As the old saying goes, the most qualified person is not always the best for the job. We’ve heard this for much of our lives, whether it be in reference to getting an internship, a job, a seat in a graduate program or, hell, even a significant other. Someone can have every accolade to their name, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be the right fit. Sometimes, it takes more than just a shining résumé; some people just have the “it” factor. It might be their demeanor, attitude or specific skill set, but when someone has the “it” factor, it’s obvious. In the case of D.C. rapper GoldLink, he has a knack for finding the “it” factor, especially when it comes from a singer or rapper that still has a lot to prove.
For much of GoldLink’s career, he has taken growing talent that has yet to see the spotlight and made amazing music with them. Take his 2017 sleeper hit “Crew” for example. He collaborated with Shy Glizzy, a rapper perpetually trapped at the brink of breakout success, and Brent Faiyaz, a silky-voiced newcomer still trying to get his feet off the ground, and together, they struck gold. Each man brought their own unique panache to the track, and this is credited to each respective artist’s hunger and desire to breakout. Now that GoldLink has risen to a higher profile, it would make sense for him to start seeking out bigger feature artists. Diaspora does see bigger names hitting the tracklist, however, Goldlink continues to put on lesser-known talent.
Diaspora is an incredible collection of songs steamed in GoldLink’s sound. No one else sounds like him, and he knows it. He leans into his nasally voice and bouncy, seamless flow and finds collaborators who will augment his sound without altering it. On “Zulu Screams,” Diaspora’s energetic lead single, GoldLink takes his danceable and electronics components and fuses it with Maleek Berry’s afrobeats touch. Berry, a world star who has yet to break through to the U.S. mainstream, proves to be a perfect fit on the song. His joyous voice and exuberant production perfectly accent GoldLink’s dance-influenced sound. Berry puts his own unique touch on the song, proving GoldLink’s ability to get the best out of collaborators.
GoldLink further demonstrates this ability with outstanding songs like “Joke Ting” and “Rumble.” On “Joke Ting,” guest feature Ari PenSmith delivers an excellent hook that matches and blends in with the laid-back vibe of GoldLink’s delivery. What’s more, she even matches the tone of his braggadocious and slick-talking verse. PenSmith flexes a little bit with lines like, “‘Cause my whole squad on swole, you don’t wanna get involved / Get close, you might choke, we ain’t on a joke ting,” which perfectly drives GoldLink’s verse home. Further, on “Rumble,” GoldLink brings on DMV rapper Lil Nei as well as Jackson Wang, solo artist and member of Korean boy band GOT7, both of whom bring lighthearted performances to an already boisterous and jovial track.
Despite the prominence of newcomers on Diaspora, GoldLink also performs without assistance. Tracks like the reminiscent and chill “Tiff Freestyle” and the frantic, dextrous “Manic” both show that GoldLink is more than capable of carrying a song by himself. Surprisingly, however, GoldLink does also bring in a few high-profile artists to collaborate with him. Pusha T, Khalid and Tyler, the Creator all make appearances, but they aren’t just there to boost streaming numbers. They were all clearly chosen because GoldLink felt that they were the most fit artist for their respective songs and that no one else could do it better than them. And it’s true. Each artist has a great and personality-filled performance, with Khalid taking home the title of best feature. Replace these artists and the tracks wouldn’t have had the same synergy and dynamicism.
With Diaspora, GoldLink tightens the screws from his last release, At What Cost. He crafts more enjoyable songs, varies his flows and has better beat selection. No song reaches the heights of “Crew,” but he comes close with both “Zulu Screams” and “U Say.” What’s more, GoldLink proves that his ability to find the perfect artists to fit his songs is unmatched. No feature is wasted, and no feature is unwanted. Everyone involved in the project delivers, but especially the mastermind behind the project himself, crafting an album that is distinctly GoldLink.