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Mistakes and Growing Pains With 24kGoldn

Grappling the music world at just 21, LA-based artist 24kGoldn reassures us that this is just the beginning. On his first visit to Australia for the Listen Out Festival, we caught him in the midst of it all to discuss shoeys, struggles with vulnerability, growing up, and being your authentic self.

In the same years that the COVID-19 pandemic was rife, LA-based rapper 24kGoldn was making milestone moves on the music fronts, dominating the world of TikTok and popular music at the time with one word – Mood. His breakout song Mood featuring Iann Dior solidified his status as a household name, as he went on to work with the likes of Future, Jack Harlow, Ty Dolla $ign, and more. But as he sits opposite me, he blooms with enthusiasm and youthful energy, like any other regular kid. Just as his name entails, 24kGoldn is as golden as they come. Charismatic and charming, all he wants to do when given the day to chill out in between tour dates is ball. However, when duty calls, he’s ready to give 110%. 

Though never chasing a perfect self, Goldn aims to showcase himself wholly through his music, acknowledging both the good and the bad. Taking self-awareness and vulnerability in his stride, his new single Mistakes speaks to this story of imperfection, and is only the start of a journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance. Currently sitting on the follow-up to his debut 2021 album, El Dorado, the project titled Growing Pains, is a personal reference to his growth. To dig a little deeper, we caught up with him while he was in Sydney for the Listen Out Festival, to talk all things music, the effects of the pandemic, growing older, and what the next year holds.

Hi 24kGoldn, thank you so much for speaking with us today. How are you doing?
I’m good, I’m good. Thank you so much. 

You’ve been over here in Australia touring for the Listen Out festival. And I saw at your last show that you did a shoey for the first time. How did that go down?
Well, I was so confused at first, because for the whole show, people just kept yelling at me like, “shoey, shoey”. And I didn’t know what they were saying. At first, I thought they were saying like, “chew it, chew it”. And then I finally just had someone go out there and ask, like, “what are they talking about?”. He was like, it means you have to pour something to drink in your shoe and drink it and I was like, oh, that’s all you guys want it? So then we did that. It was kind of fun.

Honestly, I’ve seen quite a few artists that have been hesitant to do a shoey.
That was my first time wearing the shoes, so it wasn’t like they had been through years of sweat. [laughs]

Okay, that’s good! And then how has it been to connect and engage with your Aussie fans at Listen Out?
They’ve been really, really cool. The thing is, it’s always mind-boggling whenever I’m in a different country, especially like, a different continent I’ve never been to before and people out there know the words to all the songs, it’s always fun.

This is your first time in Australia as well, has it kind of set the standard for Australian audiences and what to expect?
Yeah, especially Perth. They were turnt up.

I saw you also just wrapped up touring alongside Logic and Wiz Khalifa. How was it to tour and perform alongside those guys who have been in the game for years?
I mean, it was really educational, like, going on watching them almost every night and seeing how they interact with the crowd and the things they picked up in their 10 years of touring and realising oh, I could incorporate something like that into my set and what I do. I feel like I grew so much as a performer in just a month and a half.

What was your fondest memory from tour?
Honestly, just hanging out. Kicking it with Logic and his people, went to Top Golf with Wiz. Yeah, I don’t know. The whole thing was just kind of a blur. But like, all fun. 

It sounds almost unreal really.
Definitely, I dressed up as Wiz Khalifa for Halloween, and now I get to go and be on tour with him, like, that’s crazy.

I want to take it back to your early days with music. What were you listening to growing up?
My mom and my dad both were really into music. A lot of soul, a lot of R&B, a lot of funk, but their tastes were beyond that too. So I also listened to rap and rock growing up. It was a really wide variety. And I think that’s why music sounds kind of un-genre today.

You definitely mix genres well. I also read that your parents were former models. Is the hustle and bustle of life now kind of easy to adjust to because of their experiences, and your experience growing up surrounded by that type of “in the limelight” life?
I think they just had a really good perspective and realised that it’s a great way to make money, especially when you’re young. So when I was younger, I used to do commercials and modelling and stuff like that. And I think that was what got me comfortable being in front of people or being in front of a camera.

Did that ever become overwhelming at a young age? Or did you kind of adjust accordingly?
Well I started modelling when I was one, or maybe a little less. And I did it for a couple years until I got to two or three. And then I just started just being like an asshole. [laughs] And like, whenever they try to take the picture I’d make a face or stick my tongue out, just because I didn’t realise you know, I didn’t understand what was going on. So I took a break from it. And then when I was like eight or nine, I got back into it. So it was never unmanageable. Except for when I was a kid.

Tying that experience together, you grew up in San Francisco. What was that like?
That was incredible. San Francisco was one of the most beautiful cities on the face of this Earth if you ask me. I think being able to grow up around so many different types of people with so many different types of foods, so many different types of styles, so many different ways of life, it gives you this perspective of what is possible/ It shows you all these different options or all these different life paths that you could take. And I think that’s inspired me a lot and how I look at the world. 

You ended up leaving a scholarship at the University of Southern California, to pursue music full-time in 2019. As a young person, I feel like that can be a very difficult call to make. How was it for you to make that decision?
I was ready to go. I knew I was gonna drop out of college before I even started college. So it was really just kind of figuring out like, when does it make sense for me to drop out of college, and when I had the record deal on the table, and I learned that I could still keep my scholarship for some time after, it was just like a no brainer, at least to me. Not everybody else in my family saw it that way, but it made sense to me.

