I feel like I’m doing one of our “Unsung Artists” columns with this review, and to those of you who have never heard of Childish Gambino before get ready because you will be hearing about him a lot in the near future. November 15th for Gambino fans might be overshadowed by the fact that “Take Care” by Drake was released on the same day, but even then, Gambino’s debut album still shines in its own light, giving us a hip-hop album worth the hype.
I won’t be able to begin this review without saying that I admire Donald Glover, unlike other rappers who start off rapping generally as a getaway from street life, Donald actually graduated from NYU with a degree in Dramatic Writing. He is most commonly known for playing Troy Barnes in the TV series Community, started off as a writer for 30 Rock alongside Tina Fey as well as a writer for The Daily Show. One day he went online to a Wu-Tang Clan name generator and the name of “Childish Gambino” was given to him, and he took it as his stage name for his rapper endeavors and in a way became his sort of alter ego. I found out about Gambino one day while I was looking for the music video for “Rolling in The Deep” and noticed that there was a remix song with Jamie xx and someone completely unknown to me that went by the name of Childish Gambino. For the minute that Gambino is in the song he kills it, I was hooked right then, Gambino is the rapper I had been looking for a while: amazing one-liners, insane flow, forward-thinking, prompt delivery of the verses, good production for an unknown rapper and actual story-telling within the song. After his succesful mixtapes and EPs, Gambino announced that he would be releasing his debut album with Glassnote Records by the end of 2011.
Camp is without a doubt what all Gambino fans and overall fans of good hip-hop have been waiting for, an album that comes off as a solid debut offering an insight in Donald’s mind as a rapper and the inner struggles that go with it from being the new kid in the game, never seeming to fit in Black America as a rapper often considering him “too white” since he comes from a middle class family, the album also offers his views on his success and determination of becoming one of the greatest not minding what other people say. The angst brought by these issues reminds me a little of Kanye West’s “College Dropout“, remember back then when Kanye wouldn’t rap about just how much money he had? When instead he rapped about how bad he wanted to change his life and become more succesful? I have the same feeling with Camp, and this is the beginning of something great.
The album starts off with “Outside“, in which Childish raps about how his family did everything they could to give him a better future outside moving to a middle class neighborhood and how by making this move even his own family feels like they look down on their own people which is of course not true, this song right here represents Childish Gambino’s main issue: trying to fit in within the rapper crowd without them pointing out that he is an outsider. That right there, makes Gambino go sometimes three times as harder as other rappers would do, just check “Bonfire” and tell me you don’t go saying “wow” a couple of times because of the sick punchlines Childish gives us like for example “Made a beat and murdered it, Casey Anthony” or self-assuring rhymes of his craft like “Man, why does every black actor gotta rap some?/ I don’t know, all I know is I’m the best one“.
Donald Glover’s alter ego as Childish Gambino gives him the versatility of being the mainstream rapper that is recognized wherever he goes, gets many girls and often raps about his d*ck, but also gives him the opportunity to open up in some songs and connect with the listener, often mentioning his childhood memories or recognizing his own mistakes. Camp ends with Childish channeling Donald in “That Power” telling the story of his first love at camp and how he got on the bus as a boy and still hasn’t gotten off from it. To me, this album is as honest as Childish himself can be, producing and writing most songs that have enough social critiques as well as banging beats that can help Gambino achieve radio airplay.
Some of my favorite songs of the album are “L.E.S“, “Backpackers“, “Kids” & “You See Me“
It is Childish Gambino’s realness that makes this album so great, the way he shows to his listeners how many times people have told him that he couldn’t make it, yet here he is and I’m hoping he gets the recognition he deserves and is never again looked at as an outsider. November 15th to some might be the day that “Take Care” hit stores, to me is the day I go out to “Camp” and never come back.
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