Interview with GoldLink, the faceless, DC-born proprietor of "future bounce"
GoldLink is a rapper who immediately seems to have carved his own lane—"future bounce" as he somewhat imprecisely calls it, "dream rap" as I even more poorly first conceived it. Basically he's rapping over pittering dance beats that you can't always dance to. Born in DC and now based in Virginia, he's got a weirdness that could make him the biggest DMV rapper since Wale; at the very least, he shares a refreshing left-field newcomer's confidence to experiment. Download his debut album, The God Complex, and below, read what he has to say about discovering club music, linking up with Soulection and the excitement of not knowing what might happen next.
Where exactly are you from? I was born in DC. I was born in Columbia Hospital, not that that matters… I ended up in Maryland. My apartment burned down and then I lived in Cheverly. My mother wanted better for us, so we ended up moving to Virginia, then my mom got divorced, but I stayed there.
Where are you living now? A few places. Woodbridge is one. Alexandria. It's aight. There's not a lot of minorities, so everything's kinda awkward, but it's cool. We manage. We stay on the west side, it's calm and quiet.
I saw you said used to go to Busboys and Poets "on the very low." What were you like as a teenager? At 17, I was wild. I was really wild. I was really smart for my age, but I thought I knew everything. I was really hardheaded, but I couldn't control my temper. I was really smart-mouthed. I was the opposite of everything I am now. I was super loud and annoying. I was 17, you know what I'm saying?
Were you recording and putting out music at that time? Not at 17, no. I was just chilling.
That was a few years before Wale started blowing up, and Baltimore Club was having a big moment too. Did you feel that excitement? Even though I was young, I remember it. Wale was cool. You know how you had that friend circle and out of that circle one guy gets everybody hip? I was that kid. So I was like, yo, Wale, you head 100 Miles of Running? I got hip to Baltimore Club music because I took somebody's CD out of their car and it was a blank CD with nothing on it. I was like, 'What is all this?' He was like, 'Oh, it's Baltimore club music, all this red light district music.' I remember I caught that riff. I was young but I was old enough to understand that there was something in the DMV going on.
When you came out, your sound was already really solid. Did that take time? Were you fucking around over Zaytoven beats a few years ago? No, that was the sound. I never crossed over like, trap is cool, I'm going to do this. This is what I started with. I heard Ta-Ku beat two years ago and I thought it was cooler than all the bullshit that was hot. I didn't care what the fuck was hot. I thought that was cool. I didn't get it when I was 18 at all, but I just rode with it. That's why it's so natural over the beats. I wrote to those beats to challenge myself, not knowing that this is the route I was going to take. I was like, 'Man, this is weird. I know someone wouldn't rap over this so I'm going to challenge myself.' So I just did. I was never really influenced by anybody.
How did you link with the Soulection team? I know you've worked with Sango. A friend of ours introduced us through email. We ended up talking and I ended up sending him tracks that I did over previous beats to see if he liked them. He ended up loving them and became a fan and he started sending me beats. From there we built a friendship. We got each others numbers and started talking and we both did Broccoli City Festival. That was two weeks ago and we kicked it there and we kicked it the whole day. It was all through email at first, though.
There's more in the pipeline coming with him? Yeah, maybe.
I was going to ask you about Broccoli City—Cam'ron and Kelela performed, and you're kind of like midway between them, to me. I met Kelela. Cam'ron was really protected, so he was kind of in and out. He did his job. But the scene was cool. DMV is such a soul, neo-black city. So people accepted both. There were a lot of people there who liked soul and they liked Kelela and were singing along, and there was a lot of people from the hood because it was in Southeast, and Southeast is like "Oh it's Cam'ron!"
How do you deal with the not-showing-your-face thing at shows? I did UStreet with a mask at the beginning and then I took it off. I guess it's like a suspense thing, but I'm really into the music and not into the imaging and I don't necessarily think we should put an image to the music. I'd rather just make music, and people like that. For performing it's different, because you actually get to look people in the face—these people that have been following you for months or maybe a few days and you get to look at them. It's really intimate. I don't mind showing my face to people because they get to deserve it.
It's funny that you mention not putting an image to music, because your videos are so striking. The beats are on a spacey, electronic thing, but the videos have a very real street feel. Is that an important tension, for you? I could see why you could say it's tension, but I don't think it is. I make it work. Even though the beats are really outlandish and wild, that bounce is really familiar. It's really different, but it's the same trap bounce, the same street bounce, the same hip-hop ruggedness, but it's really new it's really futuristic sounding. That's why I feel like people can actually accept it. It's at a fine line where it's different, but it's not so new that it's annoying or trying too hard. I made it mesh and meet in the middle. Tasteful.
Have labels been reaching out? Is it at that point? I guess it's at that point. I like what I'm doing and I think it can grow naturally because it's been growing naturally to this point. I want to see how far it can go naturally. If it makes a complete 100 percent sense, then maybe I'll consider a label, but right now I'm content with what I'm doing.
What most excites you about what you're doing right now? Knowing that I don't know where it's going to go or how big it could possibly be. The unknown is really exciting. This could be big! It could be on the radio, and it could change what people think. It could change the way the music goes. It could change the BPM. Knowing that I don't know that makes me excited. Knowing that kids could take this route and add something to it is cool. Knowing that I could start something and start a revolution is exciting. That's the coolest part about what I'm doing. In my city there's a lot of hate, but I don't get any of it at all. I get so much love it almost doesn't make any sense. Kids are changing up the music and starting to let that image shit go. They're starting to make better music and clique up more. This is the best era for the DMV.
What else do you want people to know? I want fans to be like, 'Damn, that nigga tight.'