Mac Miller, GoldLink and industry politics in rap

Late last month rapper D’Anthony Carlos, known as GoldLink, published a lengthy post on Instagram accusing Mac Miller of plagiarism. The D.C. native claimed that Miller stole ideas from the former’s 2015 album “After That, We Didn’t Talk,” which Miller later used to create and release “The Divine Feminine” to commercial acclaim. In many ways, this says so much about not only the politics of the music business, but how the concept of intellectual property applies to rap music.

In GoldLink’s post he recalled Miller listening to his album while they toured together in 2015. “I always thought you drove yourself insane about your own music. So much that, you would adopt styles as homage to those you loved,” GoldLink said. “That’s where our problem started.”

GoldLink deserves all the backlash as he’s acted incredibly passive aggressive throughout this whole situation. Especially when he tried to cover his backside by pulling the “he was my best friend” card when addressing the post at a concert a few days after. But why did he wait four years to speak up about this, especially a year after Miller’s death? Even with the benefit of the doubt he still comes off as very insensitive. His PR team must be working overtime as we speak.

 While I’m disappointed in GoldLink given that I enjoy his music, on some level I empathize with him. Miller’s death probably made things complicated for him to openly talk about this. He probably felt this for a while and just needed to get it off his chest. That being said, he should’ve been more considerate as it’s already affecting his industry relationships. He even had a verse that went uncredited on Kaytranada’s new album. Taking a wild guess, Kaytranada probably wanted to avoid controversy at all costs.

The music industry has a long history of smaller artists getting their ideas grifted by bigger artists. Anytime an artist wants to stay relevant or reinvent their sound, they tap into the underground scene where artists must think outside the box in order to stand out. Creating your own sound is hard work. In GoldLink’s case, the tour happened a year before he signed with RCA and he probably felt somewhat exploited.

To be honest, if Mac Miller were still alive, his fanbase would have defended him regardless. Especially when he’s much more popular than someone like GoldLink. It’s happened before, between rappers XXXTentacion and Drake. In 2017 XXXTentacion accused Drake of stealing his flow from one of his songs. For those that don’t know, “flow” refers to a rapper’s rhythm and style of speaking. At the time, XXXTentacion was just starting to gain traction in his career after “Look At Me” took off. Without his loyal fanbase supporting him, he would have been another one-hit wonder.

Another dimension to this is how rap is viewed as an artistic medium. Since the beginning, the main way to make rap music has been through remaking and remixing samples of other songs. From a legal standpoint, artists can claim songs through publishing and charging people to clear samples. However, you can’t “claim” a sound and GoldLink is far from the only guy to rap over electronic music.

In a time when people “cancel” celebs for saying the wrong thing, artists need to be especially careful.  GoldLink learned that the hard way and that stain will follow him for a long time. While many fans may never listen to him again, I look forward to what he’ll do next. I hope that he learns from this experience and grows to become not only a great artist, but an even greater person. That’s the least he can do for us.