Uneven, inspired, awkward, moody. All words that can be used to describe Donald Glover and his rap persona, Childish Gambino. Glovers a very talented guy. And it’s been impressive to watch him have such success since I first came to know of him after watching his comedic film, little known, “Mystery Team.” Since then, Glover has had success in the public eye and behind the scenes. Writing for 30 Rock, starring in NBC’s Community, rapping, and doing stand-up, Glover is a guy whose career seems like it could go anywhere. And that in itself is what I like so much about Glover; his ambition to take his talent in so many directions.
His newest endeavor, Because the Internet, is a step of maturity in Gambino’s career. Glover takes on co-producing and writing the album with producer Göransson, immersing himself in the album fully to create a very artistic and straight-forward album. Stripping away the slew of celebrities and artists that were featured on his last mixtape Royalty, which ranged from Tina Fey to BECK, We see Gambino largely go it on his own. Sidelining featured artists such as jhene Aiko and Chance the Rapper to the hook of songs.
As usual, Gambino is able to hit with his metaphors that have you rewinding the song just to hear them again. On I. Crawl, Gambino jumps from putting down the family dog to referencing Clarissa Explains it all. It shows the old, comical side of Gambino. To me, Crawl may be his strongest song on the album. The beat hits in the right spots, giving the song a very dynamic, layered texture. Next comes The Worst Guys. An airy beat accompanies the cigarette stained raspy voice of Chance the Rapper on the hook. The coupling of Gambino and Chance gives the song the potential to be the second single off of the album. As we’ve already seen on the album, Gambino love 90’s references and this is shown again on The Worst Guys. Referencing Tia and Tamara seems like a way for him to drench us more in the 90’s nostalgia movement as generation y (myself included) faces growing up. These references could just be clever word-play or they could have the deeper meaning of all of us 20-somethings looking back as we move forward. Gambino largely leave this open-ended for us to decide. On the album’s first sing, V. 3005, we get a song we can all relate to; a song about insecurities and finding love. Again, an open-ended theme.
Some spots on the album are a stretch though. The clunky feeling, Shadows comes off as a Frank Ocean imitation. Gambino balances singing and rapping on Telegraph and Pink Toes as well. To me songs such as these run too long and give us a sense that Gambino has a lot to on his mind even if we don’t want to hear it all at once. On a side note, Jhene Aiko has a perfect voice for accompanying any rapper. We’ve seen her featured on Kendrick’s “OD” Mixtape and now here with Gambino. It’s such an airy, sweet style of singing that it plays well with the deep, monotone voice of Gambino on Pink Toes.
Sweatpants is very interesting. I really enjoy it. You can tell that this song is solely on the album to accompany the screenplay Glover developed to accompany the album. The beat on Sweatpants is on-point. Glover is showing his audience that he could easily pull off a cocky persona if that is who he truly was. In an interview Gambino said that he wishes he was as cocky as A$AP Rocky is all the time. And on this track we see a cocky side. But perhaps it’s actually an alter-ego of Gambino himself known as “The Boy.” Either way, it works.
The rest of the album continues this form of existential, experimentation and straight-forward verses that show Gambino coming into his own. You can tell that Gambino really put it all in this album. Balancing an arrogance of Kanye with insecurities of Drake. Because the Internet is expansive to say the least, a truly unique effort in rap. But it becomes too much at times. More than a few songs reach past the 4 and 5 minutes mark. Where Gambino falls behind on his wit, the production values of Community Composer Göransson pick him back up. In the end, the album is ambitious, and it’s always refreshing to see someone put this much effort into a project. I mean how many rappers write 76 page screen plays to accompany albums? None, unless your name is Donald Glover. Gambino is unique and has carved out a niche for himself in rap. Because the Internet shows this, for better or for worse.