Res – “Golden Boys”

Released: 12.18.01

Peak: #30 [Hot Dance Club Play]

“Golden Boys” is a “Don’t Believe the Hype” directed from jaded “girls like me who sit appalled by what we’ve seen” toward glossy-reading, star-struck ingénues nationwide, with every self-deluded Big Willie playing the role of John Leland. It’s a song that could maybe have only come from Philadelphia, a town geographically close enough to Manhattan to allow for some experience with the music industry yet culturally distant enough to adjust one’s perspectives on it.

From the days of Sun Ra, Philly’s pockets of eccentric Afrocentricity had proven fertile soil for the cultivation of quasi-bohemian musical collectives, and with the success of Jill Scott, 2001 was shaping up to be a good time for gals from the 215 like singer Shareese Ballard and songwriter Santi White. As produced by Martin “Doc” McKinney, the man behind Canadian trip-hoppers Esthero, “Golden Boys” has little sonic connection with any chart R&B. The track thrums with a dubwise overheard-ness, its murk hooked by a quivering bass in the verses and, in the chorus, dim strings that seem to seep through the wall from an old stereo in another room.

Lyrically White translates an apparently foul experience as an Epic A&R hand into a fairly even-handed critique. Res may whisper an ominous “We know the truth about you” into the ear of every platinum baller, but she dispenses sisterly advice to them too (“Why are you selling dreams of who you wish you could be?”) An envoi from that cultural moment before celebrity became the sole criterion for hip-hop success, when internal self-policing of the music’s excesses seemed a possibility, “Golden Boys” hates the game and pities the playa.

No surprise that a singer who dismissed the industry “freak show” didn’t go on to become a superstar. Res’s follow-up, “Ice King” stiffed despite (?) a Nas cameo. And yet, there’s a happy ending of sorts here. Years later, Santi White re-emerged as Santigold, an even weirder black boho–and an oddball rocker, her distance from R&B and hip-hop an even sharper condemnation of the music business, in its way, than “Golden Boys” itself.

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  • alexie47  On February 5, 2017 at 9:14 am

    Great article, was looking for some information on this song (loving it at the moment). Like your website too, I’m trying to start my own site/blog would welcome any advice or criticism you may have about it – 🙂

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