A muddled return that squanders his innovation...

‘HARAM!’ is the latest LP from DMV-rapper GoldLink, a 15-track album that blends notable features from hard-hitters such as Rich The Kid andNLE Choppa alongside a roster of upcoming artists.

Distortion in the mix of GoldLink’s vocal track is a key feature throughout the whole album, which serves to deteriorate from his delivery, and undoubted punchy vocal presence. Not only is it in the vocal mix, however; indeed, it is a theme prevalent throughout the entirety of the album. GoldLink is no stranger to this effect on his voice in his music, however in this case it completely takes away from his ability, and it becomes flat.

Lyrically, there is nothing here that pushes the mark or stands out; it seems like Goldlink is being lazy, and this comes across not only in his delivery but the content of his music itself. As a piece, ‘HARAM!’ is very slow, muddy, and fixates on themes of sexual competence, breaking rules, and braggadocio tendencies which have become a tiresome trope in the space of hip-hop music.

As a result, the album finds GoldLink taking a few steps back musically, which is disappointing to long-time observers - the one-two punch ‘At What Cost’ (2017) and ‘Diaspora’ (2019) left me wanting more of the DMV rapper; as notably on those releases, his ability to story-tell in such a unique way alongside the production work was ever present.

Each of those projects had a clear narrative and direction – ‘AWC’ focusing on bringing the sound of his home state, Washington, to the light of the mainstream, with sounds inspired from the city and local artists; ‘Diaspora’ meanwhile focused on African music and sounds, going back to GoldLink’s heritage, and it was an exceptional piece of work, and set him up for stardom. ‘HARAM!’ does not fill the shoes that GoldLink left out in the world to wear, as there is simply no clear theme or direction, and there seems to be no understanding of cohesive synchronisation with the artists that are featured on the album, and it leaves me questioning where Goldlink has disappeared to.

The production on the album is the centre of attention, as it gives hope throughout ‘HARAM!’ that more is to come, but that expectation never ends up being fulfilled by the artists. It is clear that GoldLink has a love and passion for musicality, and has a clear awareness for melodic exploration, for example in ‘Twin feat. (Rich The Kid)’, the instrumental and hook mesh beautifully together to form a song that is quite clearly the stand-out track, Rich The Kid presents a catchy and mellow hook that takes you into a world that juxtaposes the rest of the album, however Goldlink continues having a distorted/muffled mix in his vocal track, that just devoids the song of the life it clearly wants to express.

‘HARAM!’ had so much potential to be Goldlink’s stairway to the mainstream world of music, however it completely misses the mark and leaves the listener with questions about his musical direction. Here’s hoping that Goldlink will take this as a opportunity to learn, and come back even stronger.

5/10

Words: Ramy Abou-Setta

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