When you think about the new generation of rappers, those that can truly say they have arrived with something fresh and new to offer the game, few names spring to mind. But then not many artists are GoldLink, a creator with both style and substance in abundance.

Hailing from Virginia, the 21-year-old is one of the most unique emcees in the game, unapologetic in his quest to make you feel the groove. His music is unlike any other rapper, capturing you in a way that can only be described as euphoric.
However, as I begin our Skype chat with the somewhat direct question of how he would describe himself, ‘Link is composed and humble in response: “I’m someone who is constantly growing, but also quiet. A quiet, growing nigga! I’m growing into a man and into myself, my beliefs and my views, and that translates to the art as well. So I’m growing in all aspects – spiritually, mentally and emotionally.” This takes me aback initially, considering the very brazen nature of his music, but as we continue our conversation, I discover an individual who is incredibly comfortable in his own skin. One whose easy-going nature has been ingrained into him by his life experiences and the sounds he shares with the world.

GoldLink has had a busy 18 months, from dropping his most recent project, ‘And After That, We Didn’t Talk’ last October, to touring the world and being named one of XXL’s Freshmen Class of 2015 – an accolade that gathers more weight each year. A personal highlight came recently in London, when he was one of the headliners for the inaugural AFROPUNK festival in the UK’s capital. Being one of the few American artists to take the stage in London for an event which celebrates black culture throughout the world proved a blessing and a unique moment of cultural diversity.

Reflecting on the event, he expresses his appreciation, “I thought it was amazing and it meant the world to me. Just seeing black people and people of all types of races together. [Seeing] an American festival come to London and being one of the first artists to do that was dope to me. The aura was great and the vibe was just so exciting and optimistic.”

His inclusion as one of the headliners served as a nod to his artistry and the music he has cultivated. Referring to his sound as ‘future bounce’, it’s a colourful blend of upbeat, funky and vibrant production that unleashes something in you. You have no choice but to get up and dance until you can’t anymore, with ‘And After That, We Didn’t Talk’ tracks such as ‘Dance on Me’ and ‘Unique’ capturing the radiance and pure charisma of the music perfectly.

Speaking on the sound he creates, GoldLink contemplates: “I just know what I liked when I heard it. “I know that at the time it was being created, I knew that there was nothing like it and I knew that anybody that creates something new is going to stay here for a very long time. So I pre-meditated being an innovator.” He continues, “I tried to go as left as I possibly could while everybody was going right, then it turned into a natural progression and something I could hone and understand for myself. I would call the sound ‘future bounce’ just because it easier to identify with, there’s a bounciness to each song, whether it’s slow or fast and it’s very forward in its style.”

When his sound is stripped down we discover the angst of a young man navigating his way through life, relationships, internal and external struggles – a major juxtaposition against the musical backdrop. His 2014 debut, ‘The God Complex’, addressed many questions he had about life and, even judging from the title, you got the sense of a young man who had extreme confidence in himself. ‘And After That, We Didn’t Talk’, marked a continuation in the narrative of interpersonal relationships, on the verge of breakdown. But what does GoldLink think of his musical progression since bursting into the scene? “I’ve been more conscious of the impact of what I’ve done, and more conscious of the world around me and the message I’m trying to spread. “‘The God Complex’ was a statement that needed to be said when I was 19, and I said what I had to say as aggressively as I wanted to see it come across. So I was very proud of how it came out artistically.”

He continues: “But I’m as proud of seeing that growth from 19 to 21 years old, being able to mature and making a statement for the person the tape was for on ‘And After That, We Didn’t Talk’, without being disrespectful. I’d probably say the intro was something that stood out, just for the fact that it was a good parallel for me personally between the first and second tape and continuing that narrative.”

This is an extract from Issue 7, The Barely Legal Issue of Viper Magazine. Read more from the magazine here. Buy physical and digital copies here.

Photography by Chloe Newman
Words by Yemi Abiade

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