The DC rapper committed to bringing dance and timelessness back into the fold of hip-hop.
The DC rapper committed to bringing dance and timelessness back into the fold of hip-hop.
Text: AMIRA RASOOL
In the back of an oversized Black SUV, 23-year-old rapper and freshly signed RCA artist, D’Anthony “GoldLink” Carlos, rode through the early rush hour traffic of mid-town Manhattan, en route to a private show in Brooklyn. He scrolled through his phone incessantly, eventually pausing to play a video of two men repeatedly spew light-hearted insults at one another, an activity referred to as “jonin” in his native city of DC (this went far beyond yo mamma jokes). After a minute of watching the loud back-and-forth banter, GoldLink erupted in laughter, laughter contagious enough to infect the entire vehicle and even cause the driver to share a few chuckles. The amusing Friday afternoon experience perfectly reflected GoldLink’s ability to spread joy, a trait most recognizable in his music that boasts complex rhythmic puns, upbeat dance tempos, and is able to transcend generations and cultures.
GoldLink’s signature sound, coined by the rapper as “future bounce” music, was first introduced to the world in 2014 upon the release of his mixtape The Gold Complex. The debut project lead to an international tour, a faithful SoundCloud following (over 150,000 followers), and major nods from notable music junkies; it would eventually catch the attention of hip-hop legend Rick Rubin, now a close mentor to the rapper who offered his seal of approval to GoldLink’s most recent sophomore project And After That, We Didn’t Talk. The future bounce sound, an unconventional style of rap and R&B over high-speed, syncopated dance beats, strays from the traditional commercialized framework of hip-hop today, in an effort to reestablish the positivity and danceability of the genre. “Bounce or just like the dancey or electronic kind of twist with hip-hop was so unheard of when I dropped in 2013, 2014,” said GoldLink. “In 2016 it's very, very common. It's radio driven.”
Onstage at Brooklyn’s Kinfolk 94 the allure of GoldLink’s music came alive. The private daytime pajama party hosted guests in silk pajamas, onesies, and even saw a bear costume. The lights were dim, the drinks were flowing. A little after 5:30 the rapper joined close collaborator Masego on the small makeshift stage for a soulful rendition of “Late Night,” a single off of And After That, We Didn’t Talk. Although he's yet to break into mass appeal, it's this performance that proves his charismatic sound can't be ignored.
Can you take me through your song creating process?
I personally like taking what people have worked on already and turning it into something instead of starting from scratch. Scratch is not really my thing personally. If I want to work with you already basically it's something about your style that I like so I wouldn't want you to change what you do to tailor me. I want to take what it is that you're best at and then work with that and then turn that into something. Like for example Brasstracks. They're really, really good at playing the trumpet and making things feel alive. So maybe I'm like ah there needs to be a live aspect of that, then I'm bringing somebody who specializes in live instrumentation.
So what does it take to collaborate with you? What do you think an artist or producer needs to bring to the table?
Just something different. I look at everything. Like on a sports reference, as a team, if you think about basketball there are 5 positions to start: a point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward. So I kind of orchestrate it like that. Somebody could be good at playing horns, or somebody who's really good at keys, someone who's really good at chords, someone who's really good at drum patterns, and then if you put that together, who knows, that could create something that they couldn't have thought about themselves. [For artists] it’s the same thing. I don't really like collaborating for the most part because there are not a lot of things that I can't do. I like kind of collaborating with female vocal artists because I'm just really interested in female vocals because I can't do that. But certain people might have a unique voice or certain people have a unique rap style or a unique way they do sing or go about things vocally. Those are the ones I kind of attract to for collaboration. So literally people on the opposite spectrum or do something that you actually can't do.
A lot of your content is about past relationships, but then you also discuss sensitive subjects like absentee fathers and race relations. How do you maintain a balance in your lyrics so that you're not just labeled a trap rapper or a gangsta rapper or a conscious rapper?
