GoldLink's Diaspora is Experimental, Dynamic & Lyrically Dominant
Evan Dale // June 12, 2019
In 2017, after a stretch of releases dating back four years prior, GoldLink was finally embraced by the mainstream with the explosive popularity of single, Crew and its association to his album At What Cost. Crew received a Grammy nod, his collaborators blew up aside him, and the greater music scene beyond just the hip-hop spectrum took notice. His bouncy, one-of-a-kind delivery was constantly being honed in, his affinity for electronic production had been helping to change the course of hip-hop for years, and thanks to all of his hard work, mainstream hip-hop music began to sound like GoldLink without GoldLink doing much to change his aesthetic towards a more popular approach.
When going back through GoldLink’s long and illustrious canon, it becomes obvious that he’s always been here, years ahead of his time when he released The God Complex in 2014, And After That, We Didn’t Talk in 2015, and all the singles that came along the road to each. In fact, just looking at the idea that both Masego and Anderson .Paak featured on GoldLink’s 2015 album a year before either’s respective mainstream blow ups, GoldLink knew all along that the direction music was headed was already a place he occupied.
In turn, Diaspora, aided by the power of his effort to change hip-hop from the ground up, granted insane expectation by the acclaim of At What Cost, and spurred by the timing of mainstream hip-hop’s coalescence with the sounds he invented, has a lot riding on its experimentation, risk taking, lyricism, and scale as an influential blueprint for years to come.
And even underneath that absurd expectation, it doesn’t disappoint.
The road to Diaspora started with Got Friends, GoldLink’s first 2018 single featuring Miguel and proving in the process of that collaboration that he had reached the upper echelon of names to pick from for guest spots. Followed by a train of vibrant collaborations with Ciscero, Tom Misch, Christina Aguilera, Denzel Curry, Jazz Cartier, ADÉ, and Col3trane, he became a permanent figure and an unendingly unique source of inspiration for a wide swatch of stylistically differing artists.
Got Muscle started off 2019 with one of the most hypnotic and head-turning displays of lyrical talent in memory, still existing in the conversation for best hip-hop track of the year, while Zulu Screams, Joke Ting, and U Say all gave us a taste of the wide range, the global inspiration, the big name collaboration, and the brash experimentation awaiting us on Diaspora. And although amidst all of that range it became impossible to expect anything specific from the project, there was a clear assumption that it would be wildly experimental, dynamic, and by the name and by its leading singles, sourced from a wide berth of stylistic sources.
Now that Diaspora is here, that blanket statement certainly still applies, but there is much, much more to be explored.
One would be hard-pressed to consider it a mainstream hip-hop album without first accepting the fact that GoldLink – largely of his own doing – has turned hip-hop into the most experimentally encompassing mega-genre in music. There are no more definitions for the mainstream and by that measure, and with the lack of conformity capable of being outlined in the project, Diaspora is here to shake up the mainstream again, not even aligned with his own prior work. That was expected, but it’s scale could have never been predicted.
Zulu Screams set the stage for the album’s underlying exploration of hip-hop music rooted deep in South and Central African diaspora – hence the project’s name. But it goes far beyond the one track. No Lie, large thanks to WizKid’s chorus, tied deep to Caribbean and West African musical nuance, is another exploration of the vibrancy of African American music being rooted in the idea of scattered diaspora and dynamic, myriad influence from geographical and historic range. GoldLink’s cadence on Spanish Song and the drum pattern on More also breathe of African influence, adding vibrancy and broad-based experimentation to Diaspora’s position as an influential project, harmonizing the mainstream rise of global afro-futurism.
But Diaspora is also an exploration of GoldLink’s own inner range and growth. More than anything, it’s an all-out exhibition of his lyrical ability. GoldLink has quietly become one of the strongest rappers in music, with Diaspora existing as his thesis that in the lack of releases from Kendrick Lamar and Pusha-T, and even amongst recent projects from Jay Rock, J. Cole, and J.I.D. what he is capable of harmonizing between his pen and his delivery is unmatched in uniqueness and maybe even in its pace and effortlessness.
From his verse on Ciscero’s Function to his second verse on Got Muscle to now, with his Tiff Freestyle on Diaspora, it would seem that GoldLink is out to seek his long overdue credit as one of the most fervent and dangerous lyricists in modern hip-hop. Truly, at the moment with Diaspora as fresh as it is, he’s number one.
And akin to the rest of the intensive lyrical company mentioned before, he is a master of range, able to change his flow on a whim, able to mix his own vocals into the fold, and willing to take the experimental risks that merge the world of modern hip-hop with the worlds of electronic, of reggae , and of a vibrant, wide-ranging African-derived diaspora. That indefinability is what has always made him so special, and his expansion of that craft is what makes Diaspora genius.
An omnipresent figure in the hip-hop scene for the better part of the past decade, GoldLink with the release of Diaspora is for the first time releasing a project amidst his long-awaited international acclaim. And even in the limelight, his lack of conformity and undying dedication to the exploration of hip-hop and its adjacent stylings’ boundlessness is pushing for something altogether new again.
Welcome to the top, GoldLink.