Donald Glover is the actor, musician, writer extraordinaire that raps under the alias Childish Gambino. His new album Because of the Internet drops today, December 10, however Australia and Canada got it a few days ago. So far “3005” is the only single off of the album to get a music video, it features special guest porn star Abella Anderson.
Childish Gambino will release Because the Internet as his second official studio album. However, Gambino has been releasing music since 2008 starting with his self-released album Sick Boi. Gambino has two more self-released albums, Poindexter and Culdesac along with three mixtapes, an EP and a number of singles that aren’t featured on any album. The amount of content that comes from Gambino is simply staggering and as such it isn’t fair to truly address BTI as his sophomore effort.
Culdesac for many marks the beginning of Childish Gambino. That is not to say there is anything wrong with his work before Culdesac, but Culdesac stands as the moment of identification where it became clear that not only did Childish Gambino understand his music, he had a powerful grasp on it. Culdesac was released for free and has fifteen tracks. The album certainly contains a lot of different styles and really gives the listener an understanding of Donald Glover due to the honest manner in which he raps.
Camp was the first studio released album by Gambino and was done with the help of Glassnote Records which is an independent label that is also known for artists such as Phoenix and Mumford and Sons. Camp does not have as many tracks as Culdesac but it is still quite long, with a total run time of just over 55 minutes. The album spends more time addressing specific matters that pertain to rival rappers, family, and everything else important Glover. The album has a reputation but it also has moments of powerful honesty that is represented in earlier work. Camp feels more connected than Culdasac, probably due to the grand intro and story send-off at the end.
In 2010 Gambino released two mixtapes labeled I Am Just A Rapper and I Am Just A Rapper 2. These mixtapes feature Gambino rapping over indie tracks instead of his own beats. Both mixtapes are less serious than most of Gambino’s work and even feature friend and writer DC Pierson who appears on three different tracks. The easiest way to listen to I Am Just A Rapper 1 & 2 is by understanding that it isn’t supposed to be super serious, it’s supposed to be fun.
R O Y A L T Y is the newest mixtape from Gambino and it features an extremely impressive list of guest appearances. Just a few of the guest stars include Ghostface Killah, Beck, Tina Fey, Chance the Rapper and Tina Fey. The mixtape is Gambino’s longest yet and is nearly an entire hour. Possibly due to all of the different elements being used here R O Y A L T Y has a strong scent to it that is different from all other releases. It isn’t as personal as most of his work and seems to stand as a representation of his credibility to the rap community. One review said that it was “light on the punch lines, heavy on the swag, and an overall mighty declaration of newfound skill and confidence despite a few missteps.”
Before jumping into BTI it is important to note that a screenplay and a prequel to that screenplay are available and shed more light onto the story that is represented on the album. The prequel is called “Clapping for the Wrong Reasons”. There are two versions, the internet version (which is about a minute long) and the directors cut (which is 25 minutes). BTI is a concept album, it is also a screenplay, it is simultaneously about Donald Glover and not about Donald Glover. The script of BTI follows a character simply named “The Boy.” The cover of the album is a gif that moves.
The screenplay shares the name of the album and can be found in the related articles section at the bottom of the article. It is your choice to decide how you want to digest the story within BTI, but the screenplay shows a deeper emphasis behind some tracks (such as “Urn”). The screenplay features all the tracks of the album along with some actual video showing some of the specific parts of the album. The album is split into five sub sections and the screenplay helps to distinguish these sections as slightly more independent than the album does.
It is necessary to note that a deluxe version of the album contains a bonus track called, “What Kind of Love.” BTI ends in such a particular way that this bonus track greatly changes the feeling of how the album ends. This bonus track would stand as a good representation to an ordinary album because it has a nice gentle send-off feel to it, but the original last track, “Life: The Biggest Troll” ends with a scary cry for help that is really important to seeing the end of the story as it is. A troll so big that just about everyone needs help getting over it. It also stands as a point that the biggest troll of life may be the quickness in which one can be whisked away.
Gambino has stated that his favorite track on the album is “Urn” which demonstrates his voice in a purely singing manner. Gambino has certainly done this in the past. The fact that the track has zero rapping once again shows Gambino’s commitment to doing what is best for a track. The passion that lives within the music of Childish Gambino changes the styles seen. It is safe to say that Gambino goes hard, even if you don’t relate to his work his effort is certainly commendable. Many rappers have a reputation to uphold but Gambino changes his music in whatever manner his ambition guides him without regard for his reputation.
Some reviewers have issues with the album not having tracks to constantly listen to and enjoy. BTI has a lot going on here, it isn’t a compilation of Gambino’s skills the way Culdasac was. It is true that BTI shows strongly Gambino’s growth as a musician but that is not only due to how his views and outlook has changed it is also shown through the different styles exhibited in the album. The track “Flight Of The Navigator” may not be a single or something you’d listen to on a party playlist but that does not mean it is devoid of value, it still demonstrates instrumental and vocal skill while simultaneously carrying the theme of the album and story in a manner that probably shouldn’t be defined as rap.
If the title doesn’t make sense to you a quote from Gambino may help to clear things up for you. “Because the internet I’m here, because of the internet we’re all here. It’s the language of earth. Everyone keeps saying by this or that year, Mandarin or Spanish will be the most dominant language, but the internet is already a language we are all connected to; even my dad can understand the meme format. But the thing is, there are no rules, which is also the awesome thing.”
Gambino isn’t afraid to take a track where it needs to go to correctly convey the feeling being expressed. For example the track, “The Worst Guys” featuring Chance the Rapper includes the line “On my porch smoking vapor, hit with the Sunday paper, listening to the neighbors” at which point the songs slows down and you listen to the neighbors mowing until a guitar solo takes eventually swoops in to take its place. “WORLDSTAR” is anther track on the album that demonstrates big style changes, the track features a very interesting slow down about halfway through that continues to morph until it changes from slow chants to a saxophone solo that continues until the end of track.
“Shadows” exhibits some extremely smooth beats which is to be expected knowing that Thundercat (along with a few other) help out on the track. Gambino sings for most of this track and manages to do so with back up vocals that create possibly the funkiest track on the album. About halfway through the track the music cuts to what may or may not be a scream. Such abrupt changes are more apparent in BTI than previous albums but that is also do to how “The Boy” lives his life, in patterns that cycle and stop and start abruptly sometimes.
“Progress the only thing that will last.”
How much you get out of this album depends on how much you put into this album. At this point Childish Gambino is less concerned with alerting everyone as to how fly he is and is more focused on telling a story/ giving the world a way to communicate. That being said, there is still a lot of vocal word and rapping coming from Gambino. It is true that Gambino is still Gambino which means that his ego still shines through in his music, but not brighter than his honesty. He refuses to be anything but real although not everyone will understand that as intended. “We are the dreams of our parents lost in the future.”
People probably won’t rock out to Because the Internet the way they might Culdesac or Camp but it is still loaded with so much passion and storytelling the it is difficult to address the album with anything but respect. Particular tracks will probably stick out to you as long as you give the whole album a chance. Donald Glover has grown a lot and so has Childish Gambino which is represented in the album very well. This album is more about the listener and not Gambino, which is certainly different from some previous work. This is not your ordinary album. If you have an open mind and want to experience the destruction of mainstream genres while following a complex and relatable story that neatly begins and ends itself, please give this album a shot. AK.
By Garrett Jutte