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In many ways, D.C. and Virginia raised rapper GoldLink sticks to his well-honed style of a speedy flow over dancey beats and talking about love with darkness on this, his debut album.

There are more musical textures on this than his previous mixtapes, with some songs verging into nostalgia: ‘Have You Seen That Girl’ sounds like updated 70s pop, and ‘Hands on Your Knees’ is a joyful homage to go-go, the funk and dance infused musical sound of his native Washington D.C. GoldLink, despite retaining a sound which is the product of his experience, manages to meld up-to date dance sounds with cutting rap expertly.

Like most rappers in this era of maximalist detail, GoldLink switches flows, performs hooks, croons, and adlibs his way through the 14 tracks. Yet his lyrics are clear and sometimes complex: ‘Man it’s crazy how n***as need devil worship to keep up’. For the most part he talks about D.C. dance parties where danger is never far away: the gunshots and screams at the end of ‘Herside Story’; the interspersion of discussing parties and women with people getting shot on ‘Meditation’. This is the theme of the album art too, drawn by fellow ‘DMV’ (D.C., Maryland, Virginia) resident Darius X. Moreno: GoldLink himself said when interviewed that he chose this cover because Moreno’s work ‘properly displays black realism, modern art and the sound of D.C. in the most accurate and honest way.’

the combination of defiance and emotional vulnerability sums up the tone of the album

Interestingly, while the lyrics and music on the album do pay homage to go-go, none of the music could be described as it; his sounds are bouncy hip-hop house with sprinklings of funk and jazz influences, and the occasional trap beat. Perhaps this is an expression of wanting to keep the music local, since GoldLink himself says that go-go never really left his local area because “we, as the people, didn’t allow it to,” “She was our girlfriend and we didn’t want anybody else to f*** her.” In a way, all of his lyrics about exes and sex generally – some filled with longing and some with bitterness – are metaphorically a communication with the music scene and his life growing up with it.

This album is certainly a celebration of youth and his music scene, but it’s also about pain. The final track ‘Pray Everyday (Survivor’s Guilt)’ takes on a mournful and self-critical tone: ‘drinking all my problems, I don’t need nobody I just need the bottle’. Yet he ends on the defiant note which began the album: ‘Fuck these rappers. Fuck these labels. Fuck these bitches. Fuck these bitches, you hear me. They killed my n***a and I pray for revenge’. This combination of defiance and emotional vulnerability sums up the tone of the album, best summarised in the catchy refrain of ‘Same Clothes as Yesterday’: ‘I don’t give a fuck about shit my n***a, I don’t give a fuck about shit’.

GoldLink has surpassed his own previous good work as an innovator in hip-hop with a dance twist, by making an album about his identity and experiences as a man growing up in the D.M.V., which is both musically textured and lyrically meaningful; and just downright fun throughout.

Malcolm Lowe

4/5

Quotations taken from NPR.

Image: The Come Up Show, Flickr.

 

Clare Clarke

Clare, Editor-in-Chief of The Panoptic, has just graduated with a BA in History from the University of Warwick. Passionate about journalism, Clare has written both for her student paper, The Boar, and completed academic research. Clare encourages investigative journalism and...

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