I don't know it's just like they all tie into something. I guess I'm not like a one-dimensional person. I don't think a lot of us are. Everybody has a funny side people have a quiet side. I just kind of embody it and display it perfectly. So like I'm not a conscious dude, well not just a conscious dude ,actually. Like I'm a bunch of things and they all tie in. Like I trapped in order to make a living for myself, so I could kick it with my friends all the time, and fall in love, and if somebody got a problem with me I'll beat you up. That's kind of my thing.
There has been quite a bit of controversy recently because many believe entertainers, Black males rappers in particular, should take more of a social and political stance in their music. Do you believe that it is the responsibility of Black male artists to speak about race issues?
I don't know it's not something that I want but I can't explain it. I could careless. It's not my job, but as a human being I just care. An artist’s job is to express the way that that artist feels about anything that they want to express. It's about expression. Expression doesn't have a restriction on it. An artist can yodel all the time. There are people who yodel on mountains; they are artists. Is it their social right to talk about what's going on with the equator? No. So what's the difference? But it's like it's a personal thing. So I don't fault artists for not doing what they're 'supposed to do but, personally, I just take it upon myself. Like for example, I want to get involved with my community just because I grew up there. So I understand how hard it is there so that's just something I personally want to do with the power that I've been given. But it's not their job.
You're always discussing the importance of timeless music and how important it is that you create music that is timeless. In your opinion what makes music timeless?
Something that can't be dated. For example when you listen to D4L Laffy Taffy you just feel that, right then. You play it now your like it doesn't feel that nostalgic it just feels corny. It just captured the time period very well, it did what it did very well. It kind of died. But it's like Lou Reed, Velvet Underground. There's something about it when you play it; it's a texture. What I noticed is like if you play Velvet Underground, if you play Marvin Gaye, if you play Prince, or fucking Neil Young, like young Neil Young, they all have the same textures, different music. Same for James Brown, there's a different texture. The textures the same as far as when you put on a Fela Kuti record now and you never heard of him ever you would think that he came out today and that's what timeless is to me as opposed to playing D4L, or Jibbs, or Hurricane Chris. It's not that cool. In order for it to be timeless, I feel like you need to give time to it. It seems like people aren't even making records with thought anymore. They are like going into the booth and saying something and then they just come out, it works sometimes it just never last. But I put time into things and thought into things. Time and thought. Like what am I trying to say that's going to last for a long time, forever. What is it that's different? What am I trying to say what sound am I trying to make to make this last forever? Also, I try to capture feelings within music.
You discuss women a lot in your music, whether it be past relationships or women in general. Do you want women to receive your music differently than men receive your music?
I like describing [women] in a certain way so that it's not like I fuck bitches and get money all day. Because that's not true, I do not fuck bitches and get money all day. But you know I definitely talk about when I see her this is how I felt. When I see her smile this is what I felt, this is what I thought she looked like this is how I felt. Like I describe her in a way like a painting, every last one of them is a painting to me. It's kind of what I want to describe. I want them to feel like I'm talking to them, like "I look kind of like that." So I also keep the description wide, sometimes I get specific when I'm talking about someone. But I like to keep it wide. Like when I made "Dark Skin Women" I wasn't talking about black ass dark, dark, dark women. I was talking about anyone who considers themselves as a Black women or anyone who just considers themselves as a different woman than a white woman, just for that song in particular. Just talking about y'all are fucking beautiful. Don't let nobody tell you shit. If you cut the TV off and you just live your own life. I try to describe them as fucking human beings as opposed to like items that I possess.
What about fashion? How do you incorporate that into your stage presence and your costume design?
It just depends on what the mood is or what the show is or how I feel. I might just wear some boots and a white tee or some running shoes. I'm always looking like I'm about to either fight or party. You know? That's really how I dress all the time when I'm on stage. I just look like I'm about to fight and party all the time. Because I kind of try to create that vibe of like a party. Like you know if girls bout to know they bout to dance, they gon' dress like they about to dance. If they look like they’re about to stand around they are going to dress like they're about stand around type of thing. I like to dress like I'm about to go dance. So I dress comfortable kind of.
GoldLink is currently working on his next a project expected to be released in 2017.