Childish Gambino’s new album isn’t going to be something you can play at parties, and that’s perfectly okay.
When Childish Gambino released “Awaken, My Love!” his first full length album since Because the Internet in 2013, to kick off December 2016, many fans were disappointed in what they heard. Although anyone who kept up with Gambino over the last few weeks would have easily seen the tone and style switch-up coming, it took many long-time Gambino fans by surprise.
It shouldn’t have.
The new music from Gambino was different. While his previous songs were things that could be “bumped in the whip” or played at house parties to a host of young college-aged kids shouting the lyrics (“got a house full of homies, why I feel so the opposite?”) in unison, “Awaken My Love!” does a stylistic 180.
We saw hints of this switch in style in his music leading up to this project. His mixtape “Kauai” was a chill-vibe mix of songs that couldn’t quite be classified as R&B, but could be classified as less of the hype we saw from Gambino in the past (He featured Jaden Smith on that tape telling a story about him laying on a beach star gazing, and that’s most of what you need to know about it). Still, that was just half of that two-sided mixtape. The other half was more of what we remembered from him. But the hints of a chill Gambino were there.
The hints that differing music would eventually come, however, were more in the way Gambino, or Donald Glover, rather, has lived his life and gone about his career up to this point. For different people, Glover can be different things. For some he’s a comedian. To others he’s a comedy actor. He also carries labels of producer, television creator, writer, and of course, rapper.
I mean, Gambino went from playing a comedic-relief nerdy rocket scientist in The Martian to securing a huge role in an upcoming extension in the Star Wars series.
In all of those careers, Glover has yet to really carve out one niche, or even stay consistent with a single project or career for some time. It seems as if his days as a stand up comedian are over, and no longer is Gambino taking roles like “Troy” in Community. Instead, he’s taking on Star Wars. And challenging social norms, race issues, and providing entertainment with his TV show Atlanta.
Gambino has really diversified himself as an entertainer, always looking for the next big project to tackle. He’s not complacent with one thing going great. Once he’s reached success in an area, he’s likely going to move on to something else.
So circling back to “Awaken, My Love!” it holds true. He’s mastered (at least by his own definition) the art of high-energy rap and hip-hop. Rather than get complacent and bored with the music, even though he could likely put out an album full of 🔥, he put out something he’s passionate about, and something he can look at proudly.
There’s something really respectable about that. Gambino doesn’t really care what you think of his music. Yes, music is best enjoyed with others, but he really is just trying to diversify himself and keep moving and adding things to his ever-growing list of accomplishments.
What’s even more respectable is that Gambino risks his “credit” in the hip-hop community by deciding to do what he wants rather than what sells.
By no means am I saying you have to like Gambino’s new album. In fact, I myself am not a huge fan of the new style. But as long as Gambino puts out something real and something that isn’t complacent like he’s been doing in all facets of his career so far, that’s fine with me.
Keep doing you, ‘Bino.