ALBUM REVIEW: CHILDISH GAMBINO - "AWAKEN, MY LOVE!"
written by Ted Christodulidis
Where does one even start with Donald Glover? This guy has literally had his finger in everything for the past decade. Starting out as a writer for the NBC hit TV show 30 Rock, he experienced a rise to fame after producing/writing/starring in a slew of his own television series: notably Community, his latest for FX, Atlanta, and has even done live standup comedy (Weirdo on Netflix; highly recommended). In the next year, you’ll also see him as Lando Calrissian in the Han Solo film and as the voice actor behind Simba the remake of The Lion King. Somewhere in between all of this craziness, Glover managed to drop a handful of noteworthy mixtapes and two rap-heavy full studio albums under the moniker Childish Gambino (which he got from the Wu Tang name generator). I mean, dude is literally Superman (or Spiderman (#donald4spiderman)).
Being a huge fan of his past work, I was understandably overly-excited when the first single, 'Me and Your Mama' first dropped. I mean, new music for the first time in three years? Who wouldn’t be excited! What a let down it was to hear not a single rhyme or bar throughout the entire six minutes and twenty seconds of the album’s opening piece. “It’s the opener, maybe it’s just the intro to the album,” I told myself in a poor attempt of reassurance. The internets all told me the same thing: “Listen again; listen deeper.” Fine, whatever. Quickly, it grew on me.
Then came the next single, Redbone. This time, five and a half minutes of the same thing. “Ok, fuck, this whole album is going to be terrible. What a let down.” I was in fucking shambles! One of my favorite artists was letting me down with this “new” garbage! Yes, ok, artists need to evolve in order to progress, but this was just a weird attempt at being “different.” But again, it took listening to it in a deeper sense to see that it wasn’t terrible at all; it was actually genius.
Two months after the initial release of the singles, and the day finally arrived: December 2, 2016. The day of the drop. Motherfucking D-Day. On the first listen, I was met with the same initial hesitation and confusion as the first two singles; but they had prepped me for this. I was ready. Listen two and it was game over.
"...this whole album is simply a masterpiece, oozing soul and funk that hasn’t been seen in equal amounts for quite some time - something that isn’t being done by any other artists today - something refreshingly new."
First came a few questions: “A newfound Prince? A rebirth of the classic Funkadelic? Maybe even a revival of Rick James?” But a few listens later and the ideas finally came together: this whole album is simply a masterpiece, oozing soul and funk that hasn’t been seen in equal amounts for quite some time—something that isn’t being done by any other artists today - something refreshingly new.
Throughout the entire album, it’s hard to find any flow at all. Where 'M&yM' ends quietly, 'Have Some Love' picks up brashly and instantly: a trend found all throughout the album. Where this just doesn’t work for other artists and can diminish from the overall project, Gambino finds a way to make it work, tying the album together nicely. It should have been evident from the cover art that this project would be oddly—but pleasingly— different. Overall, Gambino has tapped into something that is abundantly new yet comfortably familiar.