GoldLink’s ‘Diaspora’ Is A Master Class In Cultural Appreciation

06.17.19 4 weeks ago

RCA Records

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In all the recent discussion about appropriation, the question often arises: What’s the difference between appropriation and appreciation? The line between the two seems so hazy that it may as well not exist, but if there is one, the best example of the “appreciation” side might just be the newest album from DMV rapper GoldLink. On Diaspora, GoldLink mines inspiration in African-rooted music from all over the world to create a one-of-a-kind celebration of all of the cultures and styles, grounded by his own unique vision of eclectic unity.

GoldLink is a quirky rapper from the DC area whose chain-rattle flow anchored the 2017 hit “Crew” and his standout album from the year, At What Cost. The eclectic production and unusual patter of his vocal cadence were well-received by critics, but he was unable to secure a second hit or push At What Cost into the top 100 of Billboard, despite his earlier appearance on XXL’s 2015 Freshman cover. The experimental vibes of his debut album hit all of the right notes to impress his hometown crowd, but unfortunately went over the general audience’s heads.

Rather than surrender to the demands of commercial radio, however, GoldLink takes a different tack on Diaspora, aiming to expand his reach globally rather than domestically. Why aim for LA or New York radio when there’s a whole international market to appeal to — especially when it’s so much more accepting of unusual sounds and wide-ranging influences? In tapping into African and Caribbean styles, both contemporary and traditional, GoldLink opens up several new avenues for his chattering DMV patois to explore. However, unlike Drake, who is also well-known for playing to his diasporic influences, GoldLink keeps himself grounded in his home style, letting the sonic palette of his production do the heavy lifting, which helps him to avoid the pitfalls of sounding inauthentic.

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