Although I thought it a bit strange, I was very excited when I first heard the news that comedic actor Donald Glover would be crossing-over and launching a rap career under the name Childish Gambino. Angels in the Outfield was certainly a childhood favorite of mine, and who could possibly deny the brilliance of the hilarious buddy picture with Joe Pesci, Gone Fishin’? Sure, the Lethal Weapon series ran a about 3 movies too many, but the first one is not only a comedy/action classic, but also a template for all buddy/cop pictures following in it’s footsteps. Yes, crossing over from acting to rapping is a bit of an iffy move for a 65 year old actor, but why not? He’s black and he is total a badass. With a stage-name like Childish Gambino, I just assumed he must be playing out some sort of Peter Pan syndrome in which he is refusing to grow up, and instead, living out a childhood fantasy of becoming a rap artist. It wasn’t long after the news broke that I actually saw Childish perform at Bonnaroo, and my dreams and expectations were completely shattered.
I remember ambitiously waiting, deep in the crowd of “THIS” tent on Roo’s opening night for Childish’s performance to begin. Then a young man, probably in his late 20′s came onstage and seemed to be opening the show for Donald. He was lively and fun, great stage presence, and his words were quite hilarious. “This is great!”, I thought, while bouncing my head to he beat. “A young, vibrant, opening MC to warm us all up for Mr. Glover!”
After what seemed to be about four songs or so, I began asking around. “Do you know when Mr. Glover will be on? This IS “THIS” tent correct? Did he get moved to that “THAT” tent maybe? Is this Childish’s child per chance?” These questions all resulted with no answers, and most of the hippies seemed quite annoyed by my pestering. One man wearing Birkenstock sandals and a Phish T-shirt was nice enough to give me a cookie that was supposedly made with some type of sugar substitute called “kind bud”. I assure you, it still left me with a sugar rush for the ages.
At this point I resorted to a Bonnaroo “help tent”, where another man wearing Birkenstock sandals and an “INFO” T-shirt then informed me that I was confusing Donald Glover, with the NON-academy-award-nomintated actor, Danny Clover. I then went back to my campsite, packed my things, and left Bonnaroo immediately to make sure and beat the traffic rush on Sunday. Months later, Childish’s full album Camp has now been released, and I felt compelled to preview it on NPR’s website to see if it still lived up to my expectations.
Lyrically, Childish kills on this album. His words and his rhymes are not only clever and witty, but can also be deep and thought-provoking at times. Most of all, they can also be quite childish. However, this is not a bad thing. Quite the opposite really. He plays into his role of a brilliant comedic writer/actor very well in his rhymes. This dude has written for The Daily Show, 30 Rock, and Community all by the age of 28. He obviously knows how to write, and he also knows how to get a laugh. I feel lines like “you’sa a fake f*%$, like a flesh light” come off like punchlines more than rap lines, but I think that’s Childish’s vibe. He wants you to feel like you are being entertained on every level.
The downfall of the album, is essentially everything else. The music is not dynamic at all and the beats, for the most part, are extremely simple. The album doesn’t really have any real direction either. Some songs, he sounds like he is trying to pull off a John Legend vibe (“Kids”, “That Power”), and others he turns into Tyler the Creator (“Bonfire”,”All the Shine”). And you’re simply kidding yourself if you think Donald isn’t trying fake a sample of Grizzly Bear’s “Two Weeks” on the opening track “Outside”. Whether it’s a shout out or not, it’s a blatant rip-off. You are television star dude, pay for the sample. It also sounds like he just created the back-tracks in garage band. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and almost gives the album a simplistic vibe that will ultimately grow on me. All that to say, the lyrics on almost every track of the album are entertaining and humorous enough to give this album some serious replay-ability on my iPod.
^”You can f%$& kiss my a$$, Human Centipede”? … Danny Glover did not write these lyrics.
I really look forward to seeing where Childish goes from here. I feel like after this debut, he can collab with some serious producers and turn into quite an act. He is clearly on his way. It seems a bit silly to review an artist that got his “childish” name from a Wu-Tang Name Generator all too seriously, hence the first half of this review. So all-in-all I want to leave the impression that it is a great and fun album to listen to, but please learn from my mistakes, and don’t set the bar as high as you would for Danny Glover album.
Can’t Miss: “Fire Fly”, “Kids (Keep Up)”, “You See Me”
Can’t Hit: “L.E.S.”, “That Power”