Around this time last year, musician 24kGoldn made the decision to not return for his sophomore year at the University of Southern California, where he had a full ride, in order to focus on his music. Now the 19-year-old, born Golden Landis Von Jones, has the number one song in the country for the second week in a row.
His catchy single “Mood (feat. Iann Dior)” is the type of cross-genre hit that fits on the alternative charts just as easily as it does the rap ones, with its hook “Why you always in a mood?” becoming a go-to Instagram caption. “That's become like a cultural catchphrase now, which is so fire to me,” 24kGoldn excitedly shares with EW over Zoom. “I always try to impact culture. That's what I’m trying to do, impact over accolades.”
That focus is in part what had Barry Weiss, former Chairman and CEO of the RCA/Jive Label Group, rushing to fly to Los Angeles last year to sign him to his label, Records. “He possessed the eye of the tiger, a quiet yet palpable ambition that you always seek when signing young artists. This was not dissimilar to a young Will Smith at 17, a young Justin Timberlake at 18, and a younger Chris Brown at 15, all of whom I signed when they were also in their teens.”
EW spoke to 24kGoldn about the speed in which he went from college dropout to chart-topper, and what the future holds now that he’s already achieved an ultimate goal.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: To start, where'd you grow up, and how'd you get started with music?
24KGOLDN: I'm from San Francisco. I always liked music, but it takes a certain level of confidence to be able to put some out and be like, “This is me as an artist, take it or leave it.” I didn't really have that confidence until I was in my sophomore year of high school and my big bro, my mentor Paperboy, I came to him and I was like, “Yo, I want to make a song.” And he was like, “All right, well, we got the studio right upstairs of Dream Team SF,” this sneaker boutique that was a couple blocks away from my house that I'd been going through for a minute, and I made that first song. That same day, I mixed it, uploaded it to SoundCloud, and sent it to everybody. I went to school the next day and everyone was like, “Yo, this is fire.” So I was like, All right, people like this, I like this, let's just keep going. And every song got a little better, and one thing became another.
What was the timeline between dropping “I Go to USC” and the Dropped Out of College EP because that seemed like a super quick transition?
Yeah right, it's like “Damn I thought he went to USC, now he dropped that fast?” I think it was probably a six, seven-month difference between those things. Kind of funny, I never even thought about it like that before.
One of the things I think helps you stand out, are your hooks. Is that something that you put a lot of focus in on while writing? Do you write those yourself, or is that a big part of the co-writing process on “Mood,” and some of your other songs?
I write all my own music, pretty much. Because I used to song-write for other people, so I was like, “Alright, if I could write for you, motherf---er, I’ve definitely got to write for myself. I can't let nobody else get that. Because I don't think anybody could really express it in the same way. So to the hooks, the important part, hooks are the most catchy part of music right now. The hook is the part that repeats over and over again, so in my head I'm like, If this is the part that you're going to have to hear the most times, let me just make this the most catchy part. And I think just having that intention of like, Yo I want the hook to have a concept, to have a theme, to really be saying something, but also be catchy enough to repeat over and over again, having those two factors definitely increases your chance of getting a hit.
How did “Mood” blow up? To what degree do you think it's associated with TikTok?
TikTok definitely played a role in the blowup of “Mood,” but unlike “Valentino” and “City of Angels,” it had a strong lift from the get-go. This was a song that people liked already, and it was growing and growing, and I think TikTok just really helped it take off crazy to the next level.
What does it mean to you to be only the third artist born in the 2000s who has topped the Hot 100.
I saw that too. It was me, Billie Eilish, and Jawsh . He just got it, so I would have been second, but Jawsh got me on that one. When I saw that I was like, “Whoa, that's monumental for the next generation,” to be the third artist born 2000s and after. There's a lot of artists born in 2000 and after, and there are a lot of really talented artists that have not gotten number one, so to have gotten a number one, and to do it at the age that I did, and at the time I did, I didn't expect this. I didn't drop out of college to get like “Yeah, I'm gonna get a number one next year.” Of course, we always hope to get a number one, and every song you make, you want it to do the best it can do, but this happened really, really, really fast. But I think the universe only gives you what you're ready for.
It coincides with the beginning of a new decade too. So it's like a new decade, new generation of artists. Something that you can look back in hindsight and be like, “I was a part of that.”
Yeah. I mean, I really think I have the potential to be one of the biggest artists, if not the biggest artist of my generation, just off of the strength of the music, like this week we're changing the sound. I feel like when you go and make your own wave, instead of riding another wave, that wave can only get bigger and bigger and bigger. If you’re riding someone else's wave, that wave is only going to die down.
What's it like sharing this moment with Iann Dior? It's rare for a collaboration between two newer artists to hit number one. It's usually someone new with someone established.
Man, we might have to make a tape or something now because if this one went number one, a tape would go number one on the album charts for sure too. But nah, Iann's my boy. We knew each other long before we made this song, and hung out plenty of times. I'm happy to see him win too. It’s like there's enough bread on the table for everybody to eat. And especially when it's with your friends, having the ability to be like, “Yo, look at this s--- we did together” like it's not me and some big-name artist that I paid for a feature, it's me and my boys, on the artist side, on the production side. And we just ran this sh-- up. And I think it goes to show the power of friendship is real. Look at Drake. All of Drake's music he's making with his boy 40, and all those guys that he grew up with. Having that trust, and that comfortability, and that love for each other really lets you make your best music.
Finally, what's next for you?
I’ve got a “Mood (Remix)” coming next. I can't reveal too much, but two of the biggest artists in the world are going to be on there. And then I’ve got one more single before the year ends.
And then a debut album coming soon?
Yeah, I've been working on El Dorado, the debut album for all of quarantine. That was a blessing in disguise, having the time to lock in and focus on making the album because before quarantine, I was like, “I got all these songs, but I don't know what the album is going to sound like.” Now I think I’ve really figured out how to blend the elements from rap and rock and pop and alternative all into one song rather than on Dropped Out of College where it was like, “Here's a rap song, here's an alternative song, here's a pop song.” Now I’ve figured out how to take all the infinity stones and put them together. So we are good to go. Coming soon, early 2021.
This interview has been edited and condensed.