality in Philadelphia. People in the industry and scene in Atlanta have more things culturally, so you could hang at parties and go to different clubs and most the time it was peaceful. When I came up here and saw how dangerous it was, I said, ‘I’m not doing this shit anymore.’”
Since then, White’s been producing his own music, as well as working at Philadelphia International Airport. His most recent album, Silk City, features tracks with Santigold and her fiancé, Trouble Andrew. It’s available on ReverbNation.com and MySpace.
“My music started out a little more hip hop and street than Santi’s,” he adds. “But it ended up heading in her direction, just being influenced by her music. Basically my ears got better as I got older.”