24kGoldn jumped onto The Blind Pig stage thumping, “I don’t want a valentine, I just want VALENTINO!” The crowd bounced and swayed, screaming along. I looked over at my friend; we were in for a ride.
Goldn just kept them coming, song after song, banger after banger, each with a catchier hook than the last. Of course, I knew a bunch of the hooks already (“Coco! Chanel! You ain’t really ’bout it I can tell!”), but even when he played an unreleased song, I was able to sing along, eventually shouting “MKA!” with everyone else. I imagine I was not the only one who lost their voice by the end of the night.
Settling down from the hype between songs, Goldn looked out at the crowd, eyes wide and smiling. “This place is paaaacked,” he said. The resounding roar from the crowd proved him right. He pushed his signature golden dreads from his eyes and explained how he had performed on that same stage three years before, how there had been just a few people there and just how much his life has changed since then.
Facing his audience, he could see that change staring right back at him.
After the show, I got a chance to speak with Goldn at the merch table (yes, 24kGoldn, the man with 1.5 billion streams on a single song, stayed at his own merch table an hour after his show ended to talk to fans and pose for pictures). I asked him why he came back to The Blind Pig, why he didn’t choose a bigger venue in Detroit or something. “I live for these full-circle moments,” he said. “Three years ago I was a cocky little mothafucka that was like, ‘I’m gonna be back here and I’m gonna sell this bitch out,’ and there was no evidence that that would happen, it was just a belief in myself. So it feels good to look back and know that I made 18-year-old Goldn proud.”
Goldn, born Golden Landis Von Jones, released his first album DROPPED OUTTA COLLEGE back in 2019, after, yes, dropping out of USC to pursue his music career. The album quickly became a success, especially on TikTok, where his braggadocious hooks and guitar-based beats easily inspired cheeky dances and helped make “VALENTINO” platinum. His most recent album, El Dorado (2021), was also supported by the social media platform on its road to even bigger success.
But Goldn is vehemently opposed to being called a “TikTok rapper,” and I think he’s pretty justified in that opposition. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Goldn explained his frustration with the term, saying, “When I was in high school, everyone called me a SoundCloud rapper, now I’m a TikTok rapper.” Goldn wants to transcend the platforms he uses to promote his music. He wants to be seen as more than just part of the latest social media trend, saying in the interview, “With time, people will realize I’m here to stay and that I’m a true artist, not a fad.”
And for the sake of music, I hope he’s right. After all, the catchy hooks and boppy beats that make his songs so popular on TikTok are also the same qualities that make his songs so fun to listen to and so goddamn good. If we, music listeners, lovers and critics, stifle the success of musicians because of the platform that made them popular, we are going to miss out on some slapping songs.
And I don’t think we are going to want to miss out on whatever 24kGoldn comes up with next.
Daily Arts Writer Joshua Medintz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.