In 2015, a large chunk of the most potent music curation and quality artistic output can be credited to the guys over at the Soulection camp—a collective of DJ’s, artists, and creatives alike that thrive on putting forth both compelling and infectious tracks for the listener embodied in whole original projects or re-interpretations of today’s favourites and yesterday’s classic’s alike. There is a strong chance that they’ve infected your Soundcloud rotation one way or another, and if they aren’t making you dance there, they’re doing it on their own Beats 1 Radio show on Apple Music or they’re in your city moving venues and clubs with their eclectic taste and aptitude for all things lit.
If there is a single artist affiliated with the constantly growing brand of Soulection that embodies them best, it’s 21-year old rapper GoldLink. Last year’s The God Complex made waves as his entry into the world of a cohesive project, and it didn’t disappoint. The DMV native earned himself mass amounts of critical acclaim, a growth spurt in his fans and followers, and a XXL Freshman Class look for 2015 all off the strength of one mixtape. That offering might seem minimal, but that tape offered enough flash and brilliance to warrant all of what he’s received. It’s sound was radiant and bouncy with tempos climbing track by track, as 808s slap and sit below warping house synths, all reinterpreted and redistributed in dozens of ways. Within that tape, we got peeks into GoldLink’s hyperactive mind and capabilities as a writer, getting personal on tracks but never too dark to piss on his dance-y parade. With his latest offering and his debut album through Soulection, And After That, We Didn’t Talk, GoldLink trades his schizophrenic thoughts in for a more studied outlook on the embers of a love lost, a linear narrative that flows through eleven tracks of romance, anguish, and excellence.
Still, And After That offers GoldLink’s signature blend of hip-hop and ethereal spawns of house music, but one of the most noticeable additions is his use of melody within these records. His ability to effortlessly transition in and out of a raw, moving pocket and pivot right back to rapping fluently with his unmistakable voice and flow results in most tracks here sounding like records—wholesomely crafted sonic moments from top to bottom that are able to tell powerful stories with conviction, and still be something to dance to. ‘Dance on Me’ is a perfect example of GoldLink’s ability to bob and weave between his own interpretation of R&B and straight spitting over the same groove. There’s something incredibly satisfying to the ear and just outright impressive about GoldLink’s eclecticism within his writing and song structure as he floats between several different genres while never impeding the album’s core concept and narrative. ‘Dark Skin Women’ is a spirited, funky twist that rings off early in the record, adding a dose of energy before the record mutates into a completely different vibe.
‘Late Night’ kicks off the second half of the record with assistance from Masego’s sugar sweet melodies with a hook that’s guaranteed to seep into your skull and have you singing it back for hours. GoldLink plays off Masego’s contributions to push the plot forward a bit with the woman in question. The relationship at hand begins to wither based off writing clues from Goldlink himself, but as the album plays on, and GoldLink utilizes his collaborators on this latter end of the album for added perspectives and textures on the story and the music. ‘Polarized’ with Demo Taped is a gliding, jazzy piece while budding talent Anderson .Paak plays guest on ‘Unique’ for a colourful cut that expounds on rare breeds of love. (“Is that your ass i’m holding?” could very well be my favourite line on this album.) Thematically, the interesting thing is GoldLink is never really telling you what’s happening, but he’s telling you how he feels about it. By virtue of his emotional compass, as you come the end of the record, you might not know what happened or how it happened, but you’ll know what it did to him.
The record ends with ‘See I Miss’, where the subject of the record seems the most distant. GoldLink uses the chorus to question, “Who knew, yeah/That I would even miss that bitch” over a soothing, jazz drum pattern and filtered keys creating a sonic environment not too distant from the sounds achieved on D’Angelo’s last album. The production on this album in it’s totality is absolutely stunning, as every producer involved really came with their best. Galimatias, Medasin, and Tom Misch are all credited with pitching into the album’s sounds, but Louie Lastic’s placements here end up resonating the most. Album single ‘Spectrum’ has an unreal groove sporting a Missy Elliott-sample paired with random barrages of Tagalog-dialogue, and is one of the only tracks where GoldLink is rapping all the way through with a non-stop flow straight out the toolbox of André 3000. With a knock like that, you can’t really blame him.
This is an album that is masterfully crafted from top to bottom, and is bravely experimental without deviating too far left from what we loved to hear from GoldLink in the first place. The most intriguing aspect of the record, though, is probably how he left it, as the last word you hear on the album is atop a familiar static-filled filter from the intro ‘After You Left’ and is simply “repeat”—as the first sound on the intro being that same static-filled filter beneath what sounds like a car-crash. It could be GoldLink’s way of conveying that he has not learned from these experiences, or maybe it’s a testament to the monotony of the headspace that existed through the album’s duration. Either way, you’re left to fetch whatever few details GoldLink’s dropped within one of the best records to release this year to try and piece together any tangible events of the story presented. It almost makes the unspoken just as important as the music itself, which is a fitting quality for a story that ultimately ends with, We Didn’t Talk.