Artist On The Rise: Goldlink

GoldLink just completed his first national headlining tour which began with a bang-on performance at SOB's that I was lucky enough to catch. Standing in the crowd, I was surrounded by young excited hip-hop heads eagerly anticipating the evening's show. Suddenly, and with little grandeur, GoldLink was on stage. Wearing a speedo life vest, the DMV rapper had casually and quietly weaved his way through the entirety of the audience to step on stage. However understated his entrance was, the performance was anything but. "Link" as he is affectionately referred to by his friends and team, controlled the crowd masterfully. Slowly ramping the adoring fans to a crescendo as he leaped across the stage, his lanky limbs jerking sporadically to the beat.

For years, "GoldLink" was only a name and a sound; the colorfully painted mask serving as the only inclination that there was indeed a person behind the anonymous moniker. But the sound itself, a funky and rhythmic conglomeration of hip hop and EDM influences, took off. Integrating thrumming basslines with overlayed melodies of both rap and song, Goldlink has created a new genre for himself - part Kaytranada, part Big L, part Rick James. It's called "Future Bounce", and rap heavyweights, like Rick Rubin (Jay Z, Kanye West, etc), are listening.

In a recent VSCO interview with the legendary man behind some of Hip Hop's most acclaimed, iconic albums, Rubin articulates that "GoldLink connects progressive rap styles with cutting edge dance music. He bridges the electronic DJ culture with hip hop in a way we haven’t heard before." This, in conjunction with his technically proficient rapping ability, charisma, and unexpectedly impressive vocal range, is what led the man with the musical midas touch to begin working with Link.

Before Rubin came into the picture, GoldLink began building his sound with DMV based producer Louie Lastic who calls GoldLink, "the voice of this new sound." He continues, "I don't think anybody is gonna touch him, or anybody can really be compared to him. He's ahead of the curve and I'm just thankful that I get to work with him, he's like my little brother."

But despite the accolades, GoldLink never gives any indication that he is anything but humble. Speaking with him after the SOB show, Link seemed relatively quiet and hesitant to say anything to put himself in the spotlight. Moreover, he seemed more interested in talking about appreciating the creative process. "When I record," he begins, "I try to think about how I would perform. I hear what a song sounds like and try to understand who it's going to touch, and when I know that, I try not to let it ever get boring."

Halfway through our conversation, a photographer came over and brusquely asked for a photograph. Link nodded but replied, "Only if you take it while I'm talking... and I move when I talk." He turned back to me, bouncing and rolling his wrists in a Lil B esque cooking motion as the photographer attempted to grab a shot."Link you can't move so much," a friend exclaimed watching the exasperated photographer scroll through his blurry images. Link pretended he didn't hear, immediately began a flexing routine as he continually bounced on the balls of his feet.

On stage, you can feel his energy and passion for performance bubbling under the surface and it becomes very clear, very quickly that while GoldLink takes his music seriously and his performance seriously, he doesn't take himself too seriously. In a world where everyone is trying to sell themselves, a world where Game of Thrones, tabloids and Kanye West seek their audience's attention through unmitigated shock value, GoldLink politely declines to participate.

His friends and family, on the other hand, are much more inclined to discuss Link's impressive ascent, his younger brother in seeming disbelief as to how far GoldLink has already come. "It's unbelievable you know?" He told me, shaking his head, "to come from so little and do so much." I nod in agreement and ask where the whole anonymous thing came from in the first place." Not a lot of people may know this," he replied, "but Link first got into music by playing drums in church. And that community, isn't always the most receptive to the idea of Hip-Hop."

So GoldLink put on the mask. But he never masked himself out of fear, or because he wanted the novelty of anonymity to draw you in. Declining to put a face to the sound wasn't done for anything other than allowing the creative genius to emerge in the music itself, unadulterated and uncompromised. Wearing a mask allowed everything else to speak a little louder. And soon, mask or no mask, everybody will hear his "Future Bounce" sound loud and clear.

Photos via Ryan Jay for SWAGGER