Sunday, January 24, 2021

Sidelined rapper gets spotlight

Hip hop’s popularity has been linked to its unceasing currentness. An oft-misquoted Chuck D stated: “Hip hop is the CNN of the ghetto.” While this April’s dominant rap conversations have circled Kendrick Lamar’s newest release, “DAMN,” several high-profile releases faded into the collective abyss.

Washington D.C. based artist GoldLink, born D’Anthony Carlos, is no stranger to being sidelined. The latest project, “At What Cost”, was released late March and sets out to uplift the marginalized voices from his gentrified hometown. “At What Cost” pressures itself to preserving the authentic District of Columbia culture GoldLink sees shrinking around him.

For an album with so much weight, it is remarkably easy to dance too. Maybe this is because of the disco and go-go influences across the album. The second single “Meditation” tastefully incorporates R&B mainstay Jazmine Sullivan’s velvet voice with a warm synth production by rising go-to producer KAYTRANADA. After a dance outro, complete with inebriated laughter, a gunman unleashes to connect listeners to the gun violence looming over joyful nights in high-crime neighborhoods.

“Tropical-house” is the type of modern genre seemingly designed solely for Top 40 pop stations and commercials where people are on the beach, but GoldLink’s presence and domination over the genre is palpable at this point. Previous mixtapes such as “The God Complex” and “And After That We Didn’t Talk” fused upbeat melodies with hip hop, while weaving multi-person narratives, but here he is fully committed to infiltrating new spaces. The result is something shapeless but unique and instantly recognizable as his own.

GoldLink calls his already signature sound “future bounce.” Online sleuths have pinpointed the rapper’s influences to Ethiopian House and retro-futuristic funk, both popularized at different times in the region.

GoldLink is more than a thoughtful curator of other artist sound, he fits himself into sounds as they bubble up. The rapper is also a gifted lyricist, capable of multi-syllable patterns and unimaginably dense rhyme schemes.

“Summatime” showcases GoldLink’s ability at back-and-forthing with fellow DMV natives Wale and Radiant Child and standout “Kokamoe Freestyle” finds GoldLink throwing everything against the wall as the bass-heavy beat does the same. “Herside Story” is an affectionate and nostalgic ballad that any rapper could recite but is made otherworldly here by GoldLink’s breathless rhymes and the eerie drums beneath them.

Most surprising about “At What Cost” is the lack of these detailed attentives narratives on GoldLink’s debut studio album. Non-album single “Fall in Love” has been on heavy rotation since its release last year, and it now makes more sense in bridging the new album with the album that preceded it. First appearing like a radio-record, it now seems indicative of the splicing of genres that’d appear on the next project. Regardless of the decade, tempo or mood, GoldLink has proven a willingness to rap over any tempo effortlessly.

Email Taylor Richardson at cp@cardinalpointsonline.com

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