GoldLink Signs to RCA: Exclusive

GoldLink photographed at Wildlife Festival.
Vicky Grout @ Wildlife Festival

GoldLink photographed at Wildlife Festival.

Rapper, singer and purveyor of his own brand of "future bounce" music, GoldLink, has signed to RCA Records, Billboard has learned. The 23-year-old DMV (D.C.-Maryland-Virginia area) native has been operating independently through his own company, Squaaash Club, since his debut mixtape The God Complex announced him to the world upon its April 2014 release.

Since The God Complex, GoldLink has been steadily building his fan base through extensive touring, exposing more fans to his seamless blend of raw-yet-relatable lyricism over electronic, funkified dance beats. His first project caught the attention of Rick Rubin, who flew GoldLink out to his Malibu home and became a mentor for the rising MC, who has worked with Kaytranada, Anderson .Paak and Sango, among others. In 2015, he also landed on the cover of XXL's annual Freshman list, identifying 10 rappers on the come up, alongside the likes of Fetty Wap, Vince Staples, DeJ Loaf and K Camp, among others.

Last fall, GoldLink partnered with DJ collective Soulection to release And After That We Didn't Talk, his sophomore project, which led to another nationwide tour and sold out shows in New York, L.A. and his hometown of Washington, D.C., as well as overseas treks to Australia and Europe. That buildup caught the attention of RCA, with the deal taking the form of a partnership between RCA and Squaaash Club. (In Europe, GoldLink is signed to prominent urban/dance label Black Butter Records.)

"We feel like he's laid down that groundwork of who he is and what he is and created that core audience; this is kind of the next natural step," says Henny Yegezu, GoldLink's manager and Squaaash Club co-owner, noting that RCA's A&Rs understood the type of career GoldLink is building. "You sign to a label for the people and not the label. [RCA] understands that you have to let these urban alternative artists breathe. If you take them to radio too early they just become that one song. We want to create a whole culture and world that our fans live in, and then the radio hit just tips it over the top. We don't want to be dependent on a song. And when you think of GoldLink, that's not the type of artist he is; he's an idea, he's a sound and a feeling. We just want to continue to do that on a bigger scale with a bigger team."

RCA has a long history in the urban music space, with D'Angelo, Alicia Keys, R. Kelly and Usher on the books. But the label has also had a lot of success with newer hip-hop and R&B artists as well in recent years, most notably with the A$AP Mob, Tinashe, G-Eazy and the breakout success of Bryson Tiller. "They see the slow build and they appreciate it," Yegezu says of choosing RCA. "It just made sense."

For now, GoldLink is back in the studio working on new music, with plans to release another mixtape before getting to work on his major label debut next year. And he'll be performing festival dates around the world this summer, culminating in a headlining show at Central Park SummerStage Aug. 28, a concert that will serve as a mini showcase for other artists from his native DMV: the Go-Go group Backyard Band and DJ Spicoli, who is a DJ and partner in D.C.-based festival Trillectro, as well as Brooklyn duo Brasstracks. "Not too many artists come out of the DMV, especially hip-hop, who sign deals," Yegezu says. "What D.C. has always stood for as a music culture always leans a little bit street...but the music is bouncy and fun with a ton of energy. I think what he's going to continue to show is that he can harness that, but in a more accessible way."