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Santogold is now Santigold, but Santo Rigatuso's lawyer says it's not enough

February 12, 2009 |  2:36 pm

Santigold300According to a press release sent Wednesday, Santogold, the stallion-riding genre-mixer, has changed the middle letter of her name, thus becoming Santigold. The announcement goes on to explain, "She’s not telling you why, that’s just how it is. No unpronounceable symbol, no numbers where they shouldn’t be ... just plain ... Santigold."

In keeping with the "not telling you why" part, her representative has stated that he has no further comment. Of course, the singer's name is Santi White, but why bother with a name change now, after a tremendous wave of momentum that placed her debut album in nearly every 2008 Top 10 list?

White's name-changing fracas began, according to Stereogum, in November when a press release from the mtvU Woodies Awards referred to her as "Santi (the artist formerly known as Santogold)." The Prince-like name change didn't stick but it did draw attention to why she might've done it. Turns out that lawyers for an '80s infomercial/cult artist by the name of Santo Gold filed a lawsuit in June against White, Downtown Music and Lizard King Records, claiming name infringement. Santo Gold is seeking compensatory damages, an injunction barring the use of the "Santo Gold mark or anything substantially similar" and the recall and destruction of all items already in commerce allegedly infringing on the Santo Gold mark.

Wesley Pentz, a.k.a. Diplo, was also named in the lawsuit, which alleges that he used a sample of Santo Gold saying, "Now ladies and gentlemen, we proudly present in person, Santo Gold!" as the introduction to the Diplo-Santogold "Top Ranking" mixtape. This move, the litigation asserts, reveals the "true nature" of White's "bad faith and malicious intent to confuse the public and injure Santo Gold's career." Diplo's representation did not respond to Pop & Hiss' request for a comment.

In addition to pursuing his lawsuit, Santo Gold, whose full name is Santo Rigatuso, has also made a YouTube video, in which he states, "I'm the real Santo Gold... don't use my name to create your fame. Believe me, kid, this isn't a game." And it appears that someone recently messed with the Santogold Wikipedia page; this Google cache captures it from Feb. 7. Note the interjections of "Santi White, impostor that has stolen the name from Santo Rigatuso" and other such claims on the page.

Jill L. Abitbol of the Lustigman Firm, counsel to Santo Gold, had this to say Wednesday about White's name change: "It's nothing that's been done in accordance with any agreement with my client." She went on to say that the "litigation is ongoing" but that the name change would indicate that White "has been infringing on our client's name and has decided to change it." In another conversation today, Abitbol added, "We've taken a position that it does not remedy the infringement."

Sounds like White hasn't quite worked her way out of this pickle yet. Either way, we're looking forward to the next album, no matter what name it's filed under.

-- Margaret Wappler

Photo by Jonathan Wood/Getty Images