GoldLink- “And After That, We Didn’t Talk” Review
Matt McMahon | Tuesday, November 10, 2015
“And After That, We Didn’t Talk” picks up immediately where D.C. hip-hop artist GoldLink left off on his introductory mixtape, “The God Complex,” from last year. The sounds of a car crash that capped off his stellar premiere have been repurposed to begin his studio album debut, instantly marking his disruptive presence on the scene.
Equally, “And After That … ” picks up on tuning the genre that GoldLink has been crafting since “The God Complex.” The sound GoldLink refers to as “Future Bounce” mixes rap, R&B and dance, and even incorporates UK club and post-dubstep components. On the new album, he and main producer Louie Lastic give a crash-course in the genre’s sounds: rich, woozy synth chords (“Late Night”), synthetic horns (“Dark Skin Women”), heavy vocal sampling and house basslines (“Spectrum”), and GoldLink’s signature sing-rapping make up the grabbing elements.
GoldLink’s signature flow, a sort of melodic talking that stresses every syllable but blurs entire lines into single words, exists on a finely tweaked dial. With a light twist of his finger, he can turn it faster or slower without ever compromising his vocal melodies. These aural gymnastics can be dizzying and unrelenting, but over “Future Bounce” beats, they fit naturally.
Meanwhile, on the verbal side, GoldLink mixes suave, sexy come-ons with social observations, a decision that proves to be as important to his “Future Bounce” genre as its sound. Sometimes confessional (“I learned a lot in such a short amount of time / Everything that’s f—–‘ fine and gold, it ain’t mine”), sometimes accusatory (“Hip-hop will die, I promise that / If we keep the lies in our raps”), he runs the gamut of his many diverse influences.
For the album, GoldLink hooked up with acclaimed producer Rick Rubin, and the mentor-mentee relationship makes a lot of sense. Rubin has been a conduit for mainstream and fringe artists alike in their aspirations to introduce burgeoning sub-genres and artistic transitions to a wider audience. Still, GoldLink’s victories and stumbles across “And After That … ” feel and sound all his own, which is reassuring for his vision, especially when a personality as big as Rubin gets involved.
In trying to create this “Future Bounce” sound — which he admits is still rather undefined — GoldLink and his producers navigate in relatively uncharted territory. As a result, not everything in his experiments works. The odd, ’90s R&B guitar line that comes into “Zipporah” at the halfway point of the song distracts rather than adding to the sound. And, most clearly exhibited on the otherwise grooving “Unique,” when he sings outright, his nasally tone can get trying.
Still, similar experiments bear fruit elsewhere on the album. The bright follow-up to “Unique,” “Palm Trees” features a plucky harp lead, a violin coda and GoldLink’s confident singing. As he bounces along the track’s slowly pulsing percussion, his poised relaxation contradicts the issues heard in the previous song. His interpolation of the beautiful chorus to Alina Baraz’s “Fantasy” exudes a playful desire, as well as a smart nod to another pioneer in the genre, Galimatias, the track’s producer.
Other times, though, the album doesn’t experiment enough with its instrumentation. The ballad-like closing trio “Polarize,” “New Black” and “See I Miss” begin to lose the momentum generated by the album’s strong, single-filled first half. Their problem isn’t so much their content but their placement and inclusion in an album trying to make a real first impression. GoldLink adequately shows the many dimensions to “Future Bounce” on much more rewarding songs but takes a step back in his conclusion.
But when the genre is still in its infancy, who’s to say what it should or shouldn’t sound like? Perhaps completely slowed down jams are integral to GoldLink’s image of his genre. However, what can be said is how well certain elements fair compared to others.
“And After That … ” proves to be a successful, if tame, introduction of Future Bounce into the mainstream lexicon of pop music. Yet, for the best taste of what the genre can truly offer, the album suggests — by imposing a drop of a sample saying, “Repeat,” copied directly from the excellent “God Complex” closer “When I Die” — that “The God Complex” should be heard for a real introduction.
Tracks: “Spectrum,” “Dance On Me,” “Palm Trees”
Listen If You Like: Kaytranada, Chance the Rapper, Vic Mensa