Words By Connor McInerney, Photos By Kevin Kim
When I arrived at the 9:30 Club on Wednesday evening, two things happened that made me inclined to think this would be an interesting night:
- I saw someone outside the venue who I thought was Action Bronson, but it just turned out to be a large dude with red hair in a tracksuit (which was still a pretty dope thing to see).
- A woman at the press box with a shirt that said “GoldLink’s Mom” on it, trying to see if she was on the list.
Naturally when she was turned away, I tweeted something to the effect, “GoldLink you should probably get your mom from outside the club.”
I’ll admit that I went into this evening with a preliminary knowledge of the rapper GoldLink, who was headlining a sold-out Wednesday night show. I knew his sound was distinguished by a clever, quick-spat wordplay alongside post-dub beat production, the type of sound that’s very popular among alternative-rap artists of the last five years (namely A$AP Mob and Das Racist come to mind). I also knew an incredible amount surrounded the evening’s performance, seen as a blowout homecoming party for the DMV-based rapper.
The event was billed with five artists, four of whom were producers from the alt-hip-hop collection Soulection (Joe Kay, Lakim, Esta and Sango, performing in that order), an audacious number of performers for a weeknight show. Soulection’s stage setup is similar to something you’d expect at an EDM festival, a large metallic cage-like platform from which each DJ could bring their individual sounds prior to GoldLink’s performance. While each performer had their own genre-preferences for spinning and remixing, it was a bit discouraging to have to sit through roughly three and a half hours of someone else’s music prior to the main event. Don’t get me wrong, Joe Kay, Lakim and Esta all brought a considerable amount of drill and trap-electro to get the crowd vibing, but even two DJs felt excessive prior to GoldLink’s performance, let alone four.
While the numerous openers may have made the music prior feel stale, much of the crowd made no indication of being tired. The audience (of which I’d gander roughly one half were in their late teens) wilded out during Esta’s set in particular; I felt inclined to join as he remixed Ginuwine’s “Pony” into Waka Flocka Flames “Hard In Da Paint.” Perhaps my personal vibing was too conspicuous, because one concertgoer, noticing my gangly arms and unapologetically Caucasian dad dancing, took me aside to tell me, “you’re definitely the minority here tonight.”
Soulection continued to DJ, playing Rae Sremmurd’s “No Type” as GoldLink entered right around 11:30 p.m., clad in a white undershirt, a leather jacket, and (fittingly) a gold-link chain. An enormous cannon shot out a plume of white smoke as a thundering subwoofer shook the crowd, a harbinger of the sheer nuttiness that would continue into the recesses of the morning.
GoldLink’s onstage persona is a mix of palpable sexuality, intimate sincerity, and classic hip-hop tropes. He spits clever wordplay at a mind bogglingly fast pace, long tales about relationships that went wrong or the time he slept with his girl’s best friend (yikes), all the while salsaing around the stage like a smooth soothsayer. Then, with no warning, his DJ transitions to Chicago drill and the whole Soulection squad comes out of the woodwork, jumping around stage and creating a hyphy vibe to break the romance. The crowd (myself included) goes absolutely bonkers.
GoldLink and his squad don’t take themselves too seriously. He broke from a string of his own songs fifteen minutes into the show to spin Montell Jordan’s “This Is How We Do It,” and then, giving a “shoutout to all the white people in the audience, I know you’re somewhere out there,” follows that up with a singalong to Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (it was around this time that, based on the reactions of the crowd and those present, I discovered I’m one of the few white people who doesn’t like Nirvana). Transitioning from that into the Falcons-produced “Aquafina,” his squad brings out inflatable pool toys, released into the audience when the beat drops. Rapper Chaz French rode an inflated rubber boat over the crowd to the applause of both concertgoers and GoldLink’s squad.
The most intimate performance of the evening was an a capella version of GoldLink’s “The Heart,” a bitter memoir of his roots in the DMV and his struggle getting out. “This was your party tonight,” GoldLink tells us, grateful of the opportunity and energy that the packed audience has provided. “And we gonna party the fuck out tonight.”
“The Heart” was his last song performed, but the Soulection squad DJed until 1 AM, those of us still present weary on our feet, partied out by an altogether five hour set. The pure exhaustion of wilding out had me exhausted, the last thing I really recall being some chubby white dude dancing to Sean Paul next to GoldLink onstage. I’m not sure how anyone else got up in the morning after a night of partying with the DMV’s biggest rockstar, but I barely managed.