GoldLink was fresh off an intense set in front of a sold-out hometown crowd at U Street Music Hall, and after the venue mostly emptied, he was hanging out in front of the stage to greet fans. Still glistening with sweat, he wore a designer tee, skinny pants, and metallic-silver Chelsea boots.
It was his first local performance since last autumn, and he’d spent the previous months touring the US and Europe and collaborating with artists such as Miguel and Diplo. But his biggest moment came when he scored a Grammy nomination for his unofficial DMV anthem, “Crew.” He ended up losing to Kendrick Lamar and Rihanna, but as GoldLink tells it, after the winner was announced, Lamar hugged him and said, “Yeah, I know . . . this is some bullshit.”
Tonight’s show was part of a three-gig series, with each devoted to one of his three albums and mixtapes. This was the first, and he performed his 2014 debut, The God Complex, a collection of songs made during a tough period when he was “very lost,” as he put it, and struggling financially. At the time, he was dating Alexandria singer Kali Uchis, who was so strapped she was sleeping in her car. (She’s now a fast-rising R&B star.)
Conjuring those memories onstage was emotional. During performances back then, he used to conceal his identity with a trademark black mask; now when he does these songs, everyone can see his face. “It’s a joy to look back, but it hurts at the same time,” said the rapper, whose real name is D’Anthony Carlos. “It was weird to go back and put myself into that mind space, to remember why I created the things I did.”
The idea behind these performances was “to put a time stamp on these things so we can move forward,” he explained. “I just wanted to bring something really big to DC and relive this one more time.” The career-retrospective gigs were a victory lap not just for GoldLink but for Washington’s whole hip-hop scene, which continues to grow. “I’m a torchbearer at this point,” he said. “I feel like I make it easier for the people after me.” He rattled off a list of local rappers who fit that group: Q Da Fool, IDK, Chaz French, Ciscero, Rico Nasty, Black Fortune, Innanet James, and others. “Because of those people, there’s a rap scene here. It’s a ripple effect. Now they’re paving the way for everybody else.”
So what’s next? He grinned and shrugged, not ready to reveal plans. But he did suggest he’s moving past the “future bounce” sound he’s known for, an organic blend of go-go, hip-hop, and R&B. “I’m on something else now,” he said, then went back to posing for photos with his fans.
This article appears in the September 2018 issue of Washingtonian.