For 24kGoldn, the question was never if he was going to blow up; it was when. Having started this journey at 15 years old, he had already endured the feeling of small venues and ticket sales that barely scrape a return on investment. Juggled alongside this artistry was his grassroots hustle mentality of flipping sneakers and watches, with a side-goal of eventually becoming a stockbroker. These interests lead him to college, where the rise started to become rapid.
The title of his debut EP Dropped Outta College spoils the result of his tertiary experience, but don’t embrace this fact with negative connotations. It represents the open-world path of approaching life with creativity, rather than sticking to a curriculum’s linear-paths. 24kGoldn’s lesson plan came from experiences, studio sessions, and manifesting his musical vision alongside mentor Paypa Boy. It shows throughout this EP, as 24k blends rock, pop, rap, and R&B into an ear-catching mixture of melodies, garnished with the positivity and vibrancy of his bay area home city.
With his uplifting music in mind, it’s no surprise that 24kGoldn landed in the realm of TikTok with acclaim, particularly for his iann dior collaboration ‘Mood.’ The song jumped from the organic lands of viral buzz to the summit of the Billboard Top 100 in October, and has since received a mega remix featuring Justin Bieber and J.Balvin. He might have missed out on that high distinction, but his potential continues to be distinctly high.
To celebrate this milestone, I hopped on a Zoom call with 24k to chat through his journey, the effectiveness of TikTok, and his genre-blending artistry.
First and foremost, congratulations on ‘Mood’ number one. How are you feeling?
This whole year has been so surreal. Everything with COVID, the recent awareness of police brutality, everything that’s happened in my personal life. So to have this huge song is crazy. As the year is coming to an end, it seems that everything is leading to where it should be. So I’m just taking it day by day and appreciating it.
Usually, with a number one, you’d be out on tour with the fans for this milestone, but unfortunately, that can’t happen right now. So how have you celebrated?
There’s a spot called Saddle Ranch. We went there a couple times, I ain’t gonna’ lie [Laughs]. But not much else, really. I’ve just been chilling at the house with the people that I love, celebrating this moment together. I’ve really been taking this moment to appreciate it because if we were on tour right now, everything would be happening so fast, and I wouldn’t get a chance to reflect. It’s a good time right now to take it all in because I know more number ones are coming, and it ain’t always gonna’ be this chill.
I hate to say what my favourite thing about a pandemic is, but I enjoy how I’ve come to enjoy smaller things and really appreciate what’s happening in my life. How do you think you’ve grown in this time?
I feel calmer, more peaceful. I think that comes from this time of reflecting and thinking about stuff. I trust myself more; I can hear the universe telling me that I’m doing the right thing. I don’t second guess myself as much now.
I remember being a kid watching music video channels and just admiring some of the hits that would play. I distinctly remember Justin Timberlake’s ‘What Goes Around… Come Around’ playing on three channels at the same time. As an official number 1 artist, are there any hits from the past that really grabbed your attention?
There’s so much, man—everything from The Black Eyed Peas to Lil Wayne and Future. I’ve always taken in so much music and had such a broad taste. There’s not one song I can pick because music, in general, has just played such a massive part in my life. Knowing that now I’m one of those artists inspiring people and that 24kGoldn is now something bigger than Golden Landis Von Jones is a really great feeling.
Inspiration is something prominent throughout your EP Dropped Outta College, where you take the negative stigma of dropping out of college and turn it into the message of “Hey! You can do anything you want!”. It feels like an open-world game with that thinking, as opposed to a linear path. When you ventured outside of those college grounds, what life lessons did you learn?
I think my situation was a little different in comparison to a lot of people’s come-up stories. I didn’t get started or signed at a super young age. There wasn’t an entertainment background or any co-signs. I was just a kid with a dream, and my big bro Paypa Boy, who was the first to see the vision. Going from San Fransico to college was a big transition with a lot of lessons. Leaving school to become an artist was a big transition with a lot of lessons. But these things ultimately can teach you the same things, and if there’s one thing I’ve picked up, it’s that it’s very rare to find people that understand what this lifestyle takes and what this is really like. When you find those people, you have to keep them around. Usually, when you’re in this position, people want to take from you, expecting to get something from you. But finding people who want to help with your vision and give you their time and energy are crucial. Someone once told me that the people you surround yourself with are the difference between a tragedy and a legacy. That’s probably the biggest lesson I’ve learned.
I can only imagine the early struggle of trying to make it as a musician without a co-sign or industry head start. You hear stories of entertainers performing in small rooms, struggling to make ends meet. During those times, was there ever any doubt that this journey wouldn’t work, and how did you overcome those thoughts?
