Interview: The 24kGoldn life of SF’s Golden Landis Von Jones

24kGoldn

24kGoldn performs at Outside Lands in San Francisco on Oct. 30, 2021. Adam Pardee/STAFF. Las Vegas photos courtesy Mike Kirschbaum.

SAN FRANCISCO — Hip-hop artist 24kGoldn has had numerous successes now, yet nothing looms as large as viral sensation “Mood” at the end of 2020 and the start of 2021. The song, featuring Iann Dior, spent eight weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and on the Pop radio chart, and it has since been certified Platinum three times over in the U.S. It’s been re-released as a Justin Bieber and J Balvin remix and as countless meme parodies on social media.

99.7 NOW’s POPTOPIA
with The Kid Laroi, Doja Cat, Black Eyed Peas, Sweetie, 24kGoldn, Tate McRae and Tai Verdes

7:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 4
SAP Center, San Jose
Tickets: $62-$142.

The song also crushed on multiple radio formats, from hip-hop to Top-40, alt-rock and more, demonstrating the appeal of the music made by San Francisco native Golden Landis Von Jones. It’s hip-hop in name, but with a guitar-led melody, it’s equal parts rock and pop.

Despite previous hits like “Valentino,” 24kGoldn felt pressure following up “Mood,” both from other people and himself, at least at first. Speaking ahead of his bombastic homecoming set at Outside Lands on Oct. 30 (he had his own band and performed with Bay Area artists Paypa Boy and Stunnaman02, who influenced him greatly) he brought up a Megan Thee Stallion interview that popped up on his Instagram a couple of days prior. In the interview, Megan acknowledged the pressure to grab listeners in the first 30 seconds because of short attention spans.



“I feel like a lot of people think if you can’t do that, then that song is considered a failure, but what’s really helped my mental health and took a lot of weight off my shoulders was redefining success,” 24kGoldn said. “To me, success no longer is Billboard numbers and charts and all that bullshit. That’s cool, and that’s a sign that your music is reaching a wide audience, which is always my intention, but my new goal now is to communicate my message as accurately as possible and make songs that people are going to connect to, even if it’s only 10 people. … That’s who’s meant to hear it, and that’s who the song is for. At the end of the day, I’m making music that I like.”

Until the initial success of “Mood,” Von Jones has never felt such stress or anxiety in his life, he said. He had a dream-perfect childhood growing up in San Francisco’s Lakeview neighborhood. His parents, a white mother and Black father, named him Golden with big expectations. While he described their life as lower middle class, he and his sister never went without, he said. As a child, he got used to being in front of a camera by acting in commercials and doing some modeling (fashion is now a huge interest for him). He and his dad learned about investing together, and he invested his earnings.

“From a young age, I always had that spotlight kind of shining on me. I’m comfortable talking to new people and being in front of the camera and performing and stuff like that because it kind of feels normal to be getting a lot of attention,” he said.



He loved basketball—and his obsession with shoes is how he ended up a music artist—but he was more of an artistic kid than an athletic one. Still, one of his early hobbies was the Brazilian martial art Capoeira. He also sang in the choir at magnet school Lowell High, and was into spray-painting.

24kGoldn

24kGoldn performs at Outside Lands in San Francisco on Oct. 30, 2021.

“I had pretty fucking sick childhood. My parents gave me a lot of love, and I was always confident,” 24kGoldn said. “I never had any anxiety or depression or anything like that. I found when I got older, and being in the industry and feeling that pressure, that I did start overthinking and worrying and woke up feeling sad some days. Now I’m at a place where I really am genuinely happy, and I’m able to live more in the present moment.”

High schooler Golden’s big interest was sneakers, and a few blocks from his home in Lakeview was a sneaker store owned by hip-hop artist Donald Andrews, who makes music as Paypa Boy.

“On my 13th birthday, I didn’t have no big party or anything. All I wanted to do was visit the sneaker store,” he said. “When I went in there … Paypa Boy, Don; he was wearing Galaxy Foamposites, which in that time was the hottest shoe out. People were trading their car, people were spending thousands and thousands of dollars, people waiting in line for a week to get these sneakers, and he was just wearing them on a Friday like it was nothing. I was just immediately fascinated and fell in love with the shop and the vibe, and he became like a real big brother figure to me.”



Fast-forward a couple of years, and Von Jones was helping out at the store after school. Paypa Boy invited him to record a song at a music studio above the store, and one day Von Jones took him up on the offer.

“From there, it was just an incredible snowball effect,” 24kGoldn said. “He always told me he could see a lot of himself in me. I’ve been rapping and freestyling on YouTube beats while hotboxing my friends’ parents’ car in high school. I think that was just a natural progression. He really gave me confidence to chase my dreams and do it.”

Von Jones earned a full scholarship to USC to study business (more on that in a bit). In 2019, the summer after his freshman year, he scored his first viral hit with “Valentino.” Then he signed with Records (which helped to kick-start the careers of Will Smith, ’N Sync and Britney Spears) and took a sabbatical from school. Although his debut EP was titled Dropped Outta College, he technically has a decade to return to school and still take advantage of that scholarship.



The EP featured “Valentino” and had another online hit, “City of Angels.” Still, 24kGoldn called the decision to leave school a leap of faith.

24kGoldn

24kGoldn performs at Outside Lands in San Francisco on Oct. 30, 2021.

“I set it up so that I would have the best safety net I could of,” he said, adding that in the back of his mind, he always told himself he would go back to school if he needed to. “If everything goes according to plan, I’m out of there. Peace. … To just turn away from a top school like that with a full scholarship and an already healthy situation just to chase my dreams of making music; that was pretty risky. At the time, I was confident—and I still am—that that was the right decision. Looking back, there’s so many ways it could have not worked out, but it did, and that’s all that matters.”

