NEW RULERS: 24KGOLDN
In an exclusive interview for VMAN, rapper 24KGOLDN details his evolution as an artist, the creation process for his debut album (El Dorado), and what the future holds for him.
First hitting the airwaves in 2019 with “Valentino” a single on his debut EP DROPPED OUTTA COLLEGE, Golden Landis Von Jones (better known as 24kGoldn) has since established himself as an artist to watch. With a string of chart-climbing hits under his belt, from “City of Angels” to “Mood,” the San Francisco-native has mastered his distinctive fusion of Alt-rock, Hip Hop, and Pop genres into a singular sound—ultimately carving out a niche of his own. Harnessing his social media stardom to further develop a cult following, the 20-year-old rapper is ready to put his pop phenom status to the test as he gears up for the release of his debut album El Dorado. Exploring themes of reality and fantasy, El Dorado chronicles 24kGoldn’s journey of self-actualization, while also providing a snapshot at his undeniably effulgent future.
In an exclusive interview for VMAN, 24KGOLDN details his evolution as an artist, the creation process for his debut album and what the future holds for him.
Read the full interview below.
VMAN: Alright, well first I’d like to start off by congratulating you on your latest release “3,2,1”.
24KGOLDN: Thank you.
VMAN: The video is cool and of course the song is amazing! I’m really into this hybrid of alt-rock, rap, and pop; it’s like the best of those three genres rolled up into one track.
24K: Thanks so much man, I’m glad you like it!
VMAN: What was the inspiration for the song?
24K: So this song was inspired by my big bro, Paper Boy. I had never heard anyone say the “3 sides to a story” thing before. I remember we were on tour at the beginning of 2021. I was with Cordae, Paper, and a few other people touring around the country. And he has a tendency to just spout off random bits of wisdom and he said to me one time, “Lil bro, remember: 3 sides to every story. Yours, theirs’, and the truth”. That really stuck with me because looking back now, I realize how true that is when having disagreements with friends or lovers or whatever it is. Everybody has a different perspective on things and your intentions with something might not be the way that someone else receives it. So, you guys are on two different pages and the truth is somewhere in between both of you guys’ understanding of it. I think to really love somebody, you’ve got to find that truth in the middle, you know? And meet at an eye-to-eye level or as close to possible. This song gets to the bottom of finding that truth. Can we find that truth? Why can’t we? If we don’t, what’s going to happen?
VMAN: I’ve heard the phrase before but I don’t think anyone has used it as inspiration for a song. When you released “3,2,1” and the video simultaneously, you also made an announcement that you would be dropping your debut album on March 26th. What was the process like creating the entire album and how would you say it differs from your debut EP? How have you grown as an artist?
24K: For starters, I literally made this whole album during a global pandemic which was a blessing and a curse. I had just come off a tour with Cordae so I hadn’t been able to make music for almost 3 months. I was just full of ideas and full of things that I wanted to talk about. My song “City of Angels” had just blown up as I was coming off that tour, too, so…the whole plan was for me to go to the UK and start performing out there but quickly, that all shutdown. Instead, we decided, “Hey, let’s just all lock-in and not be depressed about what we can’t do. Let’s focus on what we can do”. And what we can do is make really good music. A few friends and I stayed at this AirBnB. Every day, Blake would pick us up and go to his house and we’d make music, this was for about 3 months straight. Just having the ability to lock in and be so focused, that was very helpful because in the life of an artist, you’re constantly being pulled a million different ways at once. It’s very rare that you can just lock in with your collaborators and just focus on the music instead of having to worry about promos, shows, and brand deals. And when making the music aspect part of the album, I wanted it to be a mindfuck. With the first EP, it was like “This song is a pop song”, “This song is a rap song”, “This song is a rock song”. Everything was more distinct. It still had the inklings of the genre-bending stuff that’s going to be on El Dorado but it was still a lot more compartmentalized. With El Dorado I was like, “Let’s throw out all of the rules and just make good music! I don’t care if it’s rap, if it’s rock, if it’s alternative. Whatever you wanna call it…let’s just make good music”. And with that in mind, that’s exactly what we did. Song 1 sounds nothing like song 2 which sounds nothing like song 3. It just bounces all over the place but somehow it’s still cohesive and it still tells the story of me, of what I’ve been through, and what matters to Gen-Z, in a really beautiful and captivating way.
