Very happy to share a second GOLDLINK feature on this modest little platform of mine. Not familiar with this Grammy nominated Washington DC native who is leading the pack of a new and fresh generation of DMV based artists? Then I kindly suggest to hit the following interview feature from 3 years ago when I first met up with Goldlink during his very first European tour.
Now, fast forward to 2017, a pretty stellar year for Goldlink to say the least. His long anticipated major debut ‘At What Cost’ was released early 2017 and is a concept album and musical ode to Washington DC, highlighting the rich musical history of his hometown. This album takes you on a sonic ride infused with DC’s signature ‘Go-Go’ music style to contemporary Hip Hop to funky and up tempo progressive electronic beats, all accompanied by Goldlink’s rich and sharp storytelling flow.
The album as a whole is a lot less ‘bouncy’ compared to his previous work from ‘The God Complex‘. “It’s very minimal so you can focus on what I was trying to say and the message I was trying to get across while also keeping that texture of electronic music.” he quoted to The Fader. Minimal or not, the production of the album feels incredibly multi-layered and is accompanied with a diverse and mostly DC native feature list. From 2000 R&B princess Mya in ‘Roll Call’ to DMV frontrunner Wale or Jazmine Sullivan (with KAYTRANADA) in ‘Meditation’. By featuring lesser known local DC artists like Lil Dude, Shy Glizzy, Kokayi and Ciscero (to mention a few) Goldlink not only enriched his album but simultaneously put many of his talented DC music peers on the map.
‘At What Cost’ probably didn’t get the buzz or ‘hype’ it deserved during 2017, overshadowed by the many excellent album releases in his genre but definitely solidified Goldlink’s status as an important and perhaps one of the most progressive artist in Rap music today. Last but not least: the album also carried his first platinum single ever: ‘Crew’ featuring Shy Glizzy and Sonder’s Brent Faiyaz. The track slumbered for a few months until it officially exploded and became one of 2017’s smoothest summer hits. The cherry on top of Goldlink’s platinum cake? His first Grammy nomination for ‘Crew’ in the Best Rap/Sung Collaboration category where he is up against industry heavyweights like JAY-Z & Beyonce, Kendrick Lamar & Rihanna, SZA & Travis Scott and 6LACK. 2018 will tell if he will bring that award to DC or not. All the industry recognition aside, Goldlink has only just begun and I’m pretty confident we have yet to see what this young man has up his sleeve.
Now let’s go straight to our interview…
A POLAROID STORY x GOLDLINK
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Hi! Thank you so much for your time, I really appreciate it. You are wrapping up your world tour in Europe after a whopping 39 city stops. What were your personal highlights while touring?
I guess the amount of sell-outs that we did. It was surprising I guess. I wasn’t really having any expectations going into it but we sold out a lot of shows.
That was the biggest surprise?
Personally for me. That was like, dope. We did a lot of rooms that I didn’t know we were able to do. Yeah that was really a big one for me.
And was there a city that really stuck by you? Maybe you were never there before?
Well, the DC show because it was home. Of course that was dope. Nashville was dope because why would I ever go there? *Laughs* Yeah it’s a couple of places, a lot of places that stuck out.
Okay let’s get right into it. Congratulations with ‘At What Cost’! Personally, one of my favorite album releases of 2017. It’s a concept album that evolves around your hometown of DC, Washington, and you quoted “I want to avenge the city”. Can you explain that a bit to my audience?
Thank you. Yeah, DC just doesn’t really get the credit it deserves.
As in the music scene or…
Yeah in everything, especially music. Like from the Punk Rock culture, what it did and what it started.The city has just always been overlooked but it’s always been a very special city. An A-market that’s recognised on an underground level but it never really got the mainstream attention that I feel like it deserves. So, I was kind of putting it on me as my job to do that.
And what exactly is behind the album title ‘At What Cost’? I didn’t really get that in other interviews.
It’s a question basically. Anything that comes with success, you have to sacrifice something in order to make it, make sense. If that makes any sense. Have you ever heard the saying: “If you have time you don’t have money, if you have money you don’t have time”? It’s kind of like that.
