The DMV superstar GoldLink, who has kept our ears busy for awhile now with two mixtapes (The God Complex and And After That We Didn’t Talk) under his belt…comes fully loaded with his debut album At What Cost. The two singles Crew and Meditation got us primed for the hip-hop and dancing energy that the album exudes across fourteen tracks. GoldLink has an impressive lineup of features spread throughout, with Jazmine Sullivan, Kaytranada, Steve Lacy, Radiant Children, Koyaki, Mya, Hare Squead, April George, Ciscero, Shy Glizzy, Brent Faiyaz, Lil Dude, and Wale all somewhere on the album displaying a great foundation of some artists that hail from the DMV such as himself.
The into to the album Opening Credit is an array and clash of sounds. It’s rather dark and scrambled because you can’t make out what the direction will be but in the last moments of the song, like seeing the light at the end of the tunnel the conflicting sounds clear. The lead into Same Clothes As Yesterday is there for Ciscero to speed all over the tune like Usain Bolt, right out the gate. The beat remains it’s vibrancy and upbeat tempo as it adjusts for Ciscero to slow down and increase the amount of verses he can fit and the style to boot, “Acting like they can’t at me (ay) But that do is just zap me (ay)” It’s the pop-infused rap that makes you just nod along to the hook as GoldLink the followup, to his smashing verse comes in. He keeps things sexual and romantic as he discusses women, violence, and throws around some general shoutouts to rappers that have been less than truthful. The song keeps the repetitive hook going to close out the song and that’s what grabs you, a catchy aspect to infect your brain and stay with you. Have You Seen That Girl? is an early contender for your Summer Playlists, it’s GoldLink flexing his storytelling skills and talking us through of seeing a potential dream girl. “Lil model tryna know way way back when She ain’t never give me play So I played her friend Then she wanna try to holla Then I played to win Then the homegirl brother tried to fight me I had to have the nigga kiss the bottom of my Nikes Talkin’ bout he from Trinidad so he rep the 12 I don’t give a fuck about ya, see yo ass in hell” This song in particular reflects the cover art, it’s realistic, explicit in how he details the ongoing attempt to court the lady in question, and the production never let’s up. A steady and maintained electronic beat that keeps the drums slamming throughout, never letting up. The next track Hands On Your Knees momentarily takes us back to the spinning times of Disco and Soul Train with Kokayi acting as a DJ to encourage everyone to let loose and do that shit! It’s one of the shorter songs on the album but it’s a quick interlude before jumping back into the present day tunes.
The Kaytranada production shines like a neon tinted sign through the cool and rhythmic lyrics of both GoldLink and Jazmine Sullivan on Meditation. GoldLink never lets up as he flows and quips about romancing, loving the apple of his eye, and letting the good times roll. Jazmine Sullivan comes in as a silk smooth voice providing the chorus and bridge. Kaytranada changing the beat on a dime and retaining the original feel and sounds helps as the song progresses back and forth between GoldLink and Jazmine. Herside Story goes for a more rough around the edges feeling as Hare Squead (Jessy Rose) and GoldLink rap in short bursts. It’s more minimal as GoldLink raps a mile a minute “Roll up, rockin’, get to poppin’ with ya Ain’t nobody get to fightin’ with ya Ain’t nobody get the pipe and hit ya And none a nigga, can’t nobody get ya” his rapping compliments the beat that feels as if it’s submerged coming to the surface as he bobs and nods to letting Hare Squead gets us to the crescendo of a bridge with a hint of Gospel Clapping and electronic choppiness. Summatime marks the halfway point and the album slowly takes more of a personal and intimate sound as talks of love lost and women relations populate the track. Radiant Children increases the jazz feelings throughout Summatime. GoldLink and Wale come across as two poets speaking on past relationships and old tales, showing off their eye for details in a short and sweet track as Radiant Children do the heavy lifting with the chorus.
Roll Call gets the electronic bounce and jolt of energy into the music with Mya. There’s a mastery over the production as GoldLink and Mya rap with the instruments behind them, allowing them to be comfortable on the track and accentuate their fields. Mya shows D.C major love as she owns the hook and GoldLink as well in his rapping, He’s telling small tidbits about the day to day DMV life and showing what’s happening whether it’s partying, bravado, or just speaking on the hood in general. The Parable of the Rich Man is by far the most polarizing track on the entire album. Sonically it’s the most distinctive as both GoldLink and April George borderline sound like they’re coming through TV static. The slowed down and erratic tempo fits the feel of the song but it can’t be enjoyed in full as the song cuts the two in favor of a choir to end it. We then proceed to one of the smash singles of the album that provided all manner of feel good times and caused you to nod your as GoldLink, Shy Glizzy, and Brent Faiyaz all work in unison to create the album highlight that is Crew. A strike between fast paced raps, Shy Glizzy attacking the track, and Brent assisting with a matter of fact voice for the hook plus the minimal sounds backing them up provides an insanely catchy track that’ll stick with you long after the song is over. Everyone being on one accord when it comes to what they’re bringing to the track and how each is complimented with the sound makes Crew aptly named.
We Will Never Die is GoldLink at his most angry, ready to flex, and let everyone know him and his people are hear to stay. Lil Dude grounds the track confirming this song in particular as the most rap heavy and monotone. The production is dreary and simplistic letting the two MC’s speak their peace as they get into gangs, youth, and letting violence happen if need be. Kokamoe Freestyle goes for a tribal futuristic style as GoldLink lays it all on the table. It’s hard hitting, funky, and maintains the bounce you’ve heard for most of the songs on the album. He goes from telling where he’s been and where he’s at now,violence in the streets, relations to gangs, and the relationship to the police. It’s all told confidently and easily as it just rolls off the tongue as the funky beat continues up until the vocals of a lady easing us out to “Trigger has no heart, baby I don’t know, oh, no I don’t know, oh, no” The drums beating on Some Girl should be enough to grab your attention, that and Steve Lacy singing on the hook searching for love. Three verses of GoldLink rapping about all aspects of his love and affection for the women of his dreams wraps the song in a nice bow because it brings together two like minded artists to create a unique sounding love song. The song even provides a twisted Steve Lacy tinted outro as it becomes more choppy, angelic, and harmonized before ending.
The final track Pray Everyday (Survivor’s Guilt) leaves GoldLink at a vulnerable place through the music. Rhymes of praying and keep the demons and haters away begin the track and it goes from there. He talks about his drinking, sexual lusts, and his position as a role model in the DMV and at large and what that means because that in itself comes wit baggage. We’re getting added depth and dimensions to the rapper that’s known for the pop and rap records that’ll make you get out of your seat. The choir helping him in the background tugs at the religious feelings and sentiments he shares on the track before the outro of a prayer takes us out.
At What Cost is a stellar addition to the DMV’s discography as a whole. Showing native artists love as features and the lyrics that resonate the saying “There’s no place like home” GoldLink has created an album that is part Summertime Pop and Rap enjoyment and also a personal in depth look on what love, relationships, and life comes packaged with. The electronic, upbeat, catchy nature of the songs urge you to go back to hear lyrics you may have missed given the dizzying nature of the songs. A win for GoldLink is a win for all those involved and with At What Cost, it’s a certified winner.