Goldlink Is Authentic and Captivating on "Diaspora"

The rapper's sophpmore LP is the album of the summer

Washington, D.C.'s vibrant music scene is known for its continued evolution. The city served as the birthplace of Moombahton and a continued source of inspiration for Thievery Corporation's experimentation with reggae and lo-fi trip-hop.

It inspired the ethereal melodies of Duke Ellington and later churned out Tank and Ginuwine, the pinnacle icons of early 2000's R&B. Wale, whose continued experimentation with Afropop, R&B, and slam poetry has historically been met with mixed reactions, is credited with being one of the first big mainstream rappers out of the area, and despite his 13 years in the spotlight, he continues to chase versatility, with each of his projects sounding vastly different from the last.

Even so, continued experimentation can lead to issues. Wale was recently accused of cultural appropriation for the Major-Lazer assisted single "My Love," and Moombahton quickly became a dated subgenre as Afro melodies seeped into the mainstream. When Goldlink announced Diaspora, many were trepidatious. For a rapper who was lauded for his experimentation on his debut At What Cost, the project's follow-up appeared to be an attempt to capitalize on past praise, and it was difficult not to worry that the 26-year-old was having a Wale-esque identity crisis.

"I keep my energy calibrated" Goldlink raps on "Rumble," and it's true. Everything about Diaspora is subtle and fine-tuned. Tight wordplay and sophisticated experimentation are sprinkled throughout the album and give way to rewarding moments. Goldlink samples the best of D.C.'s budding Afro-influenced underground acts without raising questions about its legitimacy, while demanding the most out of his eclectic features. While Maleek Berry sounds right at home on "Zulu Screams," WizKid is asked to challenge himself on the lo-fi instrumentation of "No Lie." Even Khalid sounds relatively out of his comfort zone as he takes on mumble rap in his "Days Like This" hook. Despite the 14-track project having 11 features, none of them overshadow the lyrical prowess of Diaspora's protagonist. Goldlink takes plenty of moments for himself, letting loose on "Maniac" and "More" and then reining it in for a quick humble-brag on the album closer, "Swoosh." He goes blow for blow against Pusha T on "Coke White/Moscow" and comes out unscathed, then immediately dives into a relaxed bossa nova experiment with "U Say."

The album ebbs and flows as frequently as D.C. culture, yet Goldlink never gets lost along the way. "I'm committed to the movement, you committed to the wave," Goldlink raps on "Moscow." The album cover, a candid photo shot by Hailey Bieber of Goldlink's love interest, Justine Skye, further questions the idea of identity and diaspora (Skye famously got into an Instagram debacle over identifying as Jamaican despite being born in the U.S.). Like Justine, Goldlink's sophomore effort is authentic and influenced by multiple cultures. Putting Skye on the cover finalizes his thesis: We are each more than just our nationality, and Goldlink is more than just another rapper.


Review | .Paak's 'Bubblin' Is a Satisfying Appetizer for What's to Come

"Bubblin," His Latest Single, is a Satisfying Appetizer

.Paak's 'Bubblin'

Now that's he made it, it'll be interesting to see how .Paak musically indulges his newfound currency as an artist, fur coats and all.

It all started with Breezy LoveJoy. Anderson .Paak looks unrecognizable from his earlier days, when the singer/multi-instrumentalist/proud Aquarius dropped music under a name he infamously created for being particularly larger and gassy…. Not the most romantic of name concepts, then, but .Paak would later graduate from his mixtape efforts, which often felt like miscellaneous parts of a larger project more methodical in its curation and production.

Then came Venice, SoCal soul, paired with funky jazz instrumentals he'd amplify in his critically acclaimed album, Malibu. On the album cover of Malibu, .Paak sits in his underwear, underdressed and overwhelmed, flooded with musical inspirations. Listening to .Paak is a similar experience, a wild immersion into his world that is at once sublime, disruptive, soulful, sardonic, and above all, cinematic. It's like being on a raft in the ocean, except the raft is a piano and .Paak is shifting his weight for kicks. He's spontaneous, but he thrives when he's at the fore, his voice registering a type of anguished wisdom only gained through life experience—and he has plenty.

A late bloomer to his own success, .Paak returns in 2018, set to release two new albums, one of which is another solo album, the other with his band The Free Nationals, consisting of Jose Rios, Ron Tnava Avant, Kelsey Gonzales, Callum Connor. "Bubblin," the latest release from the iconoclastic artist, shows .Paak's strengths as a rapper, something he's always excelled in, gaining the attention of Dr. Dre who eventually signed him.

His bars are quick, playful, and are pumped with his frenetic charm. The accompanying music video is directed by Calmatic, a filmmaker based in Los Angeles and also stars .Paak's adorable son, Soul. They both sport fur jackets as Soul gives us a taste of his burgeoning talents as a dancer and performer. Not to mention the hilarious imagery of the video, where .Paak courts an ATM that dispenses money when it's complemented, with .Paak furiously protecting it from everyone he encounters. The symbolism infers the challenges of new success, of course, but it's also fitting that .Paak describes his own relationship with money and fame at this moment in his career.

He's since established himself as a household name. In 2017, it seemed as though he was over-featured, working with artists like Kaytranada, GoldLink, The Game, Rapsody, Domo Genesis, Mac Miller, and was featured on Dr. Dre's long-awaited Compton album.

.Paak collaborates with Dre once more on his follow-up to Malibu and his fans are eagerly anticipating what soul-crunching verses he's prepared on his hiatus. What will the funnyman/loverboy spit for us this time? If "Bubblin" is any indicator, Anderson is done struggling, comfortable in his skin, confident, and hella funky. Now that he has made it, it'll be interesting to see how .Paak musically indulges his newfound currency as an artist, fur coats and all.

Shaun Harris is a poet, freelance writer, and editor published in avant-garde, feminist journals. Lover of warm-toned makeup palettes, psych-rock, and Hilton Als. Her work has allowed her to copyedit and curate content for various poetry organizations in the NYC area.

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