Get ready to do the Ice Cream Cone.
GoldLink prepares for his first major shows in the city this week at Rough Trade NYC on June 9 and S.O.B.’s on June 10, and is planning on debuting a summer-ready move. “You twirl with your right hand up in the air but you start low. Then you go high. Then you stay high for ten seconds and then go low,” the rapper explains to the Voice. Born D’Anthony Carlos, the 21-year-old is calling from the mall in his hometown of Washington, D.C., while waiting to get a table at Brio Tuscan Grille. Like many so-called internet rappers, GoldLink has been quietly garnering attention online with indie releases for the past few years. With his 2014 debut, The God Complex, he’s become one of the most interesting rappers to come from the DMV. He was ubiquitous at SXSW, and performed at MoMA P.S.1 with Sango in March.
Part of the fervor around GoldLink comes not from the rapper himself, but from the hype he creates. When he first came out, D shrouded himself with a mask. He wanted fans to focus on his music over his visage, and the covering created an air of mystery and intrigue. The artwork for The God Complex features a faceless, tribal-style mask in red and green. But in a genre that places a premium on ostentatiousness, subtlety can only take you so far. In April 2014, the self-professed “faceless sex symbol” was unmasked in a hometown show, and nothing was the same.
“I’m not as hidden as I was before,” GoldLink says. He laments that exposing himself has its drawbacks and he’s often recognized in everyday, inopportune places. “When I’m walking around doing something normal — if I’m on a date or trying to talk to someone or dealing with an issue, someone comes up to you either with a company pitch or asks for a picture or [is] rapping to you,” he says. “That’s the moments I kind of wish, you know…”
But being recognized comes with obvious perks, too. GoldLink has steadily racked up critical accolades, and last week, he attained every ascendant rapper’s wet dream by joining XXL’s coveted Freshman Class. “I don’t think there’s a lot of really new kids coming out with something that’s innovative and making people turn their heads,” he says, trying to explain the swell of interest in him. Being from a region that has been traditionally overlooked in mainstream hip-hop — save for Wale — also has something to do with it.
“It’s kind of cool seeing something we’ve never seen before. What we’re doing is new-age music. We’re making new-age music for the internet that nobody’s ever heard before.”
He’s not talking Enya. GoldLink is unifying hip-hop with D.C.’s distinctive go-go in fresh, innovative ways. On “Playah” he raps over a bonkers beat that should never be rapped over, in theory. One of his most popular tracks is the infectious “Ay Ay” from The God Complex. “Who knew a pussy-popping, strip-club song this year could be so smooth? People are interested to see what’s gonna happen next,” he says.
Critical nods are cool and all, but GoldLink has the co-sign of all co-signs: He’s working with producer Rick Rubin. And the elusive producer not only wanted to work with GoldLink, but reached out to him — on Facebook, of all things. “Man! This is bullshit. This nigga trying to act like he’s some nigga named Rick Rubin,” GoldLink laughs, recalling how he initially thought the Facebook message from Rick’s assistant was a Catfish moment. “Blah. Blah. Blah.” After ignoring several messages, the neophyte eventually responded. “Next thing you know, I was in Shangri-La with my shoes off. It kind of just happened.” The two are working on music, but GoldLink is vague when pressed. “Um. Me and him about to do a duet. A one-track duet. It’s called ‘I Love You Rick.’ He’s gonna sing and I’m gonna make the beat. He sounds like little Mike [Jackson] in the Jackson 5.”
It’s hard to tell if GoldLink is serious, evading details out of contractual obligation, or straight-up bullshitting. Rick Rubin sounds like a young Michael Jackson?! GoldLink does have a propensity to pull our leg. On “Playah,” the rapper touts that Kanye West tried to sign him to a (seemingly plausible) label deal, with the line, “Kanye said he wanna sign me/I said, ‘Nigga get a copy.’?” When asked, he clarifies that it was just wishful thinking. “I was just bullshitting with that one,” he admits. Even unmasked, GoldLink likes to keep us guessing.
GoldLink will play Rough Trade NYC on June 9 and S.O.B.’s June 10.