“El Dorado is an album about love—and loss, too—because one cannot exist without the other,” 24kGoldn tells Apple Music of his debut. “There's no light without darkness. There's no yin without yang.” That kind of duality also extends to its creation, most of which took place when life was largely put on pause by the COVID-19 pandemic, as the San Francisco rapper sought to create an alternate world that could offer respite from the bleak reality. “I wanted it to be something that people could escape to, or that people can listen to the music and watch the videos and forget about whatever problems they were dealing with in their life,” he says.
The album, titled after the mythical golden city as well as a reference to his hometown and his nickname, easily traverses the lands between pop and rap. Blissful melodies and longing guitar lines are in abundance, providing a backdrop for 24kGoldn’s musings on love, lust, heartbreak, and whatever obstacles arise in between. It isn’t self-serious, though. The 20-year-old, after all, has much to celebrate coming off the success of his smash hit “Mood,” and the songs—some of which he explains below—reflect accordingly. Not even the complexities of romance can bring down this gilded empire.
The Top “I wanted a song that felt welcoming. I feel like when you hear that melody of the beat and that piano, it's like some big gates are opening up and it feels very triumphant and very like you already won. And I wanted to start the album off like that because, in a sense, I already did win. I was 19 with the number one song in the world—I got that championship ring rookie year. Right now, I'm just playing for extra credit, and for legacy, basically.”
Company “I've been listening to Future since I was like 11 years old, so it was big for me to get him on his track. And to me, this is probably one of the best Future features in the past couple of years because he went so crazy on it. I know that if middle-school or high-school me—shit, me last month—found out you're going to have Future on your album, I would have spazzed out because that man's a legend.”
Love or Lust “I think this song really came together because of the great conjunction. It was a couple of months back, and it was like Saturn was aligning with Jupiter so you could see both of them at the same time. Apparently it only happens once every 20 years, but it's supposed to bring good energy. Oftentimes, some of my best songs, I'll come into the studio with the melody beforehand or an idea of what we're going to make before, but this one I came in with no expectations. The melody just popped in my brain, and all the writing and everything just came together so easily. With my generation, Gen Z, it's a constant struggle between love and lust. Everyone needs real love. Everyone's looking for real love, but there's so many artificial substitutes—Instagram likes, Tinder swipes and stuff like that. My generation longs for that real love, but it's hard to find out here.”
Outta Pocket “So this is actually one of the oldest songs on the album. I made this summer 2019, and we always thought it was an incredible song. And I'm so glad that we saved it, because, out of all the songs we made, for something that's from two years ago to be on there, I really believe in that song. It's just honest, that's my favorite thing about it. Because we all got them days. I can admit my flaws—I be out of pocket, I be a little rude sometimes. My thing is just having the self-awareness to know it and growing from there. But I think this song adds context to me as a human being, and it's something that people can relate to and make them check themselves too.”
Yellow Lights “I'm just proud of the fact that I don't think any other rapper has used the word 'dissonance' before. I remember being in this Airbnb that I got with [guitarist and producer] Omer [Fedi] mid-quarantine, and we would just make songs all day and just hang out. And it was like two in the morning, and I was about to go to bed, and that cadence and that melody popped in my head. I was just singing it, and Omer from the other room was like, 'Voice memo that, that's fire!' It's a very inquisitive song—I'm just trying to make this clear, how do you feel? What do you want? And I think clarity is something we're all searching for, whether it's in life or relationships.”
Empty “In the past, I haven't made many sadder-toned or emo kind of songs before, but I felt like for the album, it was important to have those, because everybody has those days. Everybody can have a shitty day or feel like they're losing somebody special to them. I think that's an emotion we've all felt, and music helps people process it, music helps people get through it. And [Swae Lee] be killing the melodies. He just wants to have a good time and make good music, which I feel that a lot.”
Don’t Sleep “I think there's strength in vulnerability, and I'm learning that as a human being. You don't gotta be perfect all the time. You don't gotta be pristine, like exactly portraying yourself as an image of perfection, because it's not human. We all got problems, and a song like 'Don't Sleep' is probably my most vulnerable song, just talking about how I feel and in the most honest and simple way possible. You listen to this song, you shed a couple tears, you go to sleep, you going to wake up feeling a lot better.”
Mood “That's the song that transformed my life. It was like hitting the fucking fast-forward button because everything just happened so fast. But man, that song came together by accident. Me and iann [dior] were just chilling, playing Call of Duty at his crib. And Omer picks up one of his guitars, starts strumming. And I just started singing that hook, it just popped in my head. I never would have expected it to be as big as it is, but I think that's just the universe. All I can control is the music, and the universe, and the DSP providers, they kind of helped everything else. I don't know, man, that's just one of them ones, and it feels great to be in the history books now.”