Review: GoldLink – The God Complex

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I originally wrote and published this in October 2014 on an old site of mine. GoldLink’s debut mixtape The God Complex was released in 2014 and is a mixtape I frequently return to for its relatable rhymes, braggadocious bravado and heartfelt honesty.

Kaytranada produced, Sober Thoughts was the track I had on repeat when I was introduced to GoldLink’s music. I love the nostalgic beat, the rapper’s animated flow and slick vocals. Watch the subtly psychedelic visual, directed by Shomi Patwary, below.

When I managed to pry myself away from that track, my ears were blessed with even more of his music in the form of his debut project The God Complex. The DMV rapper, who for a long time managed to stay largely anonymous – even in his videos, adopted the term ‘future bounce’ to describe his music. It is definitely the sound of the future and it sure makes you do the latter. GoldLink’s music encompasses elements of R&B, hip-hop, house and electronica.

It opens with the far from covertly catchy, Fingalick produced, Ay Ay – one of my favourite tracks on the album. The audible bounciness of the track takes on a literal sense as GoldLink demands that girls “bounce that ass for [his] kinfolk.” It ends with a nostalgic, subtle sample of Will Smith’s Men In Black (which is a sample of Patrice Rushen’s Forget Me Nots).

Ay Ay sets a very good tone for the rest of the project, it is lyrically as braggadocios as it is honest, addressing a number of topics to be elaborated upon as you listen to the ensuing tracks. “You are listening to The God Complex,” a female voice ad-libs before the outro; almost in preparation for the “full circle,” GoldLink states the project takes.

The end of the project slows considerably, closing with the thought-inducing When I Die. He raps about his needs, hopes, wants and wonders – post-death; informing the listener that he’s “just crazy nigga, who found out how to live life sober.” At the end of the song you hear a car crash, followed by a sample of Lisa ‘Left Eye’ Lopes on Donell Jones’ track U Know What’s Up. Those familiar with how Left Eye passed will notice the connection.

The same woman who informs us we are listening to The God Complex on the opening track, says “repeat” at the end of the closing track. We then hear what souds like a cassette player clicking, indicating the end of the tape. If you’re listening to the 9-track original release of the project on loop, you’ll be taken back to the opening track which features another cassette player click – play. I love the well-thought out artistry, the meticulous connections and the nods to my 90s childhood listening to music on cassette tape.

The God Complex definitely goes full circle. Everything in between is utterly audibly exhilarating. The sample sprinklings throughout may surprise you, as you stumble upon a slowed sample of Britney’s Toxic at the end of How It’s Done.

A Pharcyde (lyric) sample opens the potentially purest hip-hop song on the project, aptly titled Hip-Hop (Interlude). Perhaps ironically, it’s reminiscent of an old school sound that preceded the crossover sounds prevalent in the genre today – pushed even further by GoldLink, himself.

The electronica infused CNTRL is another highlight, along with the similarly inspired Divine. The beautifully, bouncy and oh so improper Fuck Being Polite does everything you might expect it to. Not only does it offend but it also informs the listener in no uncertain terms “understand who I fucking be/ got a fucking problem? Don’t fuck with me/ I’m Gold, yeah, that young nigga who nice.” You can’t even be mad because he is what he claims to be and it’s more than “nice.”

He opens the Louie Lastic produced Bedtime Story with some seriously arrogant and potentially controversial lyrics; “she put the CD in and said there is a God/ and read the bible just to know that the I’m the Ahmadinejad/ I killed Osama, burned a few Qurans for me to get this far/ devil dancing music, you can feel him in your car,” over a mildly classic hip-hop style beat with a go-go sound that works ridiculously well with his relentless flow. Towards the end of the track comes another sample in the form of Timbaland & Magoo’s single Drop.

Explaining his thought process behind The God Complex title, GoldLink explains:

to me it has two meanings. I had a girlfriend whose father was a philosopher and he would say that people should strive to be like God because God is perfect. Nobody is perfect but why don’t we at least attempt to be perfect.

Then when you look up the God Complex in the dictionary it’s somebody who’s overly confident. Someone who isn’t humble, you know what I’m saying? A very, very arrogant person. I took both of the definitions and put them into one. I would say some braggadocios shit on ‘Bedtime Story’ and switch it up on a different song.

It is a very honest first project with so many relatable lyrics. He addresses issues including relationships and cheating, death and suicide, a crazy childhood and his father as well as his humble, admissive need for Jesus – despite The God Complex he possesses.

Yes, GoldLink has named this genre but the ambiguity of ‘future bounce’ can’t prepare you for the amazingly produced rollercoaster of sounds The God Complex will take you on. GoldLink’s lyrical delivery is near faultless too – at whatever pace he’s deciding to deliver.

In a musical world where comparisons are inevitable, I was hesitant to acknowledge a Kendrick Lamar-esque flow, which expanded into my wondering if he was TDE influenced. I picked up on possible hints of ScHoolboy Q’s hippie style but I think GoldLink’s overall sound is too unique to to be compared.

Upon my initial listen to The God Complex I also pondered an ASAP Rocky influence, as I noticed a perhaps borrowed line from Rocky’s Keep It G which appeared on his LiveLoveA$AP mixtape. On Fuck Being Polite GoldLink spits “I get, get my dick licked.” But what’s one line eh? As I kept listening these comparisons were overshadowed, with the possibility of an ASAP influence grinding to an abrupt halt when I read GoldLink’s (now unavailable) interview on Mass Appeal.

On why he’s so secretive about his identity, the rapper (who for a long time had friends and family who were oblivious to his musical endeavours) explains:

I didn’t want to associate an image with music. This music is fucking quality. There’s too many motherfuckers about image. I’m not trying to throw shade but A$AP Rocky has the best image ever but the music is sub par. I don’t get the coexistence. My whole thing is music is what we’re in this for and that’s all that matters.

You can stream The God Complex below, via SoundCloud. Sadly, it is minus the fancifully, frenetic lead single Pleasure Paradise. The ‘deluxe’ version (pictured above) includes Sober Thoughts and Ay Ay (Flow-Fi Remix).

There was once an official website link to download The God Complex but that has long since expired. The project was later released on iTunes and also became available to stream on Apple Music and Spotify but again, sadly has since been removed. Some murmurings on the internet allude to sample clearance issues.

At this moment (June 2021) it is still not available on streaming platforms, so I’m super happy I caught this in 2014, in time to download via the official link. It’s still on my 128gb iPod classic!

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