VMAN: That is something that definitely comes through on the singles I’ve heard so far. What other themes are you exploring? With this “3,2,1” which you just released, we kind of get a story of sweet love affairs turned sour. What other themes can we expect on the project?
24K: I often find myself talking about the different relationships and situationships but that’s more of something to branch off of and talk about other things, too. It’s a lot easier to talk about sadness through problems with a girl than to just go out on a record and be like, “I’m sad”. You know? So there are covert messages here and there throughout the project. I am just trying to touch on different topics like dealing with success, exploring where I came from, how I’ve changed from there, how I’ve noticed myself changing, along with how my relationships with people have changed. I think it’s really an album about change and I wanted to create my own world and give more context to the fans than I ever have before about myself, really. You know, with this album I am getting more personal than I’ve gotten before.
VMAN: It’s definitely a strong theme and it’s one most of us can relate to especially after this past year. We have all grown and changed in one way or another, so sharing that personal growth on this debut album will definitely resonate with a lot of people. What song is slated to be released next?
24K: So “3,2,1” was the final single so the next time you get a release from me…
VMAN: It’s going to be the full project?
24K: Yeah! It’s going to be the singles I already released; “Mood”, “Coco” and “3,2,1” plus 10 new songs that haven’t been heard yet with a bunch of different features. Really not that many features, only a handful of features. Because it’s my debut project, I don’t want anyone to take away from…
VMAN: Your moment…It’s your debut Album I get that, this is your introduction to the world really it’s where you solidify who you are as an artist.
24K: Yeah, exactly! Also, I wanted to collaborate with artists that I admire and can contribute to that story I am trying to tell, too. Artists who add different layers of context and share their experiences of similar situations to reach all different kinds of people.
VMAN: Can you share who some of these artists are? Or do you want to keep that super locked away until the release of the album?
24K: I can’t share just yet. It’s something we are keeping on lock until the album release date gets closer.
VMAN: Okay got it. So, without spoiling your featured artists roster for your fans, I would love to hear a bit about what it was like working and creating with these other artists.
24K: Every situation was different. I mean, in the last month, I found myself doing some travel to reach out to artists. I was in Atlanta, New York, Miami trying to assemble this Avengers super team for this El Dorado world I want to create. Some of the artists I got to work with on this project, I’ve been listening to since I was in middle school. The features also include some other up-and-comers who’ve got songs with billions and billions of streams. So it’s just all great artists, good music, and good vibes. Being in a pandemic makes every situation different because some people are posted up where they are and they don’t want to leave. So, they’ll send their verse to me and we’ll go back and forth over the internet which is a really cool thing. Other artists, they’ll come to LA and we can link up in the studio and we’ll create a vibe. I think that really helps imbue the energy into the song.
VMAN: Speaking of LA, I feel like your music has this California vibe to it. Would you say this a sound or energy that comes through on the new project?
24K: Being born in a place like the San Francisco Bay Area, I’ve had a lot of different sounds around me growing up because it’s such a diverse community. California is distinct but it also has a lot of variety to it at the same time. So you’re definitely going to get a lot of different swags but that Cali swag is definitely in there. That fun-loving, high-energy, good vibes type of music. You’re definitely going to hear it in this album.
VMAN: I Love that your upbringing translates into your music, it makes it all the more authentic. While you are tapping into all these different genre’s that element of your roots and upbringing makes it distinct to you and your artistry.
24K: Yeah and that was definitely a goal for me.
VMAN: You’ve seen a lot of success in the past year, you were on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for 26 weeks…
24K: And we are still there, baby, let’s keep it going!
VMAN: And you’ve surpassed a billion streams, which is groundbreaking for an artist who hasn’t even released a full-length album yet. Do you think your social media presence factored into that? More specifically TikTok.
