"What a time, what a year."
Hope you caught those six words when they came shooting out of GoldLink's mouth on Friday night. Turns out, they were the most prescient lyrics from the District rapper's breakout single, "Crew," a cool spritz of braggadocio that continues to spill out of open car windows, hanging around in our city's public airspace like a beautiful smell. You can sniff it outside the Beltway, too. "Crew" sits at No. 46 on the Billboard Hot 100, and on Oct. 13, RCA Records announced that the song had gone platinum.
Yet somehow GoldLink wasn't in the mood to celebrate on Friday night — at least not straight away. He launched into the first set of his doubleheader at the Fillmore Silver Spring with an almost workmanlike precision, throwing words into the air as if he were hammering nails into a wall. Performing tracks from his most recent album, "At What Cost" — which features a wide cast of Washington talent, including Wale, Kokayi and Mya, the great R&B singer who appeared as a surprise opener on Friday — GoldLink blasted through most of his homecoming gig without much help. Just a DJ, a microphone and the turbines he's apparently hiding in his chest.
Can we talk about this man's lung power? When most rappers turn the microphone toward the crowd, they're initiating a singalong to cover for their breathlessness. But every time GoldLink did it Friday, it was a genuine invitation to participate. He never needed a breather, which meant the fireworks never stopped. Washington has never produced a rapper with a greater physical command over the music.
He was all rat-a-tat during "Meditation," a moody song about a dream girl from around the way who eventually became the one that got away: She went to the University of Maryland, she loved Backyard Band, and she won't get out of his head. "Years later, I still think about it," he rapped, racing through his heartsickness as if trying to outrun it.
But the most dramatic mood swing of the evening came during the grand finale of "Crew," when GoldLink brought the song's intoxicating coolness to a jubilant boil. He was joined by hook-man Brent Faiyaz, who seemed too delighted by the occasion to bother singing along with his backing track, and by Shy Glizzy, another District rapper whose pungent, sing-songy flow felt like the perfect counterpoint to GoldLink's stunning staccato.
When it was over, the trio made this happy moment easy to savor. They re-cued the track and performed "Crew" again, start to finish — this time, flanked by members of GoldLink's entourage who stormed the stage wearing big smiles, carrying a few large platinum plaques over their heads. And when it was really over, GoldLink dropped his microphone to the floor with a theatrical ka-thunk, and a spontaneous chant erupted from the crowd: "DEE-CEE! DEE-CEE! DEE-CEE!"
What a time, what a year, what a song, what a song, what a night.