Album Review: GoldLink - Diaspora
Goldlink’s newly released album is titled Diaspora, and it is a wild ride through just that; the Global Diaspora. Each track displays different aspects and influences from a variety of African and POC musical cultures across the globe. The record is a culmination of Goldlink’s personal sound, and the larger trend that has grown within Hip-Hop over the past 12-18 months.
Regional sounds have become mainstream in the tidal wave that is Hip-Hop Globalism. The genre has seen an explosion of new sounds and influences from all types of cultures and parts of the world, beyond the traditional home base of America. When done without respect, skill, and tastefulness, artists can find themselves in the dreaded realm of cultural appropriation. But in the right hands, the hands of a truly authentic and talented artist, incorporating new sounds can take music to another level.
Goldlink has been a prime example of what happens when you do this properly. He first emerged on the scene with his And After that, We Didn’t Talk mixtape and has taken a very experimental approach to Hip-Hop ever since. His early works meshed Washington DC’s immense musical playground of Go-Go, Dancehall, and House music with his traditional rapping prowess to create a neon splash of sounds. He’s known for his nimble flow, but also his ability to incorporate foreign sounds into the rap arena.
Due to that approach to his music, he’s been a large draw in Europe and Africa. Such a large draw, that on his past headlining 2 tours, the majority of the stops on the tour were in countries and cities outside of the United States.
Diaspora reflects the globetrotting lifestyle he’s lived and experienced while on these tours. His travels have brought him to create a multifaceted album that, though only 40 minutes, takes you around the world and back.
First, and most importantly, the record sounds absolutely gorgeous. The production is crisp, well-mixed, and concise. Goldlink imparts his trademark futuristic glossy sheen onto the different cultural sounds featured throughout. The instrumentals are varied and loose, with stops in South London, West Africa, the West Indies, Latin America and more.
To remain respectful and ensure accuracy to the sounds and cultures, he enlists a number of artists and producers native to the genres like Wizkid, Maleek Berry, Jackson Wang, and WSTRN. They spice up the tracks with their own unique vocals which play off of Goldlink’s own agile, spindly rap flow.
An impressive detail is how well the record plays despite the jumpy shifts in sound from song to song. But Goldlink and his cohorts made sure to choose sounds and shifts that all have an underlying dance rhythm to them. Only a few of the 14 tracks (13 if you disqualify the opening skit) do not contain that elastic feel. As a result, the record feels like a kaleidoscope rather than a jumbled mess.
Album stand out “Spanish Song” plays like a breezy, summertime fling. The bright Latin rhythm is underscored by some beautifully mellow synthesizers, upon which Goldlink verbally dances over.
“Yard” is a Caribbean bop that will be played at countless rooftop and backyard parties across the summer months. WSTRN deliver an Instagram caption with the chorus; “No bad vibes coulda enter my yard”. And yet, because the beat and delivery are so pure, you actually believe it.
“Maniac” is probably the most traditional “Goldlink type beat” track on the record. The instrumental is hefty but futuristic, with some galactic synths/horns and bass-heavy trap percussion. It’s here that Goldlink lays down some of his best lyrics, and the album’s catchiest and most sinister chorus:
“Better watch your back, I’m a maniac / Better watch your back, I’m a maniac / Boutta make a million for all my children / Bouuta make a million for all my, all my”
Perhaps no song best encapsulates Diaspora like it’s lead single, “Zulu Screams” (and the accompanying music video). It’s a melting pot of House, West African pop, and rap music. These very different sounds coalesce over the vocal power of Goldlink, Maleek Berry and Bibi Bourelly. It’s a song filled with the pride of cultures coming together, a pride that fills this whole record with an unmatched bounce and energy.
Diaspora is one of the best rap albums of the year so far, although calling it a rap album is a gross understatement. Goldlink has hit the sweetest of sweet spots on this record; immersed in cultures that aren’t his own, and yet completely at home in the space.
On this album Goldlink asks us to step outside our door, go beyond our neighborhood, and experience all of the colours and flavours the world has to offer.
Turns out that can be quite a bit of fun.
Reviewed By: Wyatt Smit