The album artwork by Darius x Morino is quite vivid and really demands your attention. At least that’s how it comes across to me. Can you tell us something about the artwork and how that came about? Because every track came with new art from the same artist and I appreciated that.
It’s a black interpellation kind of thing where it’s like a ‘Black Art’. That’s really what it was. Like when you’re growing up in a black household, thàt was the standard painting style that it was. I like the realism of the painting. So yeah, that’s really what it was for me.
You quote “I don’t have any industry friends ’cause I’m real” in one of my favorite tracks off the album ‘Pray Everyday (Survivor’s Guilt)‘. Can you tell me what exactly is behind that song? I relate to it in a different way because it works (spiritually) uplifting productional. But what is the song really about?
I was like “I don’t have industry friend ‘cause I’m rude”.
Oh okay, because you’re rude?
Completely misheard that, I’m sorry. *Laughs*
Maybe you’re just really… being yourself?
I don’t know the industry is very like… It’s very political. It’s about who you know instead of how good you actually are. I don’t really play by that rule. So, for that reason I’m not really associated with a lot of people. Because a lot of people are not really friends, you know. So it’s like, well I can just do this on my own. Me, doing it on my own takes longer, but it’s worth more. That’s what the song is about. Just keep doing exactly what you do.
I really like how you pick your features. You have a track that features R&B princess Mya on ‘Roll Call’. Which for me makes total sense but for a young artist like yourself and your generation, maybe that choice is atypical. I feel like many of your peers maybe diss the older generation a bit and the artists that paved the way for them in a way . Here you set an example by making a super dope track with somebody who already paid her dues. How did you get together and how did this happen?
Yeah, she’s from where I’m from. We got introduced by a mutual friend and we’ve been homies ever since.
Were you together in the studio or was it remote?
Well actually we couldn’t do it because at the time it was Grammy week so she couldn’t because she was doing a lot of things back and forth. So, we just couldn’t link until after. She was very responsive.
Congratulations are in order because you have a Grammy-award nomination for ‘Crew‘ which features Brent Faiyaz. Did I say that right?
Okay! He just released his own ‘Sonder Son‘ debut, a beautiful piece of work as well.You go way back? Were you friends before or did you meet through music?
We’re very close, that’s my homie. We met through music, we’re from the same area as well. We know all the same people so it was kind of like a normal…
A natural match.
*Smiles and nods*
Allegedly – I don’t know if it’s correct – but Rick Rubin and André 3000 are your mentors?
Not correct? People just…say that in interviews?
He’s dope, I mean they’re dope.
Did they give you some advice at some point?
From those two individuals, what is some advice that stuck with you the most?
Don’t put people on pedestals. Because we’re all humans. And just do the best part that you can and then everything will fall into place. That was it.
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“Man gives the award God gives the rewards” is something that you also quoted. You were nominated for your very first Grammy and you find yourself in a category with some heavy weight colleagues, all amazing artists in their own leagues. Some of your peers, for example Joey Bada$$, did not get nominated unfortunately. Do you think award shows are still valuable in this day and age? Because it seems that it’s a bit impossible to fit everybody in those limited categories. How do you look at that? Because you’re probably very happy with that nomination but there is also a lot of dialog about it. What’s your take on that?
It’s still valuable. They matter, like everyone in the world knew [about the Grammy nomination] before I knew. So it clearly means something.
So you didn’t know? You were sleeping?
Yeah I didn’t know. Everybody knew before I did, and then it was everywhere. Like éverywhere, in a matter of hours. Everywhere in the world, so it means something. And then it starts; the talks and the debates and all of these things. It’s the biggest thing that happens in music. It’s like the Superbowl.
When I say “Man gives the awards God gives the rewards” it’s more so like: I don’t let those things define who I am and my artistry. It’s not like oh I didn’t get a Grammy… Joey Bada$$ didn’t get a Grammy so he’s some shit, no.
No absolutely not. But he posted something on Instagram and we were talking about it at the office. And we were all like *sigh*.
