Wednesday, March 9, 2011

REVIEW: Childish Gambino - EP

Alright. Before you start reading this review, go ahead and download the EP we're talking about here. You're welcome.

Childish Gambino is the rapper alias of Donald Glover. Glover is best known for playing Troy on the TV show Community, but his previous jobs include DJ, stand up comedian, and Emmy winning writer for 30 Rock. So, he's only got a little bit of creative talent.

EP is more polished than his previous album, Culdesac, but it's no less witty or incisive than its predecessors. Glover's vocal style is a little rigid, which lends an urgency to his words, like he almost can't say them fast enough. His verses are littered with pop culture references ("You my stand in Cameron / Let me be your A-Rod," "I'm the boss / Michael Scott / Y'all is just Phyllises") and references to his own life ("You ever made out with a Gap ad?" "Couldn't see me as Spider Man / now I'm spittin' venom"). In fact, a good portion of the lyrics revolve around the trajectory of Glover's career and his quest to be taken seriously. This is a theme that is carried over from Culdesac. Glover feels looked down on by both black and white communities and he has no qualms with taking people to task about it.

Glover does a fair amount of singing on EP as well, including some falsetto. I think he's better off sticking to straight rapping, but his singing sets the tone for the songs by giving them a bit of a haunting feel. There's a sense of grasping for a foothold that is just at the edges of the songs. There's also more than a fair amount of cursing and foul language (NOT a work safe album for sure) that at first felt out of place. Soon though, I realized that it felt out of place because Glover himself was looking for his place in all of it. The imagery of high end bars and crowds of women feels thrown upon the listener, much the way a sudden rise in fame might throw them upon a celebrity.

All of this is not to say this album is a down-tempo downer. To the contrary, in fact. It's one of those albums that you keep turning up as you move through it. It gets your blood pumping and makes you want to get up, get a drink, and dance. Immediately. Glover's passion, creativity, wit, and urgency are completely infectious. I've got my tickets for the Childish Gambino show in my town this spring, and it absolutely can't come fast enough. I'm sure it will be overrun by local hipsters, but it's virtually guaranteed to be better than the Fred Armisen show everyone was so amped for last month. I'm so excited to see these songs live, not to mention Glover will be doing stand up as his own opening act. This guy has a huge and varied career in front of him, and it will be wonderful to watch it all.