How 24kGoldn Went From USC College Student To Chart-Topping Rap Star
The Bay Area-bred rapper talks the world of TikTok, newfound fame, and his upcoming album.
Some know him as TikTok’s soundmaster (if you’ve downloaded the video-sharing app, there’s no doubt you’ve heard his dance-worthy bops in the backdrop); others see him as a genius collaborator, lending his rap artistry to Olivia O’Brien’s “Josslyn” and Mabel’s “Tick Tock,” among others; and Bay Area natives might even remember him for his city-wide hit “Ballin’ Like Shareef,” but today, the world knows him for his career-shifting single “Mood” with Iann Dior, which comfortably resides at the top of the charts. Golden Landis Von Jones — better known by his stage name, 24kGoldn — is uprooting the music industry with one genre-bending track after another, and he’s only getting started.
The 19-year-old San Francisco-bred rapper has always loved hip-hop, but it wasn’t until his sophomore year of high school that he found the confidence to actually start recording his own tracks. “My big bro, my mentor Paypa Boy, owned this sneaker boutique called Dream Team SF, a couple blocks away from my house, and I’d been going there helping out since I was 13,” he told VMAN. “So when I was 15, I hit him up and I was like, ‘Yo big bro, I want to make music.’ And he was like, ‘Alright, we got the studio upstairs.’” That night, 24kGoldn recorded and mixed his first track, “Longchamp Shawty,” which he proceeded to upload to SoundCloud and send to everyone he knew via Snapchat, text, and Instagram DM.
“I go to school the next day and people are bumping it,” he recalled. “It was like a snowball effect. The more people that liked my music, the more I made it, the better it got, and it just kept running like that.” Between back-to-back performances on San Francisco’s up-and-coming stages his senior year, 24kGoldn’s sound-defining bars were properly pulsating through the amps of the Bay Area’s underground rap scene, but the teenage go-getter was determined to gain traction on a much larger scale.
“I started submitting my music to blogs,” he said. “There was a blog on DJ Booth that discussed the stigma of SoundCloud rap, and the purpose of the article was to tell people like, ‘Yo, don’t judge the artists on where they put their music, judge it on the art itself.’ And at the end, there was an invitation from the writer that said, ‘If there’s any so-called SoundCould rappers out there, send me your music. I promise I’ll listen to at least 45 seconds of it.’” In pursuit of notoriety, 24kGoldn submitted his then-popular song “Ballin’ Like Shareef,” and lo and behold, he landed on that same author’s top picks list only two weeks later. “Because of that article, D.A Got That Dope ended up finding out about me, so I sent him “Valentino” before I released it, and he loved it.”
With one foot in the door, 24kGoldn had just enrolled full-time in the University of Southern California’s Marshall Business School, and as academic commitments claimed the majority of his time, the rapper-on-the-rise faced a tough fork in the road: one turn led to a business degree, and the other led to a potential music career. “D.A Got That Dope sent “Valentino” to Barry Weiss, the head of my current record label, and he loved it too,” he said of his decision to take a leave of absence. “Once I had that record deal in front of me, and it’s like, ‘Yo, you’re going to make more money than both of your parents combined last year, and you get to chase your dream,’ I couldn’t say no. It was a no-brainer.” Consequently, that same year, 24kGoldn dropped his debut EP, DROPPED OUTTA COLLEGE.
On that tracklist was the career-altering lead single “Valentino,” which skyrocketed into music’s mainstream as one of the most popular TikTok sounds in September of last year and placed 24kGoldn on the map. The track’s chorus, “I don’t want a valentine / I just want Valentino,” became the unequivocal soundtrack for dance videos, comedy skits, and science experiments alike — and it didn’t take long for his next melodic-trap song on the album, “City of Angels,” to take off in the same way.
“I think it’s beautiful,” he said of TikTok’s vast interpretations of his music. “The fact that my music can still be heard all across the world and still have individualized meaning for people, despite everything that’s going on and the lack of ability to do shows and everything like that. The fact that everything is happening the way it is with all things considered, it just reaffirms to me more than anything else that this is what I’m supposed to be doing.”
Before the pandemic, 24kGoldn had big plans: he was supposed to take on his first headline tour, perform internationally across Europe, and grace the stages of summer music festivals; however, if all of those things had happened, he never would have booked studio time to record his chart-topping single “Mood” with Iann Dior. Where “Valentino” and “City of Angels” cemented 24kGoldn’s name in the industry, “Mood” proved his bar-spitting artistry far superior and pushed him into the genre’s top-tier. After a two-week residency at #1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 Charts, debut performances on Jimmy Kimmel Live! and The Ellen Degeneres Show, and over 2 million TikTok posts employing the song, the release of “Mood” was unlike anything 24kGoldn had experienced before.
“It’s surreal because if you think about any other time, probably ever, when you have the number one song in the world, you’re doing club shows, you’re traveling across the country, you’re traveling across the world,” he said of the experience. “But, me? Most of the time I’m just chilling in my crib, you know?”
Riding his success amid the pandemic, 24kGoldn needed to find an alternate route to capitalize on his first-ever #1 hit. In lieu of typical cross-country performances and press tours, the rap star enlisted two of music’s main players — Justin Bieber and J Balvin — for a remix of the Platinum-certified single, and to no surprise, he’s reclaimed his place at the top of the charts, passing Ariana Grande’s “positions” on the way.
“I’ve never had as much time to reflect since I’ve started this thing as I do now,” he said. “This has been the longest period of time that I really had to stop and think like, damn, we’ve been through a lot. It’s been so many experiences, so much crazy shit has happened over the past two years. But I know there’s a light on the other end of the tunnel, so I can’t wait to do those bigger stages and see those bigger crowds.”
In preparation for those brighter days, 24kGoldn now resides in the studio, where he’s working to finish his debut studio album, El Dorado, slated to arrive early next year. The hit-maker was careful not to share too much with respect to the album’s details, but he did spare a few words on what to expect:
“With El Dorado, I’ve figured out how to blend everything that I’ve learned from making different types of music together, to create a unique sound that no one else is doing,” he revealed. “The name El Dorado means “the golden one” or “the golden city” in Spanish, but also, in native mythology, it’s this lost city of gold. I want to draw on that inspiration for the visual world that we’re creating too. So it’s sharing my story, the story of my city, the golden city of San Francisco, and tying in fantasy elements to make something that people can escape with and forget about all the crazy shit that’s happening outside.”
While you await his next release, stream 24kGoldn’s video game-inspired lyric video for “Mood” (Remix) with Justin Bieber, J Balvin, and Iann Dior, below.