I like people that are more than they are beyond the surface. People that you can’t analyze from a single facet. People that are unapologetically themselves. Donald Glover, being a stellar example.
Donald Glover is many things to many people. Troy (Community), Earn (Atlanta) or Childish Gambino. On this new record, many people think that he doesn’t sound like himself. Or rather, the Childish that they know. The Childish that they wanted. I think that he went a step further. This is the Childish that we didn’t expect. The Childish that, quite honestly, I’m thankful for.
Let’s start with Atlanta. I think it’s an offense not to have watched this show. Its brilliant. Funny without being obnoxious. The laugh track is you and I and half of the punchlines aren’t bazinga. It’s like Louie but on orange kush. I hadn’t realized this until after listening to the album but the music style that Childish took in this new record wasn’t a total surprise, if you listen to the songs on the series. Maybe he meant to mislead us. I mean, the varying theme songs were all hip-hop like Sage the Gemini’s “Gas Pedal” and “Law” by Yo Gotti. But then, underneath that all, we have gems like “New Person, Same old Mistakes” by Tame Impala, “Space Song” by Beach House and, the glorious “Change of Guard” by Kamasi Washington. These songs, and many others in the series, showed us that we probably weren’t going to get the Gambino that expected. And listening to this new album, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Childish Gambino has always had an extraordinary vision. His last album, Because the Internet, had an entire screenplay. In fact, the album was the soundtrack to the screenplay! It’s a masterful piece of writing. In it, Rick Ross plays his father, Chance the Rapper a friend and Jhene Aiko a love interest. Even though this is all limited to our imagination, isn’t all literature? You really should read it, it’s quite worth it.
According to an interview he did, the album was inspired by the music that his father and him loved and, listening to the entire album, you can tell that his muse is his son. I mean, Me and Your Mama? That’s either the prelude to an insult or an ode to a child. I could analyze the album track by track but I don’t want to. The album, just like his conception of family, is united. It isn’t simply a collection of singles, which many albums these days are. We do have standouts like “Redbone” but I don’t think it would have the magnificence that it has if were it alone.
Funk music expresses itself through its sheer musicality. Childish is a rapper and what he’s done in his career is express himself lyrically. The shift from that to this is pretty extraordinary and anyone that thought Camp was amazing (looking at you Pitchfork) knows that Childish is an extraordinary writer. He did write for 30 Rock after all, one of the best sitcoms of the decade. This isn’t to say that being a screenwriter makes you a rapper by default. What I’m saying is that Childish has a way with words and moving from that to all the vivid sounds on his new project was a chasm-spanning leap of faith and I can say with utter conviction, that he landed on the other side.
A week or so ago a friend wrote on their twitter feed that their favorite Childish Gambino song was “Me and your mama”. At the time I thought that was a pretty pretentious thing to say, seeing that it really didn’t sound like Childish. But after spending all week listening to it, drunk, sober, sad, happy, I really couldn’t agree more.
This album is a cosmic trip and it would be a tragedy to miss it.
Rated: 4.0 / 5