I will be the FIRST person to admit that I should be the LAST person to comment on anything music-related. If I had a child that was the byproduct of my musical tastes, said child would be a strange hybrid of Tupac Shakur and Frank Sinatra who played in a fratty band that sung show tunes. Despite that, I am a hardcore Childish Gambino fan; having listened to and absorbed all of his music thus far.
If you aren’t aware, Childish Gambino is the rapper pseudonym of actor/writer/comedian Donald Glover, who plays Troy Barnes on NBC’s Community. He has only sold one album: Camp, which was released in November 2011. Other than that, he has released various mixtapes for free download which range from the superficial and silly Sick Boi to more personal ones such as Culdesac and his EP album. What has always appealed to me about Gambino is his unapologetic stance on who he is. He doesn’t like to be classified as “not black enough,” hipster or funny-man. Even though he’d like to dissociate his rapper persona from his well-known comedic name, Childish Gambino is still very much Donald Glover. His tracks can be fun and witty but he also paints a picture of his childhood and his personal fears and doubts. Gambino brings a unique voice and sound to his music that I think is drastically different from any other hip-hop artists out there currently.
Last week Childish Gambino released his latest mixtape ROYALTY. With 18 tracks, ROYALTY promised to be the treasured gift Gambino fans had been craving. Unfortunately it fell short. Gone were the unique beats and riffs of familiar popular songs, replaced with generic hip-hop beats that sound like they were stock audio found in Snoop Doggy Dogg’s House of Beat-Sizzle-Drizzle fo’ Rizzle (that literally took me 20 minutes to think of.) The album is less of his personal reflections that were featured in past mixtapes and more of the age-old “rapping about my money so I can get more money” scheme. The album isn’t a complete dud however. Some of the other tracks may eventually grow on me, but for now highlights include “We Ain’t Them,” “Silk Pillow” and the crazy catchy “R.I.P.” which samples Kavinsky’s “Nightcall” featured in the film Drive. There has also been a lot of hype about Glover’s former boss and 30 Rock creator Tina Fey rapping on the last track “Real Estate.” I’ll agree that that tidbit of information is a catchy headline, but Tina Fey rapping is like Kim Kardashian singing. (And yes, that is probably the first and last time that Tina Fey and Kim Kardashian shall ever be mentioned in the same sentence.) My advice for both ladies is to stick to your money-making talents (or lack thereof, Ms. Kardashian.) Ranting aside, ROYALTY misses the mark, but Donald Glover is a powerhouse of entertainment, so I have faith he’ll rebound. I will be seeing him in concert in Detroit in August, and I don’t think he will disappoint.