24K: 100 percent. But so did SoundCloud and so did YouTube and so did Instagram. I think that TikTok is one of the most engaging social media platforms that we have now and I was just able to see the potential it had early. I was able to really become part of that community and have them lift me up on their shoulders. That’s forever going to be a part of my story and I’m forever grateful for that. But had Donald Trump shut down TikTok when that was in the headlines and a new app popped up that was completely different, that’s what I would be on, too. My marketing brain is like, wherever the most attention is, I’m going to go put my music there. Because I know my music is good, I’ve known it was good for a long time. All I needed was for it to be heard by the right number of people so that the world can recognize that and relate to it and feel the impact of what I’ve got to share.
VMAN: Kudos to you for owning that, it’s also interesting for me to hear how you’ve harnessed that virality into an actual fan base for your music. Some rising musicians that have had success with the help of TikTok and other social platforms almost see it as a hindrance. They want to get as far away as possible from the social media association because the industry has this notion that you can’t be a social media star and a bonafide musician. It’s refreshing to see you not take yourself so seriously.
24K: I mean, first they laugh, then they copy. I think the days of trying to act “too cool for school” are coming to an end. I think that life is about having fun and enjoying yourself. Of course this art that we make is serious and should be taken seriously because I’ve got real stuff to say. But I’m also not too full of myself to not make a funny video on the internet that’s going to make people laugh, you know? I think people are multidimensional and they should feel comfortable with every element of themselves rather than trying to pick and choose what they’re going to show the world and act like something that they’re not. Yeah, I’m a superstar rapper, but I like having fun—that’s the duality of man right there.
VMAN: Words to live by (Laughs). We’ve got to put that on a T-shirt or something.
24K: (Laughs) It’s definitely a vibe.
VMAN: I know you’ve mentioned that you were set to go on tour and had hopes of performing a bit more before the pandemic hit. Can you share your plans for touring in the future? You are gearing up for the release of El Dorado so how are you planning to promote that performance-wise? Whether it be virtually or in person?
24K: I’m going to do a bunch of different live activations and virtual performances. I would love to be on the road and see everybody’s beautiful faces but that’s really out of my control right now, so I’m just trying to focus on what I can control. And that’s making the best music that I can for this album and sharing it as much as I can online and hoping that it resonates enough with people for them to share it with their friends and family.
VMAN: How will the sound and visual elements of El Dorado the album translate into your live performances you have planned?
24K: From the inception of the album, I’ve been very focused on creating a world of my own. With that being said, El Dorado is grounded in reality and fantasy. I want it to feel really surreal. It’s based off of Mayan, Aztec and Morisco legends. So you’re going to see the jungle a bit and some pyramids but as you’ve seen with “3,2,1” you’re also going to see the real-life shit and that’s what I thought was so dope about the “3,2,1” video because it showed real life and it contrasted with the El Dorado fantasy world. Like, when we’re in the motel and on the motorcycle, that’s real life. But then you cut to a palace and everything is ornate and a lot more regal feeling which makes it feel more fantasy. Also when I get stabbed in the heart, roses come out instead of blood. That’s the type of world that I’m trying to create where we can deal with these problems but it’s a lot more optimistic and not so heavy on the heart.
VMAN: Amazing, I’m excited to see all of this come together. So bringing this full circle, what’s next for you? We obviously know you have the album coming and you have these performances coming. But else can we expect? What are some things you’re hoping to accomplish in 2021? I feel like you have such a larger-than-life personality that film doesn’t seem like such a far stretch for you. Is that an industry that you’re looking to get into?
24K: It’s funny that you brought that up because we’re actually working on developing this TV show right now called “Golden”. It tells my story from leaving USC as a college student to becoming the artist that I am today. We just figured something out with a studio, now we’re figuring out what platform to put it on. But yeah, acting has always been a real big passion of mine. I was in commercials and stuff when I was a kid and I just remember being like, “I get paid to have fun, run around and play pretend like what we do as kids?!”. And the fact that now I can do that and continue providing context to my story and inspire others—I can’t wait for that show to come out.
El Dorado releases March 26th, check out 24KGOLDN’s latest single “3,2,1” below