WHP FEATURE 006
To understand the appeal of Goldlink, you need only watch him onstage. Live, you see that the MC born D’Anthony Carlos has realised something vital; sometimes to go forward you need to go back. He’s opened a channel to hip hop’s golden age of performance, commanding the stage with a glee that hasn’t been seen since the days of Tribe and De La. All the weary recent staples of hip hop shows have been stripped away – this means that there’s no excess reliance on hype men, no pre-recorded vocals, no wack autotune, and no sets that finish after three songs. Instead Goldlink woos the crowd with skills that seem obvious but are called old fashioned; lyrical dexterity and charismatic energy. He enunciates every word he spits til it’s as distinct as the off-kilter beats he rhymes on, and plays sets that ratchet up levels ‘til his audience mosh like punks.
let me give them a real show, where you’re not playing pre-set tracks. I’m there. You’re going to hear me.”
“I’ll be onstage for 45 minutes, an hour,” he drawls over the phone from DC, as laconic his show is amped. “I was rehearsing for several hours last night with Louie Lastic and DJ Kidd Marvel for a set for this weekend. I always give the fans an experience.” Recent rap shows in the UK have seen visiting MCs simply playing their tunes from a USB stick and shouting over the top, effectively trying to compete with their own recorded voice. This is exactly the world Goldlink is trying to move away from.
“I can’t imagine the experience I’d be putting my fans through if I was just rapping over my own shit for all that time – they want to hear my voice, and they’ve come to a show, I’m like aiight, let me give them a real show, where you’re not playing pre-set tracks. I’m there. You’re going to hear me.”
I did Day and Night festival in Orange County a couple of weeks ago and it was crazy – we played a party set and that was one of the highlights
To this end, he does remixed versions of his tunes, elongated versions, and interplays with the DJs scratching. He’s currently got two albums and a remix album to draw on, pulling tracks from his debut mixtape The God Complex, alongside last year’s commercial release And After That, We Didn’t Talk. There are plenty of hits to put through the blender, but he still finds time to fling out a curveball or two – most notoriously he’s been known to play a riotous version of Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit…
“I’m absolutely still performing Smells Like Teen Spirit,”he confirms. “That’s one of my favourite songs ever- I did Day and Night festival in Orange County a couple of weeks ago and it was crazy – we played a party set and that was one of the highlights, it’s just one of those universal songs that everyone can get hype to. I want to bring that type of energy to my set anyway.”
Whilst his stage show is resolutely old school in execution, Goldlink is clearly determined not to be a mere revivalist, going so far as to name his self-created genre, a mix of bass heavy dance rhythms and hip hop flow, Future Bounce– with an emphasis on the future. Whilst the shape this has taken has been unashamedly current, his tracks thick with glitching soul samples, juddering basslines and beats that switch into 2 step and house rhythms, the idea of mixing hip hop with dance music is itself a throwback as old as rap. He cites DC’s relatively obscure early 80s GoGo scene – a precursor to hip hop that combined the energy of rapping with live bands playing a tight stripped back funk designed specifically to make people dance– as being key to his sound, and notes that maybe it’s Europe’s own long relationship with dance music that has allowed him to become more popular over here than he is at home.
“I feel like you guys are a little more intuitive sonically,” he enthuses about playing in the UK “So when I’m there, making the music I make, you guys understand what I’m trying to do and where I’m trying to take it. A lot of the textures I’ve drawn from and been influenced by are things that you guys are already familiar with – over here those things aren’t as universally known – things like garage and house, very recent things, over here that’s not going to fly. GoGo was never really a thing in the States, except for a couple of spots in DC, and a bit in Atlanta – but it was known in Europe. If a sub-genre is played in London it can be very cool, and very culturally relevant, but that are so many sub-genres in America they kinda get stopped from getting into the mainstream.”
This interest in forgotten American sub-genres has made his link up with Soulection, the LA based label who have ceaselessly tried to push a deep version of hip hop that is both modern and aware of the history it has sprung from, all the more appropriate. Goldlink has sought out homegrown producers who have been ignored by the mainstream, fighting to shine a light on the numerous genres that rise and fall on a local level without ever troubling wider culture. Thinking of this, he brings up his current obsession with Chicago’s hyper paced Juke scene;
“I was just talking to the Washington Post yesterday about people not getting recognised. Juke music is a sub-genre that’s similar to Gogo in how it’s been such a culturally relevant genre to the people that are from the region it originated in, but it’s still not known - I definitely hear a lot of similarities, cultural touch points in that both are dance focused and coming from urban and black people, communities of people of colour. There have been so many pioneers in Juke for so long, it’s one of my favourites for sure, I’d absolutely work with someone from the scene.”
I want to tell people who don’t know me at all where I’m from.”
His breakout God Complex mixtape (and to a lesser extent his Soulection released album And After That, We Didn’t Talk) was built from him trawling Soundcloud for beats, picking up on American producers who made music that fell between the cracks; too dancefloor to be hip hop, too boom bap to be house. Most of all he was seeking a personal sound, and this remains this driving force
“There’s so much music coming out from all over the place, but what makes a song so compelling, so polarising, is if no one else can make it – and no one else can make the shit that I’m making, it’s based on where I’m from. No one else can make the shit that comes out of Chicago, or Toronto, or Johannesberg. I’ve always looked at it like, ‘who else would make this beside me?’ I want to tell people who don’t know me at all where I’m from.”
To this end, his new single Fall in Love, finds him teaming up with Kaytranada once more, another artist who has made his name by trying to sound as much like himself as possible. The result is a song delivering the duo’s familiar aesthetics; dusty grooves meeting deep, digital low end, making a record that’s easy-going, freaky, and tied together by a two-stepping, brain fried bassline that harks back to the lysergic funk of peak period Bootsy Collins. Goldlink loves it, and views it as the start of a whole fresh chapter.
“I’m very, very excited, it’s an amazing record, I worked with Kaytranada, it was cool. We had Badbadnotgood on there – I didn’t know their stuff beforehand, I just got the beat from Kaytra, and after a while he was like, oh yeah, Badbadnotgood are on that tune – it was a treat to find that out, I love working with both of them. I’d love to get together on stage with them- that would be amazing, especially when I’m over in the UK. This current single is the start of something new. More things are coming soon- sooner than you expect. I’ve been working with a lot of people lately and good things are happening over the next few months, every one I’ve bought onboard is amazing and I can’t wait to play the new stuff. But I can’t say more than that…”