Were your parents pretty supportive in your decision as well?
Yeah, eventually. But at first, it was just kind of, I’m sure, jarring for them to hear like, “Hey, Mom, Dad, I know, I got a scholarship to this really great school, but I’m actually gonna, like, leave all that and go do this music thing”. I can see how they felt.

I mean look at where it’s taken you! Your track Mood with Iann Dior kind of took over the world instantly from its drop, and it even hit 7x Platinum right here in Australia, which is massive. Tell me about how that song came about?
It was just the beginning of the pandemic. And we were so bored out of our minds, with nothing to do. So me and Omer (guitarist) and KBeaZy (producer), we all went to Iann’s house, just to kick it. We were playing Call of Duty, and Omer picks up one of his guitars, and he’s just playing something. And I just started singing without even thinking about it. And then Omer is like, yo, go record that. And I recorded my part. Iann recorded his part. And I feel like the rest is history.

Yeah, it’s sick that you were all in the same space just regularly and then all it took was one idea to shoot out of your mind, in order to create something massive.
Yeah, it’s crazy. I feel like the best songs come naturally.

Definitely. And how did it feel to see that song grow to how big it is today?
It was really beautiful. And especially for what everybody was going through at the time, and just, you know, it felt like there was a weight on everybody’s shoulders. And I feel like Mood did its part to kind of acknowledge that things are bad sometimes. Like the lyrics of the song are kind of sad or kind of emotional, but the vibe of the production and the sound is so upbeat. I think it gave people a little bit of a pep in their step.

Justin Bieber and J Balvin also ended up jumping on a remix of that. So what was it like to kind of hear their reimagination of the track?
That was crazy. I always wanted to do a song with Justin Bieber and in interviews of the past when people would ask me like, yo, what artist would you want to work with, Justin Bieber was someone that was mentioned a lot. J Balvin, obviously, is a legend in the making if not a legend already. And I don’t know, to be 19 years old and get to work with such talented artists like that. It gives you faith and it gives you hope, and makes me say like, all right, I can be those guys. I can be as great as they are.

It’s a massive full circle moment for sure. And you’ve been kind of teasing your next single Mistakes online, and even kicked off an open mic challenge on TikTok for it. Tell me a little bit about that track and the inspiration behind it.
Mistakes is coming out in a couple of days. Finally, I’ve been teasing it for a long time like you said, and it started with me going over to a friend’s house, Neek, another producer, who I did City of Angels with. And this was our first time getting in the studio since around that time. And he was telling me what he’s been doing, I was saying what I’ve been doing, and we didn’t know what direction we’re gonna go with a song, but we knew we just wanted to make something that felt  honest. I feel like people don’t like to talk about their mistakes or failures as much as they’d like to talk about their successes. So it just kind of wrote itself. I was just talking about things that I’ve done, that I fucked up or people around me have done that were their mistakes. And I think by acknowledging those and kind of embracing it, it’ll make people judge themselves less.

Has that level of vulnerability always been present in the music that you make?
No [laughs]. And, you know, my team gets on me all the time about it, they’re always like, you gotta be more vulnerable, but it’s kind of hard to be vulnerable. It’s scary, especially when, you know, oh, potentially, millions of people could hear this. And they might not feel it or might think one way of it. But the sooner I begin the, the less of a fuck I give, I guess. I’m just embracing it and just want to live authentically, and make authentic music.

I’ve noticed that you love engaging and interacting with your fans across all of your social media, Twitter, Instagram, everything. I feel like that is super refreshing.
Nothing else really matters except the connection that you have with your fans. Because, you know, you could switch labels or switch this and switch that. But the fans are the people that are going to be there for you at the end of the day. And they’re the ones that got me to this point. So I would just feel fake as hell, if I just never talked to them, or never appreciated them, or showed them any love like they’ve been showing me.

100%. What has been the most difficult thing to grasp onto when it comes to how drastically life has changed for you, from 2019, where you kicked it all off, to now.
Probably the pandemic, so much has changed. And I always knew when I started making music, and when I left school and started doing it professionally, I’m going to be growing as an artist, but I’m also going to be growing as a human. And I think it’s weird, because those two have a lot to do with each other. The more you grow as a person, the more you grow as an artist. So I think it’s just been about getting used to being an adult and not being a kid anymore, because I left the house at 17. I’m 21 now, and it’s only been four years, but I feel like I’ve learned so much in that time. A lot of adjustments on all ends of the spectrum.

On the topic of growing, I noticed that your Instagram name was Growing Pains. Is that something that you still experience often today?
Yeah, I think growing pains are constant as long as you’re growing, which hopefully, if you’re always growing, there’s always gonna be some pain. I saw a quote that was like, “the man is both the marble and the sculptor.”. So you’re gonna have to cut yourself up and go through some changes to get to be the best version of yourself. And Growing Pains is also the name of the album that I’m working on right now, so it all ties in.

You’re only 21, you’ve still got so much life yet to experience. What’s the goal for you for the next year?
I just want to make great music that gives the world insight on who I am, what I’m about, what I think of the world. And I want to keep travelling and keep touring because the world is too beautiful to just be in the same city for your whole life.

Follow 24kGoldn here for more and stream ‘Mistakes’ now.

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