GoldLink's sound is difficult to pin down. The 21-year-old's lyrics are effortless but intense, tempered by classic house grooves and '90's samples. After finding a foothold in the East Coast's DMV region, the rapper attracted national attention when he dropped his mixtape The God Complex last April. The mixtape led to an opening slot for mix master SBTRKT, spawned an invitation to work with Rick Rubin, and ultimately sparked his first headlining tour which swings through The Roxy on Wednesday, June 17.
The young emcee is undeniably busy-minded, zigzagging through topics from sin and suicide to street life and sex. The sporadic content adheres easily to The God Complex's curvy, yet punctuated beats, which were crafted by a handful of up-and-coming producers. GoldLink's sound was simplified when he christened it "future bounce," but he's quick to credit one of his producers with coining the term.
"Future bounce came from Lakim," GoldLink says of the producer, who's part of the Los Angeles-based music collective Soulection. "He made the term a couple years ago and I adopted it later on. It really is something he created, we didn't know what to call our type of music since it was so unclassified."
The parade of producers that GoldLink enlisted for his future bounce mixtape also includes Louie Lastic, who lends a soulful house vibe to multiple tracks including "Bedtime Stories." The track "Hip Hop (Interlude)" is produced by Teklun and invokes a feeling of nostalgia thanks to a lead off sample from The Pharcyde, which opens up into canvas of street rap that's balanced with a light, singsong chorus.
The God Complex is wrought with stimulating beats, but it's GoldLink's lyrics and delivery that set his sound off. The combination is confusing but danceable, insightful but jarring. The track "Sober Thoughts" was a late addition to the iTunes version of his mixtape, produced by rising beat maker Kaytranada. While the track is another example of the rapper's phonetic instinct, it tests the boundary between misogyny and self-expression.
"When it comes to the derogatory [verse] towards women, there's a reason my mindset was there at the time," GoldLink says of the lyrics, which he went on to explain were figurative, not literal. "You may not understand the relationships, or hurdles, or things that I've witnessed and seen in my community. It's part of understanding why I thought the way that I thought. That's where I was a year and a half ago when I wrote it."
When asked if he'll ever tackle the flip side of that mentality and tap into the positive aspects of relationships and feminine companionship, he coyly says that he can't comment for now but doesn't rule it out as a concept for his next project.
GoldLink takes pride in his unabashed honesty and distinct sound, which is lyrically blunt but sonically compelling. While details regarding his upcoming work with Rubin are minimal, the prospect of the pairing is intriguing. As for his current mixtape, it's is a rollercoaster through angst and unexpected beats, and often feels like a crash course into his emotional state of mind -which is arguably what the rapper intended from the start.
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"As human beings we have two sides to us. There's a human side and a spiritual side. That's what the idea behind The God Complex was," GoldLink says. "I was challenging myself because it's hard to get a message across in nine tracks over 26 minutes. How are you going to say everything you want to say in 26 minutes? But then again, that's what can push you to be a great artist. The main thing I learned on this project was that less is more."
GoldLink performs at The Roxy in Hollywood on June 17. For more information on GoldLink visit www.facebook.com/GoldLinkSquaaash.