Technically considered to be GoldLink’s debut album, Diaspora, released mid-summer 2019 may not have broken into the mainstream. But with a fresh take on the concept of a rap and hip-hop album, it has made waves within the hip-hop scene as well as greater music spheres.
Fusing themes from a wide array of sources — primarily that of African influence — Linkie was able to create one of the most eclectic and ear-engaging albums of the year. From an interview with Spotify, GoldLink shares his personal connection with the album and what makes this genre fusion so important.
Personally, I have Diaspora ranked inside my top-10 albums of 2019, and I think you should too. From the dancehall-influenced boogie of “Zulu Screams” to the hard-nosed bars of “Cokewhite,” GoldLink did well to reflect his interpretations of the African diaspora into a compact 14 songs without much filler.
Opening the album is “Joke Ting” featuring Ari Pen-Smith. Sonically, it’s a lighthearted track, as Pen-Smith and GoldLink play off each other with youthful, energetic tones. But the lyrics tell a different story; “Cause my whole squad on swole, you don’t wanna get involved / Get close, you might choke, we ain’t on a joke ting / Oh no, you don’t wanna get involved.”
“Maniac” is one of my favorite tracks on the album: a bass-bumping, bar-spitting rendition of GoldLink’s signature flexible delivery. Flexing his impressive flow, Linkie reps the DMV and shouts out the late Mac Miller. This track, along with “Cokewhite,” are essentially all GoldLink needs to remind the rap industry of his immense talent for delivering pure bars.
The only song that I find myself constantly skipping is “Days Like This.” The song can’t be saved by teenage-angst-filled superstar Khalid, as the young R&B singer’s chorus is uninteresting and uninspired. GoldLink’s delivery doesn’t revive the track at all, making it a song that really only serves to dampen any good mood. Lyrically, the track doesn’t add much, with generalized boasts that hip-hop fans are likely tired of by now.
“Zulu Screams” is one of 2019’s purest fun songs. The bouncing dancehall instrumental pairs perfectly with GoldLink’s frenetic delivery, as the rapper skips along with the beat creating an atmosphere of danceable lightheartedness.
GoldLink’s ability to combine genres — from dancehall to DC’s own go-go, to R&B, all enveloped by hip-hop and rap — is impressive and promising for his young age. This album only confirmed what I and many other DMV folks already knew: GoldLink is the head of the new wave of DMV artists, and his embrace of a significantly evolved sound from his last mixtape proves his willingness to expand into fresh territory.