It’s hard to tell if GoldLink is playing with you. In an infamous YouTube video, the 23-year-old DMV rapper starts a passive aggressive fight with Hot 97 radio personality, Peter Rosenberg, over football jerseys. “You’re some clever mouth kids over here,” GoldLink smirks quietly. After igniting that fuse, GoldLink just sits back while Rosenberg and Ebro prattle on about teams, trading insults. The MC never offers more than a sly smile.

In real life, GoldLink is no different, happy to answer questions with a simple yes or no, unconcerned about impressing the company he’s in. Much of his early career was defined by his anonymity—​the rapper wouldn’t even show his face on stage or in photos until last year. But when he does open up, a new vision of him emerges. You can tell there’s a lot more going on inside his head than he wants to let on. “I read slowly, I watch movies slowly, because I retain everything,” GoldLink says when we talk in a Manhattan apartment. “I just meditate on each page, that’s why it takes time, I don’t binge anything, because [then] you miss things.”