Akwelle Reviews: GoldLink X At What Cost

This almost didn’t happen.

My brother had to pester me relentlessly to get me to listen to “Crew,” the hit song coming off of GoldLink’s latest project, At What Cost. After spending many years being introduced to countless rappers from the streets of Southeast, I wasn’t ready to listen to another product of the 202. I was born in DC and spent my summers there with my mother and her family, in the same neighborhoods where some of these rappers grew up, but I can’t relate to much of the music. I know about the little things, like Helle Hansen and the overuse of the word “moe”, but I’ve embraced my Derby City home through and through. My brother had to take my phone from me and block the exit from the kitchen before I watched the video.

To my surprise, I immediately fell in love. GoldLink’s cool-kid flow was soothing, and Brent Faiyaz’s smooth singing helped the song transition effortlessly. Being a Shy Glizzy fan helped me slip into obsession with the song, as I had a familiar voice to look towards. Soon, I would start singing the song subconsciously, I would make my friends listen to the song, I would hook up the aux cord in my mom’s car. The song is the perfect relax and bop tune. I didn’t have to connect; I didn’t have to turn up. I could just imagine myself surrounded my money, with Faiyaz crooning the soundtrack to my daydreams.

Then, my brother told me that GoldLink released At What Cost, and after saving it to my Apple Music library, I neglected the album. I would scroll through the tracklist, quickly playing “Crew” with a slight tinge of guilt. I didn’t care that much, though. There was a lot of music saved to my iTunes playlist that I didn’t actually listen to until all the hype was over; when it was lame to listen to those songs. Ariana Grande’s Dangerous Woman came out almost a year ago, and I just listened to the songs that weren’t released as singles earlier this month. At What Cost was going to have a similar fate, until my brother, who is my DC culture plug, sent me a SoundCloud link to “We Will Never Die” a hardcore trap banger featuring another up and coming DC rapper, Lil Dude. After listening to (and, let’s be honest, mocking) Lil Dude’s rap name and single “Off the Top,” I was curious as to how the two seemingly contrasting rap styles would mesh. One quiet morning on my way to school, I put my earphones in, leaned my head against the bus window, and pressed play.

I was not disappointed. Listening to GoldLink broodily sing the chorus was almost like listening to a tribal chant, the dark repetition depicting a rite of passage: life in the streets. The beat was serious, with verses from both Lil Dude and GoldLink going hard over it and letting me know exactly what was going on in the hometown I left behind. It was almost a complete about-face when compared to the the alternative R&B vibe “Crew” gave me, but I enjoyed it. It showed me GoldLink’s versatility, and immediately, I wanted more.

Every song on the album is great, in it’s own way. This album showcases multiple sides of GoldLink, from the rough and tough, to the ladies’ man, to the sensitive young guy looking for himself, to the fun-loving party guy. He’s there in all facets of himself, and he presents himself in a way that can only be described as calm. All the music, even the upbeat tracks like “Hands On Your Knees,” “Kokamoe Freestyle,” and “Same Clothes As Yesterday” make me want to sit down, close my eyes, and just listen. GoldLink bares himself in a way that isn’t invasive or overexposing, like I’m catching up with a friend I haven’t spoken to in years. I could relate to the music, but unlike other music I can relate to, which invokes my sullen side, songs like “Summatime” made me reminisce and smile, remembering the people I met when I was unknowingly sharing the city with GoldLink and his friends.

Speaking of his friends, the collaborations on At What Cost are nothing short of amazing. When I listen to collaborations by more mainstream artists, they don’t always blend properly; it’s almost as if the collaboration isn’t for the sake of the song’s quality, but for the song’s sales. Listening to At What Cost, there is an entirely different feeling. From snippets from more mainstream artists like Wale and Jazmine Sullivan to contributions from people I’d never heard of, like Steve Lacy and Koyaki, every person on every song meshes so well with GoldLink and enhances their respective tracks. Listening to this mixtape was a learning experience; I’m going to be listening to so much more music from the artist GoldLink featured.

GoldLink is the future. It’s a bold claim, but I think it’s true. He can make music that’s relaxing, and music that’s fun. He can collaborate with smooth R&B artists and the hardest of trap rappers. He can give himself to his fans without it being corny. He appeals to the rap enthusiasts, the new-school R&B crew, and even some of the mainstream alternative kids. Every track is, well, golden. I can’t wait to see what’s coming up next for him.

TL; DR

Favorite Five: Summatime (ft. Wale & Radian Children), Crew (ft. Brent Faiyaz & Shy Glizzy), Some Girl (ft. Steve Lacy), We Will Never Die (ft. Lil Dude), The Parable of the Rich Man (ft. April George)

Three Words to Describe At What Cost: relaxing, nostalgic, smooth

Favorite Line: “I wanna meet your ex, so I can beat him/ And have a daughter, and be a teacher/ And never follow, and be a leader/ And baby girl, I still see ya” (Meditiation ft. Jazmine Sullivan & KAYTRANADA)