First Listen: Donald Glover (aka Childish Gambino) Takes Us To Camp

I listened to the advance stream of Childish Gambino’s new album. These are my thoughts.

By Josh Tuper

To begin, I will state the fact that despite my general white boy demeanor, as well as how my Pandora stations appear (The Shins radio is pretty much a constant), I love hip hop. The culture and the music. If I could have majored in Hip Hop history in college, I would have. When I was about thirteen, the first CD I purchased was DMX’s And Then There Was X. That led to an awkward listening between my grandmother and I. So, despite being a crotchety old man most of the time, I know a thing or two about this rap music the kids are listening to!
Anyway, as you may or may not know, funny guy extraordinaire Donald Glover (of Community and other various funny endeavors including starting as a staff writer for 30 Rock) is also a rapper under the moniker Chidish Gambino. A good one, at that. I remember a couple years ago when his early mixtapes came out, specifically I Am Just A Rapper 1 + 2, which sampled some fantastic up and coming inde rock bands (Grizzly Bear, Animal Collective, etc.). I was already a fan of Glover’s work in Community and his old sketch group Derrick (Netflix Mystery Team NOW), so when I heard his songs and realized he could spit (that’s what the kids call rapping) I was hooked. I told my friends, but no one believed me that he was a serious rapper, and not just a gimmick, until about a year later. I still brag to them about how I was right and they were wrong. But I digress.
Gambino’s newest release, and his first non-mixtape (read: the first one he’s going to charge people for), is titled Camp and hits stores and iTunes, mostly the latter in this day and age, on November 15th. It’s being put out by Glassnote Records, who have given us releases from indie greats including Mumford and Sons and Phoenix. The fantastic folks over at NPR decided to stream the entire album this week and I took the opportunity to give it a listen, and share with you all my thoughts and reactions to the album. They can be summarized as; 1. It’s amazing. 2. You should probably, definitely, buy/download/steal it when it drops*. (*That’s another term the kids are using. Are you impressed?)
I could go song by song, analyzing each one and telling you what’s great about them. But I’ve never liked when reviews do that. I’ll let you figure out why the individual songs are excellent or not. I can say though, as a whole it hits hard. I also don’t like to compare artists to other artists, but sometimes it’s hard. Childish Gambino, however, is in a league of his own. I’ve heard comparisons to Lil’ Wayne, and it makes me cringe every time. Glover’s lyrics are smart and witty, and often times it takes a few listens to get all the references. I shall even dare to call him the thinking man’s Lil’ Wayne! Let’s be honest: Lil’ Wayne usually doesn’t make much sense. I said it. Bring on the hate.
One slight comparison that I will dive into is a bit surprising, even to me; on NPR’s brief write up about the album, they compare it to Kanye West’s College Dropout. Now, Mr. West is my favorite rapper, and Dropout is one of my all time favorite albums. So I may have mildly scoffed at the reference. However, after already listening to Camp a couple times, I definitely hear it. Especially in the beats. Very reminiscent of early Kanye. Well done, Donald Glover.
So there you have it. Again, don’t take my word for it if you don’t want to. Give it a listen yourself. I think the album has something for everyone, whether you’re a fan of hip hop or not. Stand out tracks include, “Bonfire“, “Heartbeat”, “Backpackers”, “L.E.S.”, and “That Power”. Really though, every song on Camp is pretty stand out. Go check it out, as well as Childish Gambino’s older releases if you have yet to become a fan.
You can stream Camp here: www.npr.org/2011/11/06/141934309/first-listen-childish-gambino-camp#playlist and check out more from Donald Glover/Childish Gambino at www.iamdonald.com.
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2 Comments on “First Listen: Donald Glover (aka Childish Gambino) Takes Us To Camp”

  1. He definitely listened to a lot of Kanye West before recording this album. Especially with the choir/chorus on a few song. At least his producer listened to a lot of Kanye, or did he produce this hmself?

  2. guest says:

    If you feel Wayne doesn’t make sense, then you probably don’t understand the references. It always appears Childish Gambino fans are people who never listened to the Drought 3, Dedication 2, Sqad Up mixtapes, Carter II, etc.


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