Thursday, November 17, 2011

Childish Gambino

Add Date: November 15 

Artist: Childish Gambino 

Album: Camp 

Label: Glassnote 

Genre: Hip hop 

Comments: On Thursdays, he's Troy Barnes on NBC's hit comedy Community; on the occasional weeknight, he's stand-up comedian Donald Glover on Comedy Central specials; and when he's on a sold-out nationwide tour, he's Childish Gambino, the rapping sensation who's hoping to hit new heights with his proper debut, Camp.

Wu Tang Name Generator-name aside, what makes Childish Gambino different from other rappers? For one, Camp's backing band: led by Community composer Ludwig Goransson, the band weaves together beautiful compositions and hard-hitting beats with a dizzying array of strings, brass instruments, 808's, keys, and guitar. Think a lite-Kanye West, somewhere between Yeezy's 808's & Heartbreaks and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy eras of music.

Gambino's witticisms would have to be second on that "outstanding differences list", with lyrics cutting through critics and ~da haters~ with a sharp tongue and mind. You want double entendres, puns, and references to Invader Zim, Mumford & Sons, Princess Diana, and James Franco? You got 'em, and so much more. Any other artist would kill to have just a single rhyme like on "Heartbeat"'s "I'm going straight for your thighs like the cake you ate", yet he keeps the wordplay coming, one line after another.

And last, but certainly not least, are the back-and-forth emotions. Gambino's simultaneously on top of the world ("Man, why does every black actor gotta rap some?/I don’t know, all I know is I’m the best one") and at the bottom of the food chain ("I'm a problem/I'm lame as f*** homie"). He's lost girls and won them back; been dumped, rejected, and questioned for his race and ambitions; found success and lost friends, usually all in one song. It's this dynamic quality in the songs that keeps our attention on Gambino.

With that said, there are some drawbacks from the album. Blatant racism, sexism, and prejudice abound, and there's often some imagery that we don't want stuck in our heads over a catchy beat (Human Centipede, anyone?). And why is Glover even rapping when he has such a promising role as an actor/comedian? Short answer: because he's here to entertain us. Because he's the pop rapper we deserve, and the one we need right now. So we'll chase his career because he can take it. Because he's not our hero. He's a non-silent guardian, a watchful rap-rotector. A Childish Gambino.

A great album, try out (clean) tracks 1, 2, 5, 8 and 13.


Kimber said...

I was delighted by the Dark Knight allusion in this review.

J Dee said...

I've been saving it for this album.