ALBUM REVIEW: Goldlink, HARAM!
Goldlink kicked off his career by being soulful and vibey over beats that could be considered "alt-R&B" or "hip-house", this was his signature style. While his contemporaries were making trap with Metro Boomin or Southside, he was teaming up with electronic oddballs Ike Masego and Kaytranada, solidifying a lane for himself as the street guy who also fucked with the dance club scene. He furthered this persona on his excellent 2017 project, At What Cost, his best in my opinion. He broke into the mainstream with the undeniable “Crew” with Brent Faiyaz and Shy Glizzy, but I was way more into the Kaytranada cuts like “Meditation” and “Have You Seen That Girl?” Watching him release this album felt like a new star rapper being bred out of the underground, it was very exciting to say the least. Two years later on Diaspora, he got a lot of big name features together to make some quality dance and trap tracks that all had a uniform production aesthetic to them, another W under his belt.
It seems that when rappers find themselves pigeonholed in a specific lane, they always have to fuck around with it and go demonic. Kanye did it with Yeezus, BROCKHAMPTON did it with Iridescence, it’s an attention grabbing and risky career move that sometimes pays off. It’s not paying off at all for Goldlink however, who just dropped his wackest project yet in HARAM! While his other albums dipped and dabbled in different genres while still holding strongly to the production thesis of the record, this one just sounds confused as hell. At points it’s fiery and angry, at other points he’s sensually riffing. The album goes from really fun house music to acoustic guitar balladry to U.K. drill in a few songs. It has an anti-flow to it, refusing to be cohesive.
The feature list here is simply overwhelming. Rich The Kid, grime/drill dudes, unknown singers and rappers with weird voices, none of it meshes together at all. On individual tracks they do, Santigold and Fire! flow really well over the anime twinkle of “Wild and Lethal Trash!”, and Rax and Rizlowski seamlessly fit together on “Evian”, and PinkPantheress absolutely serves on the hook. These are two of the five of the songs I like, by the way, out of 15. These voices all don’t belong in the same confined space is what I’m getting at, and some people, like Pressa or Rich The Kid, don’t belong at all. Goldlink doesn’t sound half bad rapping over a lot of these beats, the problem is he hasn’t switched up his style in like 5 years. He’s continuing to spit that same flashy, say nothing flow that he did on At What Cost, but this time he REALLY has nothing to say, making not one bar memorable. At least that album was grounded by a concept, he could play into lyrically a bit, this album wants to have a concept so bad but never commits long enough to one idea to form one. He and featured artist Bibi Bourelly try really hard to wrap it all up with a neat bow and string sections on the closer, but the effort is too little too late. Armand Hammer made the significantly better rap album called Haram this year, Goldlink should’ve went back to the drawing board. The cover is kind of hard though I’m not gonna front.