When he released free mixtape The God Complex in April 2014, GoldLink was – alongside the likes of Shy Glizzy and Yung Gleesh – one of many rappers representing a second wave of rising-to-mainstream emcees from the D.C. Metropolitan area. However, dissimilar to the aforementioned names, GoldLink’s not content with being “just another street rapper from the DMV.” His interests and sonic palette are as diverse and dissimilar as his upbringing in both far Northeast D.C. and norther Virginia. Nearly eight months after dropping one of 2014’s best overall rap projects, GoldLink plays D.C.’s U Street Music Hall on Sunday, November 23. Having also just played at the Lincoln Theater as an opener for progressive EDM bass wizard SBTRKT, it again showcases the diverse interests apparent in the rising D.C.-area based emcee. If looking for a window into the soul of one of rap’s most reserved young artists, you’re definitely not getting this here. But in getting a chance to see the mind of a young man clearly about to break through to the next level at work, that’s here. Fascinating, fanciful and feeling (emotionally) free, he’s what is now yet another cant-miss rising superstar (joining the likes of Wale, Fat Trel and Logic) from the the D.C. area. Enjoy!
What has allowed you to gain so quickly in respect in rap circles? You’ve galvanized a ton of support behind you and it feels as though rap fans worldwide are excitedly behind your movement…
I guess I’m making authentic music. I’m telling real stories and not compromising my sound. People look to me for honesty, too.
You’ve met everyone from A-Trak to Rick Rubin (and more) in 2014, hip-hop cultural icons. Which of these “iconic” individuals that you’ve had the opportunity to share space with have stuck out to you, and why?
I guess Rick Rubin. That was crazy! I never expected that to happen. He’s genuine and cool. That’s what stuck out more than anything. He was really cool to vibe with.
You’ve done some work with Los Angeles’ Soulection crew. Thoughts about what makes their vibe stand out and also connective to your style of rapping?
I think they’re creating something new. They’re bringing something new to music in general. They have so much to offer. As an artist that’s really refreshing. They’re a group of guys making something totally new as opposed to the thing that we’re used to having. That’s pretty cool.
Live performances are the bread and butter of the music industry right now, and many believe yours to be some of the best from the artists making a push to the mainstream as of late. Where is your comfort zone? Where do you feel you need to grow as a live performer?
It’s good. I’m so happy about it. It’s exponential. I didn’t know that I’d get used to it that fast. It’s like riding a bike. Once you get it, you get it. There’s so much to learn, so many things I want to do, but the main [aspects of my] performance, I have down pat. I want to add more elements to my live show. I’m keeping it simple right now, but I want to add more elements and adjust to them.
You just toured with DJ/producer SBTRKT. How was that experience on the road, as I believe it was your first major touring look…
He’s great. He’s amazing. A cool guy, and nice. We’re very similar in that we’re quiet and easy to get along with. I liked him and touring with him a lot. We definitely got along well.
I wanted to ask about the D.C. area. You’re from here, and the first of the second generation of rappers to get the mainstream breakout opportunities afforded the likes of Wale and Fat Trel. As the artist at the start of the next progression, what do you feel you’re doing to possibly refine or re-define the city’s image?
I’m bringing a completely new sound that’s not the same thing. I’m trying to open up a new lane to D.C. that’s not in the expected direction, and trying to show that there’s a lot more to what makes [D.C. residents] who we are. I try to bring as many elements out of this area as I can, and show the diversity of street culture in the DMV.
You grew up in Northeast D.C. and moved to northern Virginia. In what ways did the shifts apparent in that move allow your mind to shift creatively?
Good question. Seeing what I saw when I grew up in D.C. felt like seeing only one way of thinking. My uncles, dad, cousins and friends all saw the world a certain way. [Moving] changed my life in every aspect and way possible. There’s not carry outs on the corners in northern Virginia. Not a lot of shoes hanging on wires or basketball courts either. They have better schools than [in Northeast D.C.], better food, better lunch, more people, white people, nice people. There’s certain things that we just didn’t have that [were present in northern Virginia] that helped expand my mind. I realized that there were more parts of life than what I was used to. I just had more opportunities [available to me] growing up in northern Virginia than when I was in D.C.
On a lighter note, if I wanted to know a few songs that were exciting you right now, what songs would you put on a Spotify playlist and why?
Shy Glizzy – “Coca Loca,” Koffee Brown – “After Party,” Little Dragon – “Sunshine” and Kanye West – “Bound 2.”
Koffee Brown’s “After Party?” Wow! Surprising! (note: It’s a one-hit wonder R& B single from 2001) Where did that come from?
That song is tight. It’s a classic! Reminds me of a cookout. It was a family cookout thing, for sure.
What are some of the themes that you’re getting into in your new music that you wanted to be able to touch upon before, but are finally getting the chance to now?
I can’t really say (laughs) Yeah…I can’t say…
Well then, who and what are some of the artists, sounds and ideas that are inspiring you right now?
Soccer chant music. Yeah, that’s pretty tight. Like when Manchester United’s playing and they start chanting…you know…
Definitely! Are you a Manchester United fan? I’m a Manchester United fan, and they’re not doing so well right now…
No! I actually like Arsenal. I’m not following them as much as I should be this year though. I normally do, but not this year.
You’re a little busy, right?
Yeah, I’m a little busy (laughs)…
Well, as far as a final question, what can people expect from a GoldLink live concert if they’re coming out for the first time on Sunday night?
Well, they can expect to have a lot of fun and forget where they are. I see what I do as like, throwing a party, not “performing at a concert.” I want people to get out of their element, to not be afraid to dance or sing, yell, whatever they do to have fun.