I’ve been doing this for a while now, so I’ve got all those 25 people venues out of the way already. I have no ego about this because I genuinely love doing this. I love it no matter how big a show is or how big the sales are. It’s all about the energy I bring to the table. Paypa and I have always said, “it’s not a matter of if I blow, it’s when.” That’s been pivotal in this rise. I always knew this was going to happen; I just didn’t know when it would come. And to be honest, a lot of this is happening a lot sooner than I expected.
On tracks like ‘A Lot To Lose,’ you discuss themes of turmoil and present yourself in a vulnerable manner. When writing songs like that, does it amplify the negative emotions, or does it help you deal with them?
I find it therapeutic. I think music can express things that words alone can’t articulate. Having a melody adds a whole other dimension to the feelings you’re processing. ‘A Lot To Lose’ is one of my most vulnerable songs, and I think it’s one people should hear. Because while it’s a serious song, it’s not sad for the sake of being sad. It’s more so about recognising the things that we have and how quickly they can go. When I try to make a sad song on purpose, it ends up being ass. Because honestly, I’m not that sad of a person. I just let the emotions come as they are.
What’s it been like recording your new album? Is there a different type of pressure in comparison to Dropped Outta College?
I think it’s actually becoming easier. When I made Dropped Outta College, I was still trying to figure everything out. Each song on Dropped Outta College doesn’t fit into one box. One track is pop, then the next is rock. While there was some overlap in the genres, I still feel like I was just trying stuff out and figuring out what I like. With this new album El Dorado, I’m taking the things that I like and working out how to blend them together to create something uniquely me. It’s really helping me lock-in with producers to create something special.
That unique style you’re talking about is something I feel that represents your home city of San Francisco, which is home to contrasting but equally creative acts like Sly & The Family Stone, Dead Kennedys, and E-40. What is it that makes the area so unique?
I think it’s the people that live there, man. While it’s changed over time, there are still artifacts and remnants of the culture the bay area spawned—for example, the hyphy movement, which was pure energy. And while I don’t make songs that sound like an E-40 or a Mac Dre, I think the energy and vibrations still contain that influence. I attribute a lot of my authenticity to the bay. It’s helped me stay real because it’s a real ass place. The biggest industry in San Francisco is technology because we worship innovation and new ways of thinking. When you’ve got that growth mindset built-in, you’re bound for greatness.
Innovation is something you’ve become known for, being a frontrunner in using platforms like TikTok to deliver your music to wider audiences. What is it you think that makes these social media networks so useful for music promotion?
I think it’s more democratic. With Facebook or Instagram, the algorithm is pushing you to stay on the platform. It shows you ads for watches and cars that make you feel bad about yourself and where you are, whereas TikTok’s algorithm shows you things to make you feel good about yourself. It’s a positive platform; I’m a positive person, it made sense for me to be on there.
Do you think artists are trying to tackle the TikTok wave by emulating specific melodies and styles? Do you think there’s a formula for a ‘TikTok hit’?
I think artists are, but I don’t think it works. You need to make genuinely good music and then figure out which one would best suit the platform. I’m never in the studio, thinking, “I’m going to make this track for TikTok!” I just make music that I like, and it works out.
Without live shows this year, we’ve seen how artists can adapt, from pre-recorded virtual shows to Minecraft music festivals. As someone who used to want to be a stockbroker, do you see the prominence of these virtual performances and content crashing or rising in the coming years?
I think it all comes down to how it’s executed because I don’t know if I would want to pay the $40 or so as a consumer to watch the same performance everyone else is watching. I think the remarkable thing about music isn’t going to a place and watching the live show, but it’s about experiencing the fact that you’re face-to-face with your favourite artist. Anyone can go on the internet and look at live videos. I think it’s only relevant right now because live shows can’t really happen.
You’ve been a hustler throughout your whole life, from flipping sneakers and AliExpress watches to now being in the music business where consumption equals currency. What are the common traits you’ve noticed throughout these ventures?
It’s about having the buyer and seller’s interests aligned. If I made music that I hated but everyone else loved, I’d be miserable. I’d have to go perform these songs every fucking day, and my spite would result in it not lasting. On the flip side, if I made music that I loved that everyone else hated, it wouldn’t last. Throughout the hustles of sneakers, watches, and music, the common thing is that I’ve been selling things that I genuinely like, and the people buying these things like them too. This way, I’m able to impact culture and movements.
Just lastly, for me, my guy, what’s next in the journey for 24kGoldn?
I think I’m gonna’ make some dope ass visuals and wrap up recording El Dorado. I’ve also got one more single coming out for every before the year is up!
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