- Words Nick Lowe
- Photography Cal McIntyre
From breaking barriers to rolling with the punches, we met up with DC-born rapper GoldLink whose fought his way to the top ahead of his explosive Boiler Room 'Energy Series' performance.
With a back catalogue of critically acclaimed mixtapes, GoldLink has already secured himself as one of the most noteworthy rappers in the industry. He began uploading tracks to Soundcloud at just 20-years-old which have now respectively garnered millions of plays — each release receiving more attention than its predecessor. However, in a crowded and competitive scene, there’s no use fading into the background. Thankfully for GoldLink, he’s had a clear vision of where he wants to be since he started creating music.
After stepping onto the music scene in 2014 it’s only gone upwards for GoldLink; over 200 million streams and working with some of the best producers in the industry. Fast forward to today and he’s still riding the high from the release of his debut album ‘Diaspora’ which he describes as a memoir, sharing the elegance of existing as a black man. With its list of star-studded collaborations (Bibi Bourelly, Khalid and Tyler, The Creator to name a few), he has enlisted an array of artists which both successfully complement and understand his rooted message.
Diaspora by definition is the dispersion or spread of people from their original homeland, and that’s exactly what the album represents. GoldLink has created an album with the aim of bridging the generational gap of true African music, something which is often dubbed as ‘world music’.
As a result, he speaks for the genres that evolved as a result of the African diaspora — something he wasn’t even aware he wanted to do. He tells me “I wasn’t even conscious that I wanted to tackle it until I decided that it was a natural thing to do.” He continues “I just had to figure out how to do it and whether that happened to take years, it didn’t matter.”
Making an album drenched in such political and personal messages can be an incredibly challenging process, however, for GoldLink it was a huge self-reflective experience. He tells me that he learnt a lot about himself after recording his debut: “Some things I was saying I didn’t even understand what I said until I played it back and I was so shocked.”
Since the start of his career, GoldLink’s laser-focused attitude has enabled him to construct music in ways that separate himself from his peers. Through his determined and distinct outlook, he bagged himself two Grammy nominations and over two-hundred million streams before his debut was even released. He tells me that for him it’s been fairly easy to keep a clear vision: “I knew where I wanted to go and I was going to do everything that I could in order to get there.” He adds that the hardest part was getting people to believe in him and it was “the only real fear I’ve ever had.”
Despite his debut album being his fourth full-length project, it’s obvious that this is the first album where he allowed himself to get personal. He tells me “I don’t think any GoldLink project before this was personal and if it was, it was cryptic to me and that’s not personal.” There is an obvious differentiation on his debut — something which sets it aside from his past projects but also raises the standards for those around him. A level of authenticity oozes from its delivery which can only be as a result of its raw application. He adds “I was very vulnerable when making this album. I was honest about what I thought and believed and where my mentality was.”
The themes and lyricism behind this record need to be delicately consumed. When asked about the writing process, GoldLink tells me he simply doesn’t have one. He says the best part of it all is just “rolling with it” and if just rolling with it is all it takes, I guess this shows the extent of GoldLink’s inventiveness. A sense of relief exudes from him when discussing the debut — almost as if it’s something he’s needed to talk about for a long time but hasn’t been able to. He tells me that it was a “good and overwhelming experience at the same time” which towards the end inevitably became tiring as he was longing to share it with the world.
Following the release of his debut album and meteoric rise to stardom, GoldLink will take centre stage on Thursday 15 August as he performs an electric set for the premiere of Boiler Room’s Energy series. Committed to exposing underground and rising music scenes, series two of Energy will showcase tomorrow’s biggest artists, capturing them on video and exhibiting the next generation of talent in a way that only Boiler Room can. Expect striking stamina and electricity as the eclectic MC performs to an intimate and invigorating audience which viewers will be sure to feel through their screens. Check out the performance below!