On Tuesday night, GoldLink was in New York filming a performance for The Tonight Show in promotion of his sophomore studio album Diaspora, but that didn’t stop the rapper from making a statement back home in DC.
A few hours before the midnight release, DC visual artist Robin Bell projected GoldLink’s album art onto the Garnet-Patterson building on U Street. Shot by Hailey Bieber (yes, that Hailey Bieber), the album cover features singer Justine Skye, GoldLink’s rumored love interest.
Aside from a few Howard University students who stopped to comment on how much they love GoldLink’s Grammy-nominated single “Crew”—and one scooter rider who came over to promote his own music and Instagram handle—the scene was relatively quiet. But that wasn’t the only projection of the night.
Bell and his crew rolled the equipment a few blocks away to The Shay apartment building—where, in April, a resident complained about the go-go music blasting from the Metro PCS store across the street, prompting the #DontMuteDC demonstrations and outdoor go-go concerts.
Bell, whose previous protest projections have targeted the Trump Hotel, says GoldLink reached out to him about a month ago with the idea of promoting the new album and they also came up with plans to shed light on anti-gentrification movements in DC. GoldLink has attended many of the “LongLiveGoGo” demonstrations and, according to his management team, he’s working with the organizers to program future shows to “lend his platform to the movement,” as one manager put it.
Bell, who lived and worked in Shaw 20 years ago, said he’s been itching to do something related to #DontMuteDC, but a surgery sidelined him for months. “It’s been challenging because so much news is happening!” he said. On Tuesday night, Bell recalled the earliest anti-war projections he did in the early 2000s in the same neighborhood: “It used to take five people just to roll the projector. This is like a trip down memory lane.”
Beyond brief photo-op projections, the Diaspora DC release will extend to a free listening party at Songbyrd Record Cafe on Wednesday. With a mix of featured artists from the DMV (Pusha T, Lil Nei, and Bibi Bourelly), Nigeria, Hong Kong, and London, the album certainly has a more global influence than his debut At What Cost—most noticeably, permeating Afrobeat/dancehall vibes on tracks like “No Lie” and “Zulu Screams.” But GoldLink hasn’t forgotten his roots: as he raps on “Maniac,” he’s still “got the whole DMV on my side.”
Additional reporting by Rosa Cartagena.