December saw the release of one of my favorite albums of 2013. Childish Gambino, also known as comedian and actor Donald Glover, released his second studio album, because the internet. Simply put, it is phenomenal. An album that becomes more nuanced and special with each listen. Because of Glover’s pseudonym there have been many hackneyed allusions to “growing up” with this album, but it makes sense. There is progression here, a growth of talent and skill, and comfort I’d say, as well.
Gambino’s previous album Camp, while critically panned, was one I really enjoyed. Or at least really enjoyed some of the times, because Camp was often filled with moments I couldn’t quite get behind. Mostly a lot of mysogyny. Which, it’s rap, and rap and mysogyny are often considered part and parcel. It became a real problem for me, however, when I attempted to reconcile Glover as a comedian and actor to that rap persona. In Camp he fell back on several tropes that are typical of rappers, the bravado and “aren’t I just the toughest.”
There’s less of that in because of the internet, though and more skill, and more Glover. I mean, I recognize that I don’t know this man, but in because the internet I see more of the Glover I’ve become a fan of. A more emotive and insighfult man, someone who’s hyper self aware which means you’re often the best, but also often the worst. There’s so much skill here: lyrically, as a rapper, singer and a producer. The album showcases Glover’s musical talents excellently, and while it did sometimes skew a bit too far to the experimental for me, there’s so much good stuff here outside of that.
The album is composed in suites, and it’s the second suite, that begins with “the worst guys” (and features another 2013 favorite, Chance the Rapper) and five songs later ends with the single “3005,” that is my absolute favorite. A perfect blend of what the album does best as a whole, witticisms and playfully perfected word play, crass solid grab your nuts hip hop, sick beats (really, why isn’t Gambino producing for other people??) and just this intense look at self doubt and how that plays in to love and success. I can’t say how many time’s I’ve heard “telegraph ave.” and just gotten lost in its beautiful spectre of a narrative.