What did he say?
It was a picture of a classroom and there was a beautiful, intricate piece of artwork drawn in chalk on a classroom chalkboard. And then a teacher just…destroyed it. Underneath he wrote “When doing your best is not enough”. It was some type of ‘meme’ and he just captioned it with a bull’s eye emoticon.
We saw it in the office and we were like *sigh*. Because, you understand, he had an amazing album. He also has sold out shows everywhere in the world, (his show in) Brussels was sold out. It is what it is I guess.
Yeah but, you even said it earlier. Everybody that is nominated had an incredibly [good year]. Nobody is actually upset about who got nominated. Everybody is upset about who didn’t. Because all the people who did, deserved it. SZA had an incredible year. What? She didn’t deserve 5 Grammy noms? Yes she did. Here’s what it is; just do better. That’s how I look at it. Yeah, I’m grammy nominated, that’s great. But I still didn’t let that define my artistry. The other times it wasn’t. You know what I’m saying? Even moving forward, it doesn’t really matter because…
The people don’t really care.
They don’t, but it helps. You know?
It definitely helps.
Yeah…it doesn’t matter.
It also adds a few zeroes to your fee when you perform. At least that is what people like Ashanti said in one of her latest interviews. It matters because for a certain time your quota goes up. You get paid more so it’s important as an artist that you get that little bump.
What are your two cents about streaming? Are you happy with that?
I’m fine with it.
You’re fine with it? *Laughs* You get plenty of streams but I mean there’s also a whole debate about it. But personally, I think that music is in some way more accessible. Of course I’m not an artist, I’m not on that side so maybe you had some things that you wanted to add.
I agree with you. The thing about streams is that they don’t die. Physical copies do. They stop selling, they just stop. Streaming is the only thing that keeps those classic albums that we like alive. You can get paid for streaming for the rest of your life until your dead. Then your kids get paid for it and their kids and their kids. So I don’t really see anything wrong with it. That’s just me though.
You had an amazing 2017 from the nomination to the sold out shows to even being picked up on the HBO series ‘Insecure’. What was your personal highlight for 2017?
I Think ‘Crew’ going platinum was a really big one for me. That was really big for me.
I noticed a line in your Instagram bio ‘All Family, No Friends’. Is that new work that is coming or is that just a reference to the track from ‘Outlawz’?
Oh, I didn’t even know that was an Outlawz reference.
Yeah, is it a hint for new work?
No, it’s just my homies. I guess, I don’t know. It came from my homies. It’s kind of what they live by. Their code and their hood. That’s how we live by heart so that’s what it was.
Yeah, it’s also track from Outlawz!
Another thing that I found interesting is that you quoted “You have to believe it’s yours before you have it”. You mentioned that you were reading a book and you say that you can achieve anything if you believe in it. Can you explain that a bit to my audience? Do you believe in the power of visualisation?
Did it happen for you? Did you visualize everything?
So what is next to come then?
*Laughs* Plenty of shit!
I also like ‘We Will Never Die’. Can you tell me something about that track that maybe hasn’t been shared before?
I guess the underlying tone of the song is like… We don’t really die. It’s like we’re immortalised. So, low-key the quicker you die the longer you live. That’s really what it was.
And how did that feature with Lil Dude come together? Because I like his flow and the storytelling that he does. How did you meet him or is he also from DC?
It’s all people around…
All DC, Okay.
Then my second to last question. What do you love to do that has nothing to do with music?
Chill with my friends. Just be normal, it makes me happy.
I get that. Last question: When I say Belgium what three words pop into your head?
Chocolate, Cold… Yeah… that’s it. * Laughs*
Chocolate and cold….that’s definitely correct. So that’s it!! Thank you for your time, I really appreciate it!
Thanks for tuning in and thank you for your support in 2017. I hope to share more Polaroid features with you all in 2018 so stick around.
Special thanks to Pamela Evbuomwan, Jeremy D’hamers, Davy Denduyver & Sony Belgium for their contributions to this feature.