GoldLink’s ‘Diaspora’ extends hip-hop’s reach

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Grade: 4.5/5.0

D’Anthony Carlos, otherwise known as GoldLink, released his new work Diaspora, the culmination of his collaboration with artists of African descent across the world, on Wednesday. The album is a sonic, versed sampler influenced by African musical styles that represents the diaspora of Afrocentric music from coast to coast.

Diaspora starts off on an unsettling note, as listeners are thrown into 23 seconds of stressful atmospheric sound. While the album as a whole is notably upbeat, it potentially opens with this track to speak to a certain distress common in various manifestations of the Black experience. Titled “//error,” this track inspires an unexplained fear. Listeners hear a mix of crickets, barking dogs and heavy breathing over the sound of an unidentified individual running to the tune of a racing heartbeat.

This sound transitions into the blunt piano of “Joke Ting (feat. Ari PenSmith).” Released two weeks before the full album, this song is a mood-boosting flex-fest for GoldLink. Ari PenSmith, a London producer who co-wrote the song with GoldLink, leads the summery choruses that fall on tropical dance beats.

In an interview with Spotify, GoldLink said Diaspora was “inspired by universal blackness.” And this globally appealing album truly connects cultures from around the world in one unified project. It’s a musical diaspora, with featured musicians bringing the unique styles of Black culture in America, England and Africa to the melting pot. Many of the artists have distinct sounds on their features, bringing in worldly touches from different corners of the globe.

Maniac” features an outro by German American artist Bibi Bourelly, a vocalist of Moroccan and Hatian descent who has written songs for Rihanna and worked in the studio with Kanye West. While Bourelly doesn’t come in until the outro of the song, her feature wraps up GoldLink’s repeated choruses and fast-paced verses to add dynamics and keep listeners on their toes.

The overall speed of this album is anything but passive. Even with the more low-key songs on Diaspora such as “Days Like This (feat. Khalid),” the eeriness that veins through the tracks is more buoyantly lo-fi than ballad-esque. On this track, GoldLink brings transparency, rapping about more sensitive parts of his urban past in Washington, D.C., to diverge from what most people see from the American center.

The halcyon “Zulu Screams (feat. Maleek Berry and Bibi Bourelly)” is easily the hottest dance track of the album, starting off with back-and-forth cries and influences from mid-80s club music with a modern twist. Bringing astral beats together with more organic-sounding drums, the track fuses more traditional dance beats with an electronic edge. Featured with Bourelly here is Maleek Berry, a British Nigerian artist and producer, who adds a hint of Nigerian Afro-pop into the blend with his busy lyrics.

The features get even more fiery toward the center of the album, when the likes of Pusha T and Tyler, the Creator scatter solo tracks in between the countless features. “Cokewhite (feat. Pusha T)” is a “perfect combination of when Pusha and Gold link,” as the lyrics say. The song is split into two parts, the first featuring a hard delivery from Pusha T and the second, called “Moscow,” switching into GoldLink’s verses.

U Say (feat. Tyler, the Creator and Jay Prince)” is a smooth dance track produced by Juls, a popular London-based British-Ghanaian production artist. Tyler, the Creator’s lines on the song hit behind jazzy congo beats and deep bass. Having so many features on the album, especially ones from artists as prominent as Tyler, the Creator, brings deserved recognition to the world influence this album shares with more Western listeners.

With more features and dance tracks to follow, Diaspora doesn’t disappoint in production quality, message and global cultural influence. With the variety of artists who worked on this project, GoldLink has set the bar undoubtedly high for rap releases this summer.

Contact Skylar De Paul at [email protected]. Tweet her at @skylardepaul.