Donald Glover has no qualms about doing basically whatever he wants with no filters, and he does; after all, he has been two different people for the past five years, adopting the hip-hop artist moniker of ‘Childish Gambino‘ from a Wu-Tang name generator. Glover is your non-typical quirky and awkward black kid whose misplaced thoughts and emotions are placed into sharp and unassuming punch lines that seep through in his brilliant and unshielded artistry as an actor, comedian, producer, writer, songwriter and a musician. There is pretty much nothing that this man does not do. With that being said, many doubted his skill and talent as a rapper from the beginning, labeling him only a weirdo wannabe trying to play it cool in the terms of what a modern day rapper is supposed to be and the lifestyle that they are supposed to portray through their music. Glover has been cleverly fighting these stereotypes, doubts and boxes placed around him not by lashing out publicly, but using his music as the vessel to do it, by saying things like “Alright it’s Childish baby, Mr. Talk About His Dick Again, nerdy-ass black kid, whatever man I’m sick of him, that well-spoken token, who ain’t been heard, the only white rapper who’s allowed to say the N-word, I buy a bunch of ’em and put it on my black card, now I got some street cred, use it ’til it’s maxed out” on much acclaimed song “Backpackers” from Gambino’s debut album, Camp, back in 2011. In this song, we get a glimpse of the witty star confirming his acknowledgement of the labels that have been placed upon him, but he does the best thing ever with it that you can ever do in these types of situations: he owns it, flips it, and ultimately makes you, the listeners, crack up as he puts his comedic spin on these generic and unwarranted insults and makes his haters flash a gasp of disbelief and cower away into their corner of unoriginal complacency behind a computer screen. On Camp, Gambino proves that he can in fact play hard on tracks like “Backpackers” and “You See Me”, delivering hard-hitting ice cold lightning fast bars, highlighting his skill and precision but what you will find with Gambino’s brand of artistry is that he does most things because he has the ability and he wants to, but NEVER because he has to, making him stand out from other conventional rappers. In between the time of the release of Camp and his latest album, the mutli-talented phenom released his sixth mixtape, titled Royalty, which included more hits and grade A features from artists ranging from RZA, to Chance The Rapper and Beck, and he also continued with his acting on NBC show Community, where he plays an awkward and nerdy ex-high school football player Troy Barnes. With so much radiant work circulating from the star in many different aspects of the entertainment business, many were not even close to suspecting the masterpiece that Glover had brewing in his pot since late 2012, the work that would eventually cause him to reduce his time on Community and put his NYU degree for dramatic writing to use to create a tale of the times like literally no other. On December 6th, 2013, Gambino revealed that he had written a 72-page screenplay (following the release of his short film Clapping For The Wrong Reasons back in August) to accompany his second album released titled Because.The.Internet, which was subsequently released on December 10th, 2013. Thinking that it was good enough for Gambino to write the screenplay and publish it for free under the clever domain becausetheinter.net was a very humble thought; it gets better. Interspersed throughout the screenplay was the entire album (again, for free) split into sections filled with the dialogue and silent videos telling the story of a character that Gambino plays as “The Boy”, a somber and unfulfilled rich kid who spend his shallow days as a quiet and introverted internet blogger with friends who are equally as shallow, but they all find solace in a generation of advanced technology and the idea of instant gratification that is precisely, the internet. However, this just a mere surface interpretation, as I do not want to divulge into the full details of the play nor be a spoiler alert to anyone; I suggest reading it yourself. The audio album starts out the gate as a kick in the ear with a fierce and multi-layered track “Crawl”, featuring background vocals from rapper Mystikal, where Gambino previews his amusement with many internet catchphrases, such as “(hashtag)ni**asbelike” and referencings such things as “e-vites”, theme references that would shower the entire album, but in the most unsaturated and continuously entertaining of ways. The next song titled “Worldstar” is an interesting narrative about the culture that has become from everyone having the ability to now post personal videos to sites like Instagram, Vine and of course a Black community favoriite World Star Hip Hop and how those same people think that they are the next Spielberg’s of the internet. Lyrics such as “She on Hollywood and Vine, thinkin’ that she Hollywood on Vine, makin’ movies with her friends all the time” exemplifies the role that short video entertainment has taken in the youth of the generation. Other witty songs were Gambino offers his classic over the top ability at wordplay include tracks such as “The Worst Guys” featuring Chance the Rapper and “Sweatpants” featuring West Coast rapper Problem. The production on the album is other worldly and cosmic, as the almost every track is produced by Gambino and Swedish producer for Community, Ludwig Göransson, and it illustrates the versatility of Gambino in yet another field of art. Many of the songs on the album have unexpected and explosive beat switches that make the listeners almost fall out of their chairs in amazement of how an individual come think to create unimaginable sounds to make the hairs on their necks stand straight up. The most creative beat changes happen on “Shadows”, which offers a powerful guitar riff in the latter half of the song and offer a developed range of vocals from Gambino as a singer and “Zealots of Stockholm”, where the latter half of the song switches to a robotic, spacey and synth-filled creation to perfectly represent the sound of digital age art form where the artist is repeatedly saying “Free Information” in the background. The only safe-playing that Gambino does is on the album is in the first single “3005”, a melodic and pleasant sounding sound where Gambino offers a cute and heart-filled profession of love for a woman of his interest. Another interesting and emerging feel that we get from the artist is his full engulfment into the quiet storm R&B genre with tracks such as “Flight of the Navigator” and “Urn”, where he delivers a Maxwell-esque vocal over down-tempo instrumentation that is smooth and sexy in appeal. To sum up the creation, there is no territory that Gambino does not cover on this album, moving from trap beats, to electronic dance, R&B, minimal pop and everything else and he is quite ambitious, more than he has ever been in any aspect of his career to date. We have seen Donald Glover over the past half decade develop, and unfold from the timid and reclusive mock artist into an expressive mastermind, using the concept of the modern day internet to explain how life itself truly is the biggest troll, and making all of his haters and nonbelievers quiver from the feel of bitterness. I chose this album as my number 3 pick because I feel the multi-dimensional ground that Gambino is covering on this release; it is true and uninhibited in every form and I admire the fusion between Donald Glover the comedian and Childish Gambino the rapper that he delivers on this album. He is the best enigma of music right now so instead of trying to understand every aspect of his music completely, you just have to accept that you won’t and enjoy.
Best Song: “Flight of the Navigator”/ “Shadows”
Best Production: “Zealots of Stockholm”/ “Sweatpants”