REVIEW: Childish Gambino Takes Us To “Camp”
Born Donald Glover, Childish Gambino has become one of the biggest faces in the new wave of hip-hop. Following a series of free online mixtapes and a feature on a certain viral Jamie xx remix of Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep," the rap star has garnered a huge following. And while most would assume that the actor/rapper occupation is a dead end, Gambino proves everyone wrong.
It’s not all about the women, the fame or the fortune for Gambino. Well, it is, but he delivers the usual, popular rap mantra in a manner that’s oddly refreshing and different from his counterparts. Call it “smart-rap” if you will; the kind of intelligent rap that offers substance, not just swearing and lots of bass.
The album was released in full streaming over at NPR Music on November 6th. Every single track on Camp boasts its own lyrical labyrinth of back-to-back analogies that take rap references to a whole new level, leaving no room for the weak at heart, or anyone who isn’t up-to-date with pop culture and current events.
Tracks like “Heartbeat” bring a new kind of electro/hip-hop fusion a la Kanye West, splicing different genres and combining them with Gambino’s flawless flow. There’s something for everyone. The entire album doesn’t stray too much away from the mainstream, but packs just enough power to make it truly unique and a winner with new school and new-new school Internet hip hop lovers alike.
Although he is one of the biggest faces in the new direction that hip-hop is taking, Glover still hasn't forgotten his roots. On his recent sellout IAMDONALDTOUR, he combined performing songs from his previous mixtapes and newer material from Camp, accompanied by a live band and stand-up comedy routines. After all, looking at his comedic writing experience on NBC’s 30 Rock, and his day job as Troy Barnes on NBC’s Community, comedy is his main shtick, with rap coming in at a close, but loveable, second. Rolling Stone said, “Glover approaches acting, stand-up and hip hop with a singular mix of sweetness and filth”.
That’s Gambino to a tee: sweet and filthy. While his lyrics may be anything but radio-ready, it seems almost as if every single word, “bad” or clean, was meticulously put into place in every lyric by Gambino himself, serving a specific purpose. While his lyrics may be intentional, the material he raps about is anything but. Camp is nothing but intimate, and offers a side of Gambino that even some of his most casual listeners may not have been familiar with.
While most rappers put up fronts to hide their insecurities from fans, Gambino relishes in all of the highs and lows of his life, however repetitive on the album they might be. “All the Shine” and “Fire Fly” are some of the most personal tracks on the entire album, with the all of the emotional muscle of an Eminem track, but with the lightness and delivery that Gambino is known for. From grade school to high school bullying, not getting the girl and failed relationships, to a constant defending of his “blackness,” the rapper covers all of the bases. At time things can get a little repetitive, but Glover constantly finds new ways to make even the most cyclic themes fresh.
The outro, “That Power” is perhaps the most standout track on the entire album. It’s seven minutes of pure Gambino, from start to finish, where he takes us back in time on the bus with the 13-year-old him as he leaves summer camp. It’s a spoken-word tale in which he professes his love to a girl (who has decided to finally talk to him in his own disbelief), who then tells everyone. It’s not a “story about how girls are evil or how love is bad” as he so says, but instead a lesson he learned. The lesson? To cut out the middleman and tell everyone everything so they hear it directly from him, the perfect training for becoming a rapper.
It’s clear that Childish Gambino has talent. It’s also clear that he is showing absolutely no signs of stopping. The album is mainly his way of scattering all of his “haters”. Gambino can act. And rap. And perform. And be funny. And be “black enough”. And be “real enough”. If anyone can pick up anything from just listening to one track on the album, it’s that he is not a force to be messed with.
Get ready for the Gambino takeover, because “having an Emmy just wasn’t enough."
Reach reporter Shakyra Moore here.
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