Back in February, I found myself in Miami, the result of a drunken plane ticket purchase that stemmed from an immediate need to escape the blizzard that had just hit DC. Most of the trip is still a blur, but I distinctly remember one conversation that still stands clear in my memory. I was talking about music with a friend when I was asked to offer up one new artist that they should know about. I immediately blurted out GoldLink, almost too quickly. His "Vroom" record had been on repeat in my headphones throughout the previous week, but after responding I quickly realized that he really hadn't released that much music and I that was basing my recommendation off of only a few records. Yet, he was my top recommendation without hesitation?
Two things must be stated before I move on...
First, though I now reside in NY, I hail from the DMV. Until recently, the DC metropolitan area that includes parts of Maryland and Virginia had maybe one bona fide star in Wale, and so I have a tendency to root for anyone from the area with the slightest chance for exposure on a national level.
Second, over the last few years, there have been few things in music as exciting as the Soulection roster and their affiliates. The self-described “Sound of Tomorrow” may or may not live up to its appointment, yet there is no arguing about the incredible talent sourcing and creative output fueled by the label/collective. GoldLink is a perfect extension of this output and allows me to hear quality lyricism over the type of production I tend to gravitate towards these days. GoldLink calls it Future Bounce, I just like to listen to it.
So let’s face it: I want GoldLink to succeed. An enigmatic, DC-repping rapper with ties to some of my favorite producers and an ability to seamlessly bridge hip-hop and electronic? Yes, please. I'm biased, but I haven't loved everything I've heard. Truthfully, I thought his first project, The God Complex, was good but not excellent. It sounded like a solid introduction but with no lasting or defining moment (maybe "Bedtime Story?"). He needed to further develop his sound into what I thought was possible and cause me to love his songs as individual records and not just because they were coming from GoldLink. After hearing "Wassup," "Sober Thoughts," "Vroom" and all the other pre-release singles off "And After That We Didn't Talk," I've officially passed the point of just championing this buzzworthy up-and-coming artist and I've moved on to just simply loving the music.
Alright, that's enough of a prelude, let's listen to some damn music. As per the steadfast rules of 1 Listen Reviews, I'm about to dive into this album without pausing or rewinding a single second of the music, only giving you my pure, stream-of-consciousness, gut reaction to the album as it plays. I'll revisit the album in a few months when I’ve had time to digest what I’ve heard and measure it’s impact. Let’s pipe it up…
After You Left
Crickets, car crash. Okay, this starts off right where God Complex ended. IS GOLDLINK DEAD ALREADY? Phone call, it's not Jake from State Farm, just some girl. “I made 100 thousand dollars this year, that still don’t mean shit.” I’m loving how this starts off already. “My old bitch lost a baby too,” “we ain’t shit,” jeeeez this is some pretty serious subject matter. Production is shifting, lot of layers. A very different direction than I was expecting for the kick off but whatever, it’s…uh….lit?
Alright, alarm going off, it’s time to go to church. Makes sense as this track sounds heavenly. The opening effort tackled a lot of heavy topics and this record is no different, race is a big theme and being a young, black male in America is the perspective. The instrumental is making everything positive though, and oh god is that a choir? Take me to church.
Dark Skin Women
Now we get to that bounce. I know this track leaked a couple days ago, but this is my first time hearing it, and this is a dance song all the way. “Girl you’re a starrrrr, come on and dance baby.” Dancing doesn’t sound too bad right now, and this extremely infectious groove is really doing a lot to lift me out of the funk I’m in. The horns at the end are magical.
This song is the shit, and this girl talking is a big reason why. Producer Louie Lastic and GoldLink seem to do no wrong together, and the warped funk on this beat is exactly where GoldLink's rapid-fire scat flow shines. It’s almost disorienting in its pace, I feel like this is the audio equivalent of putting on drunk goggles, but it works.
"Dance On Me"
Everything that was released in the weeks and months prior to this listen has been outstanding, "Dance On Me" included, and its amazing how we can transition into something so much smoother but keep the energy high. I don’t really have much to say about this record, except that I love this song and that the defining lyric here is “You so fine I eat behind.” If you didn’t have a reference to eating ass on your album in 2015, did it really happen?
"Late Night" ft. Masego
MASEGOOOOOOOOOOOO. If you aren’t up to speed, Masego is the next to blow, and seeing his name on this tracklist was enough to make my day. It sounds like there’s an actual breeze moving through the background, that’s how breezy this song is. Not even counting either artists’ vocals it’s incredible how soulful electronic production can be. Also, GoldLink is a master of using dialogue to further his music and I wouldn’t mind hearing this woman on the outro talk on every record.
"Unique" ft. Anderson .Paak
I can’t believe we’re past the halfway point. Back to dancing by the way, mentally at least. HOLY SHIT I was so late on Anderson .Paak. Yea yea, I know, he’s amazing and I was sleeping and all that, but I needed to get that out of my system. I hate to say it but he outshines GoldLink here, and I’m disappointed he didn’t have another verse.
Has there ever been a song about palm trees that hasn’t been amazing? I'll answer that question -- no, there has not, and there never will be. Palm trees are the international sign of letting go of your worries, and if you don't agree then I don't want to know you. It’s hard to even write about this, I just want to vibe out. I need to ditch this laptop and go to the beach. The production is masterful here, I wish I had the credits, and damn GoldLink needs to sing more. I’m pretty sure it’s impossible to be in a bad mood while hearing this track.
"Polarized" ft. demotaped
Who’s demotaped though? This track goes in a different direction, more plodding, churning, industrial. Not a fan of the hook here, it’s a little boring. What’s not boring is how unapologetically vulgar GoldLink is, he’s just trying to have you and “beat up the box” girl, is that too much to ask? I like the second verse more than the first, but this is probably my least favorite offering so far.
This beat is toooooooooooo smooth. This is what counting sheep actually sounds like. Dance Floor GoldLink is great, but Introspective GoldLink is too underrated. The flow, the lyrics, the subject matter, all align perfectly here. It’s a shame this track is only two minutes long. Also, I didn’t realize the juxtaposition of the gunshots and kids playing before hearing this right now.
"See I Miss"
So we’re going to end on a laid-back note, eh? This beat sounds perfect for an interlude or an outro. This is that late night jazz club type ish, where are the horns? If I don’t hear a sax solo I’m going to be disappointed. “Who knew…….that I would even miss that bitch” Has he been talking about the same girl this whole time? Who knows? I need to hear Devin The Dude on a remix, GoldLink. To be honest, this would have worked better as an interlude, but I’m not mad at it.
Well, what can I say? I really liked the album. I thought I would, I've always enjoyed GoldLink's music, and as I mentioned I've always loved the idea of what GoldLink is and can be. Again, my problem with his debut project is that while I enjoyed it as a whole, there weren't enough defining moments to keep me coming back to it. AATWDT has those moments in abundance, high points that fit the overall feeling of the album but with enough variance to truly stand out on their own. I love half of the songs on this album, but for entirely different reasons. Through 11 tracks, the mood, tempo and subject matter range greatly, but the project as a whole remains a cohesive listen tied together by GoldLink's charisma and energy. GoldLink has his lane established, and this album is him hitting full speed in developing that sound.
And after that, we listened again.
Early Favorites: "Late Night," "Unique," "Palm Trees"
Early Not-So-Favorite: "Polarized"
AATWDT is now available for digital purchase on iTunes.
[By Brendan Varan. He's doubly convinced that GoldLink is the future. Follow him on Twitter.]