Donald Glover is an artistic savant. Commonly known as Childish Gambino, his rap alias derived from the Wu-tang Clan name generator, Glover masters crafts seemingly with minimal effort. From TV sitcoms to stand up specials, from short films to rap albums, Glover expertly transitions into and conquers mediums of creative expression as gracefully as one changes lanes on a highway. Highly underrated, Gambino may have crafted two classic albums and, shockingly, no one is talking about it.
Because the Internet, Gambino’s second studio album was released in December of 2013. Released a couple years prior to the prevalent mumble rap era, Because the Internet had alot to say about society at the time. Released concurrently with his short film Clapping for the Wrong Reasons, Gambino tells a seemingly unrelated story of a fictitious character named The Boy. The Boy, in Gambino’s dreamworld, is the son of real life Rick Ross. The Boy partakes in the frivolous lifestyle of partying, drinking/smoking, and dating beautiful women; the american rap dream. The film’s title could be a nod to society’s current infatuation with supporting nonsense, a theme mirrored in his satirical song, “Worldstar“.
Because the Internet features 3 songs that all went gold; “Bonfire,” “Sweatpants,” and “Heartbeat”; his breakout and ultra catchy “3005” went platinum. The album itself went gold in February of 2016, with over 500,000 units sold and counting. Gambino was nominated for a grammy for best rap album of the year in 2015 but lost to Eminem (Marshall Mathers LP 2). With so much being said on the album at a time where no one was saying too much, Because the Internet was unlike anything else and Gambino’s marketing strategy of releasing his short film simultaeneously was genius. To this day, the album has tremendous replay value and is highly underrated.
After Gambino sunk into the shadows and was unheard from for three years, the world wanted more music. At the end of 2016, Childish Gambino gave the world more music but no one could have predicted what would come next.
Awaken, My Love was released December 2, 2016. Now in the peak of the mumble rap
era, hip hop was taking what many considered a turn for the worst. At a time like this, people expected the most notable figures to take a stand and bring real hip hop back. Would Gambino showcase a new rap style or would he take a stab at the ultra popular mumble rap style and show the newbies how it’s done? He did neither.
Instead, we got Awaken, My Love (AML), which is not a rap album at all! AML is psychedelic. It’s soulful. It’s funky. It’s unlike anything that has been released since the 70’s/80’s and it is wonderfully refreshing. Childish Gambino’s talent cannot be measured and his musical talents are on full display here. What separates Gambino from any other musician is his musical range. On the first listen you will undoubtedly say to yourself “no way this is the same guy from 3005!”
AML is a socially conscious soul album that pays homage to the good ol’ days of funk. In a time where social injustice was omnipresent and racial tensions were the highest in years, AML came right on time. Whereas Because the Internet was a satire of a dumbed down society with no apparent values, AML was a wake up call to society. Inspired by his father’s old school music, Gambino dug deep and went back to his roots.
Not taking himself too seriously, Gambino spreads messages of peace, love and positivity evidenced by tracks like “Have Some Love” and “Stand Tall”. The standout track on this album is, without a doubt, his platinum hit “Redbone” (which you may have recognized as the intro music to the movie Get Out). This album is “woke” without being in your face about it, and it is quite soul cleansing to listen to. Debuting at number 1 on the R&B album charts and 5 on the Billboard charts at the time of release, AML had quite the buzz and is currently gold with over 500,000 units sold.
Impact and longevity are the two key ingredients to create a classic album. Four years later, Because the Internet still has replay value and still has a relevant social message. Although it is not quite one year old AML’s soul-funky sound and heartfelt peaceful theme already makes it timeless. Both albums have sold considerable amounts of units (not to mention streams which makes album sales much trickier to count) so the impact is apparent. You can call him Donald or you can call him Childish, but you have to call his last two albums classics.