When he left school, he stayed in L.A., moving into a guest house at a friend’s parents’ mansion in Beverly Hills.

“I was going to go back to the Bay, and Nevin [the friend] was just like, ‘You know, why don’t you just move in with us? We have the guest house open this summer,’” 24kGoldn recalled. “And I’m like, ‘Guest house, you say? OK. Let me check that out.’”



He and his friends spent an entire summer writing songs, playing hoops, having girls over and “causing trouble”—“it was an iconic summer.” It sounds like a story about how Golden’s life got flipped-turned upside down. His magnetic personality, his talent and his 24k smile led to a TV deal for an autobiographic show in the vein of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” “Entourage” and even a little bit of “Dave.”

24kGoldn, Golden Landis Von Jones, Drai's, Las Vegas

A birthday cake presented to 24kGoldn at Drai’s in Las Vegas on Nov. 14, 2021.

That’s how 24kGoldn describes it. He said it should be hitting the airwaves in 2022 or 2023 with Von Jones playing himself.

“I would probably have to shave my beard a little bit to play 18-year-old Golden, but we’ll make it work,” the 21-year-old said, rubbing his chin. He celebrated his 21st birthday earlier this month in Las Vegas with a club show and a night out on the town to “see what everybody’s been talking about.”

That Fresh Prince comparison has lingered around 24kGoldn for at least the last couple of years. He said he at first leaned into the comparisons, but now he just wants to be the first 24kGoldn.

“Will is somebody that I truly admire, but hey man, I’m gonna do things my own way,” he said.



Then came “Mood,” an early career-defining monster smash that he made with roommates and friends Omer Fedi, KBeaZy and songwriter-producer Blake Slatkin.

24kGoldn, Golden Landis Von Jones, Drai's, Las Vegas

24kGoldn performs at Drai’s in Las Vegas on Nov. 14, 2021.

The song topped Billboard’s Hot Alternative Songs, Hot Rap Songs and Hot 100 charts at the same time. It also made 24kGoldn the first San Francisco rapper to be certified Platinum, according to the trade publication.

TikTok and Instagram, the social platforms that first spawned his success, quickly filled up with spoof videos: “little puppy dude,” replete with videos of playful puppies, anyone? Instant meme content.

“They got that one, they got ‘Why You Always Eating Food?’ They got some other ones that I probably shouldn’t say on this interview right now,” he said. “When people take your song and reinterpret it to fit their world, that’s a sign of a cultural moment, so I’m honored for all the remixes—the clean ones and the dirty ones, too.”



Other popular singles have included “Coco” (with DaBaby) and “3,2,1.” They led up to his full-length debut, El Dorado, released last March. The 13-song album, which landed in the top 35 of the Billboard 200 and has been certified Gold, continues to solidify the artist as multidimensional. His hip-hop straddles alt-rock, pop, pop-punk, R&B, emo and probably more. Much has been said about the subgenre originating out of SoundCloud or mumble rap, but he doesn’t fit into that box, either.

“I can do a pretty mean scat. Maybe I’ll bring it out for the fourth album or something like that,” he believably deadpans before cracking up. “I definitely like the ability to be genre-fluid and just kind of shift to whatever I’m feeling at that moment. Only time will tell what else happens to inspire me.”

But it’s more than music inspiring 24kGoldn. Besides that, shows and fashion, Von Jones has huge aspirations for not just his future, but that of future generations in his family. He got interested in business earlier in his childhood, when he and his dad learned about investing together, starting when he was in the fifth grade.



The money he made from his commercials he invested.

“My dad didn’t want me to be the kid who blew it all on dumb shit because if he let me, I would have blew it all on XBox games and sneakers,” he said.

24kGoldn, Golden Landis Von Jones, Drai's, Las Vegas

24kGoldn performs at Drai’s in Las Vegas on Nov. 14, 2021.

Von Jones would wake up at 6 a.m., and with his dad, pour over stock pages in the newspaper, learning about the market forces that impacted changes. It’s really no secret he ended up wanting to study business at USC. That interest only intensified when he started making music.

“I realized since I started making music that music isn’t the way that I’m going to make sure my kids’ kids’ kids’ kids’ kids are good. It’s the foundation, it’s my passion, it’s what I love to do, it’s my foot into the door of this upper echelon money-making world, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg,” he said. “If I really wanna set up generational wealth and be able to make the changes that I want to make in the world, I’m gonna need some B’s, not some M’s.”



Not that he’s in a place to expand a family now; 24kGoldn is happily single—“At this point in my life I’m just chillin’. I would like to fall in love, but I ain’t met nobody that made me feel some type of way yet.”

He’s not only thinking about himself, but the world around him as well. He’s got causes he’s close to, such as improving financial literacy in the underserved areas of his hometown. Early this fall, he also partnered with San Francisco music nonprofit Project Level to distribute high-quality shoes, backpacks and more to students.

The Bay Area has been a huge influence on Von Jones, even though it doesn’t show in his own music the typical way. He said he grew up listening to hyphy and his favorite song in kindergarten was E-40’s “Tell Me When To Go.” He would shake his then-nonexistent dreads along to the video.

24kGoldn, Golden Landis Von Jones, Drai's, Las Vegas

24kGoldn performs at Drai’s in Las Vegas on Nov. 14, 2021.

But rather than that specific style of hip-hop, he co-opted its energy and up-tempo style and fluidity.

“In the Bay Area, people don’t like to be put in boxes,” he said. “I don’t like to be put in boxes, and I feel like that gave me the freedom and open-mindedness to try different shit out, try different sounds out, without feeling like I have to be just one thing.”

Follow editor Roman Gokhman at Twitter.com/RomiTheWriter.

No Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *