Donald Glover is a strange man.
An established comedian, writer on ‘30 Rock’ and star on cult US sitcom ‘Community’, he is a funny, funny man. But, it turns out music is his main passion, as he returns with his second official album release, ‘Because the Internet’, and his alter-ego Childish Gambino comes to the front, as Glover sheds his humorous nature and goes full throttle, to make his mark on the rap scene. This doesn’t mean he’s gone serious though, oh no…
Recent single, ‘3005′ was a good indicator of the album, a fun, bouncy track with a progressive backing beat, and Glover’s unique flow is still present, it’s an ultra-listenable song, that has a pretty NSFW music video to match (although it IS at the bottom of this review!). However, was it representative of the entire album? Let’s find out…
‘because the internet’ is a dark, disconnected album that sees Gambino (as he shall now be known), slip into a dark descent that continues from last year’s mixtape ‘Royalty’, and could be read into the fact that the internet has infact disconnected millions from their lives, rather than connected.. The album is split into five segments and there is an accompanying screenplay that amasses 70-odd pages if you have time for a read. It follows a story that is bleak and has a couple of positive notes, amongst a dirge of dark, dingy beats.
Opener ‘WORLDSTAR’ dives straight in, with an eccentric beat and a similarly matching flow from Gambino, he mimics the sounds of guns, phones and a money counter with a ‘BRRRR’. It’s mad and wacky and goes into a dark place, but is a chilled start to this eclectic slice of hip-hop.
‘the worst guys’, drags along Chance the Rapper for a fun song with references to Akon, Playstation and ‘vacaSHUN’. It’s his style of rhyming that I have a love for, Gambino and Chance work well in tandem and the end result is a whirring tune with lyrics you generally never truly know what is going to pop up next. ‘shadows’, sees Gambino test out his singing, and with the backing drum beat, it all sounds pretty Frank Ocean-y (new adjective). We skip to spoken word and singing, as Gambino talks of his crazy love, and the writing really does take the forefront of the track, once again. It may unintentionally become a bit of a ramble, but this is a confident, understated track, that just drags out its conclusion for a little bit longer than necessary with a sluggish guitar riff.
‘telegraph ave. (“Oakland” by Lloyd), is a cracker, one of my top three favourites from this collection. It has a link back to the past with the ‘I’m ready to go’ lyric, reminiscent of ‘Heartbeat’ from first record, ‘Camp’, but the pay-off from this song is a far more mature progression, the most serious tune of this album. Singing mixed with rapping also works to a great extent too, with Gambino’s rapping really excelling when put in direct contrast to his singing ability, which isn’t bad it is more about the distinct differences between the two.
Over to ‘sweatpants’, the song to leak from the LP and it was a more representative sign of the album than single ‘3005’, for sure. The beat is dark, repetitive, but despite this I like it. It gets a bit of a dashing of humour and the flow of Gambino really is here for all to see, the onomatopoeia reference: brilliance. If anything it could maybe end a little bit TOO soon. Then it’s over to the second part of this 1,2 punch: ‘3005′. By far my favourite track, it is a party song, for sure. And in this respect, it seems a bit out of place, Gambino sounds as familiar as ever here, with echoes of ‘Camp’ present aswell, as the newer features of his music. The chorus of ‘hold up, hold up, hold up’, is brilliant. If you don’t like this song, I don’t know if I like you…
‘the party’ sounds like a meld of ‘Yeezus’ and classic Gambino, before diverting into ‘no exit’, which sounds like it’ll go off somewhere else, before remaining with the beats of ‘because the internet’, and an eccentric high-pitched backing vocal alongside some dark spoken word lyrics.
‘flight of the navigator’, is a dreamscape. A more chilled reflectionary track, it is pretty, delicate and beautiful. Gambino gets a chance to soften up his flow and gets his singing out again towards the end. A nice change of pace that really reflects the wide variety of this album, no two songs are exactly the same. Next track, ‘zealots of stockholm’, is probably my least favourite. It mixes the dreamy nature of the last song, with the Kanye-esque dark style and it doesn’t work for me whatsoever. It sounds like a mess of a song.
‘urn’, though is a nice interlude, echoing Ocean with both vocals and the soft backing beat that accompanies it. ‘pink toes’, opens with ‘rainbows, sunshine, everywhere we go’, can you think of a happier lyric, EVER?! Gambino gets in a female vocalist, make of that what you will, in this sunshine-drenched romance. He sounds smitten! The eccentrically titled ‘earth: the oldest computer’, is a bit of a strange one, it varies in its tone and you never know where it is going, even in its ‘Daft Punk-esque stage’. Azealia Banks is a little bit wasted here too, just out of interest!
Ending with ‘life: the biggest troll’, another strangely titled tune, is a chilled out song once again, the interesting, colourful backing beat merely the backdrop to a driving Gambino. He sounds a bit angry, yet strangely relaxed at the same time, it’s an intriguing thing. It’s a confident end to a confident album, I wouldn’t say triumphant, just confident!
Whilst this second LP may not hit all the high notes of ‘Camp’, for my liking at least, it is a collection of tunes that don’t sound like anything else currently on the market. Keep an eye out, this could the release that finally exposes Childish Gambino AND Donald Glover to the mainstream. The next step for the alter-ego, will be something that may just change the game.