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How 24kGoldn went from USC freshman to Spotify-topping hip-hop star

By Mikael Wood, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

LOS ANGELES - There's an argument to be made - and 24kGoldn and his team will eagerly make it - that this 19-year-old rapper's "Mood" is the biggest song on the planet right now.

A yelping, guitar-driven number about playing "games of love to avoid the depression," "Mood" doesn't sit atop Billboard's industry-standard Hot 100, where it trails Cardi B's "WAP," BTS' "Dynamite" and the international pile-up "Savage Love (Laxed - Siren Beat)" by Jason Derulo, BTS and New Zealand's Jawsh 685. But since late September the tune has led Spotify's Global Top 50 chart - a coveted perch at a moment when streaming largely drives the pop-music conversation.

When "Mood" came out in July, 24kGoldn said the other day, "I thought, if this gets 300 million streams in the span of a year, I'm happy as f - ." He grinned. "In three months it's gotten more than 300 million on Spotify alone." Tens of millions more have come from YouTube and Apple Music.

What makes "Mood's" success especially remarkable is that a year and a half ago, 24kGoldn (whose real name is Golden Landis von Jones) was finishing his freshman year at USC on a full-ride scholarship to study business. Back then he'd already built the beginnings of an audience for his music, which he started posting online as a high school student in his native San Francisco.

But 24kGoldn enjoyed the college life - "Bitch, I Go to USC" was one early internet hit - so he stayed enrolled, returning to his room at the McCarthy Honors Residential College after playing increasingly crowded gigs around Los Angeles.

"I ate for free at the dorm, which was a big plus," he pointed out with a laugh - less of a concern now that "Mood" is pulling in more than $100,000 a week in revenue, according to the trade journal Hits.

 

"College was like the perfect transition from being a random SoundCloud rapper to having the No. 1 song in the world," said the artist, who moved to the ritzier Westside after putting his studies on hold last fall to focus on music. "I needed a little something in between."

In a sense, 24kGoldn's rapid ascent with "Mood," which features another young up-and-comer in Iann Dior, is emblematic of the industry's current fixation on viral quick-fix smashes. Like scores of recent hits, including Arizona Zervas' "Roxanne" and StaySolidRocky's "Party Girl," "Mood" took off on the video-sharing app TikTok before it migrated to streaming services and radio.

Yet 24kGoldn insists he's different from the acts who've struggled to lay the foundation for something longer lasting.

"Me and Lil Nas X" - the social-media phenom behind 2019's country-trap "Old Town Road" - "we're like the only two artists that have built a career off this," he said from a sofa at a Hollywood rehearsal studio where he was preparing for several upcoming television performances. He wore tie-dyed harem pants and a hoodie, and as he spoke he fiddled with a retainer he'd removed from his mouth after taking off his face mask.

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