Hip-Hop Artist St. Panther On Her O.C. Roots

Irvine hip-hop artist St. Panther is a hit on radio, TV, and Michelle Obama’s playlist.
Photograph by Lindsey Byrnes

St. Panther is the stage name of Daniela Bojorges-Giraldo, who refers to herself as “a nerdy-looking hip-hop artist.” But those in the know are more likely to describe the 26-year-old singer, multi-instrumentalist, producer, and Creekside High alumna as a “lightning-bolt talent” poised for a major breakthrough. Her funky, buoyant single, “Infrastructure,” landed on the soundtrack of HBO’s “Insecure,” and “These Days,” an indie radio favorite, made it onto the former first lady’s Spotify playlist last summer. St. Panther is booked at the Firefly Music Festival in Delaware later this year. We asked the singer about her O.C. roots.

My parents, when I was growing up, were in the advertising field, so they did a lot of commercials as creative directors, and they’re both painters. It was a very creative house. My dad’s a pianist. Since I was very little, my mom had this tape recorder that I always ran around the house with just singing into. We still should have some of that stuff, tapes of me jazz scatting and writing little songs here and there, and poems. I was just a creative kid, from the jump.

It’s the combination of two nicknames. My friend would call me “Saint,” and my dad would call me “Little Panther” when I was a little kid. I would get a lot of bullying in school. I think it’s just the nature of being a gay, brown kid in a conservative area. My dad was noticing my demeanor was different coming home from school. He was like, “You know what, you’re like a cub now. You’re sensitive and you’re absorbing things, and you need to turn into a little panther.” It’s a term of endearment from my dad.

I (had) a teacher named Matt Westfall at West Coast Drum Center in Santa Ana, and that’s where I got my strong music beginnings. What he taught me was the real foundations of reading music and rhythm. Thanks to him, I’m able to semi-transcribe things and sight-read, and I have the framework of music theory, which I really appreciate now.

I was lucky enough to graduate from a high school where the teachers were encouraging entrepreneurship. I feel like at Creekside, the teachers really tried to empower us. That’s how I started recording other artists locally and producing myself. Those things really served to help my career goals. It was unique. I was very fortunate to have teachers like that.

A friend of mine passed away on his birthday last year. It was a really hard hit to the friends I grew up with. We were a very tightknit group, and his house was like the reunion house where we would go and see everybody. There would be a family vibe there. I got the news when I was home, and I couldn’t much do anything other than write that night. It was like the song came right out, honoring his life. And then the pandemic hit, and looking around, I felt like the whole world is kind of in a dormant season. So calling it “These Days” was very natural.

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