American rapper Goldlink released his fourth album Diaspora earlier this year to critical acclaim. The album traces hip-hop all the way back to its roots in Africa and aptly demonstrates how interconnected black music around the world is. Goldlink worked with an array of producers from across the globe—London, Ghana, Kenya, Los Angeles—and the resulting album is his most ambitious and important body of work to date. To celebrate the new album, we connected Australian rapper B Wise with Goldlink to chat about Diaspora, the music they grew up on, and why it’s important to look at music through a global lens.
Goldlink: Hey, how are you?
B Wise: I’m good my bra. How are you, man?
Goldlink: Yeah. I’m all right.
B Wise: Nice one, man. My name’s Wise. It’s very nice to meet you so thanks very much for speaking with us today, bra. First off, congratulations on an amazing release, the sonics, message, delivery. You knocked it out of the park my bra.
Goldlink: Thank you, man. I appreciate that.
B Wise: All g man. So Looking at your last record it took a focus on your hometown, celebrating the artists and sounds from that space so what was your catalyst I guess for exploring black music on more of a global level? Did touring have an impact on this or why was it important for you that the album took the direction that it did?
Goldlink: Yeah I mean touring was a big thing for me, being able to release music and being able to tour that music definitely helped and just naturally opened my eyes to just more things and consider more things just so that I can be a better artist or a better performer and then that being said I realise that the world is much bigger than DC, it’s bigger than where I was from because no one really teaches that. Americans have such a big propaganda thing on us us us and everyone else is all the way over there and nobody worries about it and yeah. Kind of breaking that stigma I learned a lot about black culture, just people. Period.
B Wise: Yeah. Got you. It just really opened up your horizon so much more. I feel like for example even in 2019 there’s more than ever we’re seeing I guess a lot of first-generation kids reclaiming their cultural heritage. Like even to give a bit of insight on myself I’m also a recording artist and I’m of mixed heritage. So my dad is Nigerian and my mom is Australian but when I first started out making music I never thought about integrating themes or sonics from my cultural heritage so naturally I guess it’s like a fear of like what you’re saying we kind of feel like the western world thing it’s just more about us us and the audience wouldn’t relate so where now you see it’s the opposite and it’s thanks to artists like yourself who continue to educate I guess and to push those boundaries with your art. Do you feel more connected to your heritage now compared to when you were growing up and has that confidence come from touring and seeing the world?
Goldlink: Yeah. I wasn’t even really aware of it, you know what I’m saying. Americans are kind of five, seven sometimes maybe 10 generations removed so I didn’t even understand that until I was able to leave and understand that I have friends who are first and second generation that a lot of their parents are immigrants. I hear you, I never even met that until I left. You know what I’m saying. So yeah. It was just kind of like that’s what kind of really ignited like okay. There’s a lot more to things that I have no clue about and I kind of started exploring it that way but still stay true to how I grew up, what I know.
B Wise: Yeah. 100. So with that being said, I guess when you were growing like music was there anything that you were exposed to even, for example, did you find your parents played anything that was different to what you were used to or what were you exposed to growing up as a kid like music-wise let’s say that may have influenced your taste of music now?
Goldlink: Yeah. My mom listened to a completely different, like my mom listened to like gospel. Period. Like nothing [crosstalk]. My dad listened to R&B and that spectrum was big, huge. R&B and jazz and it doesn’t matter what era and then my brother, he listened to southern hip-hop and trap way before whatever people think trap is and then I listened to whatever was on 106 & Park and MTV so very eclectic.
B Wise: That’s a crazy mix man, even gospel like even I recall my parents. My dad, particularly like sunday gospel would be blaring before I even woke up, man. For real. That’s crazy. Then looking back or jumping into the album you brought together a wide range of artists from different backgrounds and genres for this record. I’m interested especially in how the collaboration with British-Nigerian artists like Maleek Berry happened on Zulu Screams how did that come about?
Goldlink: A lot of the collabs kind of came just through mutual friends. Just us knowing each other and us respecting each other’s art and then just working like that.
B Wise: Would that be the same even with Hong Kong rapper Jackson Wang on ‘Rumble’ was that a similar relationship?
Goldlink: Yeah. Same thing. We met each other around Grammy week. We met and just connected like immediately. I thought he was sick. He thought I was sick. He was a big fan. I was like, “What?” Whatever. We just kind of became friends and then right before the record turned it in I just wanted him on it really badly so I sent it to him and he knocked it out like in two days.
B Wise: Oh, snap. That is crazy, man. Like even I guess with you having collaborated with a range of—I guess even now looking at producers you’ve got producers from London, LA, Ghana, Kenya. Was there an executive producer who oversaw the whole project?
Goldlink: Sort of, kind of. It was really me and my friend Jesse who actually just landed ironically in Australia today. But me and him really were the ones that spearheaded the entire thing and then through natural progression we just found all the right people to kind of orchestrate the vision that we both kind of have for ourselves.
B Wise: Did you find that stressful? Executive producing your own record on top of doing the art but then overseeing everything else. Did you find that stressful overseeing everything or was it just natural flow?
Goldlink: It was easy just because Jesse and I are very much on the same page. He knew exactly what it is that I was going for and I like him because he doesn’t make the music at all. He doesn’t make music at all. He has such a pure– like literal pure perspective all the time that’s why he’s like a go-to guy. Anybody who knows him knows that you go to him and he’ll just give it to you pure and straight.
B Wise: So with ‘Cokewhite’ with Pusha, the production approach around how that song moves is distinctive in two ways. It has, for lack of a better word, more of a traditional rap record sound, and then with ‘Zulu Screams’ which has an afrocentric or Congolese, afrobeat, west African at times. You’ve always been an artist who naturally appears to stand out from the pack through your approach to music. Do you feel that this album in particular further solidifies your unique position, not just in rap music, but also in the music business as a whole?
Goldlink: Yeah 100%. I always felt like we were always playing our own game. We weren’t playing the same game as everyone else, and I feel like that confuses people. And what I mean by that is like just because I rap, and just because the next man raps, and you consider that hip-hop and rap, doesn’t mean we’re doing the same thing. Completely different. So if my kid paints and Picasso paints, they’re not both painters. So that’s kind of the way I look at it. I was always playing a different game from everyone else. And I think that people are starting to understand that now after a five or six year career like, “You know what? This man’s been playing a different game the entire time. He’s thought this through.” And it wasn’t like I didn’t have the opportunities like everyone else. I did. I just decided not to take them just because I was like this is not what I’m trying to do—I’m somewhere else. I’ve seen it bigger.
B Wise: It shows. I’m glad you kept that thought process, that mind process the whole time. It’s a different game. We’re in one game, but we’re playing two separate games. That’s really fresh, man. And it really shows, particularly on this record. So I guess man, overall, in your words, what message do you want people to take away from this record?
Goldlink: There’s a few things. I think the main thing now that I want people to take away from it is like, it’s definitely a classic record. And I think that this is the record that’s going to be something that you’ll look back on in the next 5, 10, 15, 20 years and be like “That was a big moment in music when music changed forever. When black music kind of just took a very big left turn.” It was because this album was one of the pioneers for that. That’s really the main thing for now, in a longer term sense. In the short term sense, I think people just should take away that this is like, I don’t know, it’s just really fun and it’s really good. You know what I’m saying?
B Wise: Yeah. 100%. Thank you so much, my brother, for speaking with me today. I wish you more success. And hopefully, we’ll see you next time. Your audio and tour, which is soon, I guess?
Goldlink: Yeah, appreciate you. Thank you.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.