It was 2007, my sophomore year of high school. It was also the same year I met a girl after losing the biggest game of the football season against our rival, Woodlawn High School. She joked a bit about the loss — it stung (I mean, I was the quarterback) — though there was an energy that couldn’t be explained in our short exchange full of smiles and laughs. Immediately after that conversation, I knew I just had to have her by any means… Okay, maybe not by ANY means. But, there was something special about her and I felt it. And with time, I eventually got the girl.
The time we spent was exhilarating to say the least. To running into each other in the hallways and finding time to kick it before football practice, I’ll admit that I was “head over heels” and in love with her. Oh, I guess I should throw it out there that that season was pretty bad, but nothing mattered as long as I had her by my side. Yeah, the love was that serious. But, as time moved forward, things gradually fell apart and she broke up with me. What’s the kicker of it all? The young lady who I once crazy for left me for another guy. Not sure if you’ve been through it, but anger stood strong in my heart as I would walk past her or see them together in those same hallways where we previously shared our teenage love affair. That mixture of emotions burned slow with intense pain and it took years to finally find peace with the situation.
Somehow, we’ve grown to become friends after a while and spoke vaguely on that time on multiple occasions. I’ve never quite known how to express those old emotions without it coming across as negative or hurtful. And I’ve never had the soundtrack to put all of those things before, during, and after the relationship with who I thought was my high school sweetheart into perspective. Well, after listening to GoldLink’s debut album And After That, We Didn’t Talk, I believe I now have the soundtrack for my first heartbreak.
The DMV native burst his way onto the scene in 2014 with his debut project, The God Complex. I remember hearing it for the first time in amazement because it contained a sound that I usually wouldn’t care for, but it kept me interested. TGC alongside the musical taste of a woman I sort of dated last year, my mind and ears are surely open to more than the typical boom bap kind of rap that I’ve always loved and cheered for. GoldLink’s aggression and his brash, yet clever, rhyme techniques balanced out with high-energy production present something we’ve possibly never seen/heard before. And of course, the impact of his debut release would only lead him to bigger and better things such as being a part of the 2015 XXL Freshmen list, working with the legendary Rick Rubin, and much more. But, I’ve always wondered if any of that would truly matter if he didn’t deliver on the follow-up to The God Complex.
Well, let’s get into it…
One lesson there is to learn about the music industry is we (as fans) can become so caught up in the hype and fall in love with the first project to the point where growth for the artist almost seems as a disservice to the supporters. In GoldLink’s case, maybe his stable formula in addition to some unexpected tweaks to his craft would work into his favor as AATWDT picks right up from where TGC left off. The album’s intro “After You Left” extends from the tragic car crash which concluded his debut release and now welcomes you into where GoldLink’s mindset stands today. Shedding light on the topics of miscarriages, social injustice, family, the pressures of fame and his teenage heartbreak, Link’s story is well on display from the beginning and very bold to say the least. Though it’s only the first track, the difference between his second project and the first is pretty clear — there’s a story to tell. That tale would soon develop throughout the continuation of the album and it helps listeners find understanding of a man who can still be viewed as a mystery.
Wait, there’s singing on this album? From GoldLink? Why yes, yes it is. That’s a part of the unexpected tweaks I previously mentioned. The positive is a fresh melodic touch doesn’t hurt him by any means, it’s more so the reason why he shines over a richer feel of production with this body of work. It comes as a surprise, but it seems to work in an uncomfortable stance of wanting to hear the story while fighting the urge to dance. Trust me, it took a few listens to finally master the balance of both. Ha! Most importantly, it pushes the emotion of his stories within the album to different heights. There’s ways to comprehend his vulnerability whether it’s through records like “Zipporah“, “Late Night (Feat. Masego)” or “Palm Trees“, and still be able to enjoy the listen. The flows are completely different, the production is steadily improving, and the album has a certain spunk to keep your spirits in high gear through a rough patch. Also, labeling it as the soundtrack to my first heartbreak may seem like a stretch, but it’s true. I’m almost certain that I’m not the only one who can truly relate and attach themselves to this album.
Questions may still remain on who GoldLink is, but this would stand as the turning point if you didn’t gain anything from his music before. The experience of listening and getting to know an artist through their music serves a purpose; in this case, it’s almost rewarding in a sense. Although there’s moments where his lyrics feel scattered on this album like The God Complex, it’s evident that he’s grown into a better rapper and placing a mature effort into his music. And After That, We Didn’t Talk isn’t too angry, and it’s not too somber… Sonically, it feels just right. If it’s not a masterpiece now, he’s bound to hit that ceiling with his next effort.
Personally, the single gripe towards AATWDT would unfortunately be track nine, “Polarized.” It doesn’t seem to have that same connection as the other songs, sticking out like the sore thumb of the project. On the bright side, having one skip is much better than four or five, which would be disappointing for a sophomore release. The following tracks, the socially conscious “New Black” and mellow reflection of “See I Miss” makes up for that in a major way. Overall, And After That, We Didn’t Talk is a solid listen, a fun listen with infectious sounds and melodies that helps create a more vivid picture of GoldLink’s life story given with his debut album. But, once again, the thing listeners may become intrigued with is getting to the root of the mystery that is GoldLink himself. It doesn’t hurt him in this effort as he does just the right things to hold fans over until next time. For me, though I have questions, there’s no way to knock art that takes you to an exact moment in your life. A painful one at that. And because of that, Link wins.
Love is scary, and it’s also very sweet like your grandmother’s kool-aid. But, when it fails and hurts to the core, it may cause a trickling effect; that’s not hard to notice throughout GoldLink’s presentation of And After That, We Didn’t Talk. From the deep hurt in his heart which leads into a world of anger, confusion, eventual success and possibly trying to fill the void of his first love, there’s a better understanding of him as a person to a certain extent. My world at fifteen years old and beyond has a similar outlook to his story at sixteen. So, the curiosity is there and if that was a part of GoldLink’s plan in the making of AATWDT, then he certainly sold me on that one. The words, emotions, and composition of this album did not only take me back to my first heartbreak, it helped me find true peace of mind with it moving forward. So maybe this doesn’t deserve much of a review as it does a genuine thank you. With that being said, thanks GoldLink.
Myself and others may want to know more but, for now, just come on and dance, baby.
The mystery of GoldLink remains, but AATWDT has a special connection with the people. Including myself8
Production score 8
Lyrics score 8
Composition score 8