Playlist: The Brilliance of Childish Gambino

Childish Gambino, the brainchild of rapper, singer, writer, actor Donald Glover, never ceases to amaze. This musical genius has been performing for years, and through it all, he has grown and developed from rap, to ballads, to hip-hop, hitting everyone’s sweet spot in the taste department. But there is more to Childish Gambino than just a good beat and lyrics. Gambino takes his music and makes it political, which causes people to think, often without even realizing it. Glover’s approach to tackling ethics intertwine with his music, creating a listening experience which is not only enjoyable but educational.

If you are new to Childish Gambino or haven’t heard of his work, here is a playlist that will tingle your senses and let you experience the best of his genius:

Album Breakdown

Childish Gambino has a very wide array of styles that are experienced among his three full-length albums Camp, Because of the Internet, and Awaken, My Love!  We are also going to look at Kauai an important EP. Here is a breakdown to help you better decided what to dive into first:

Camp

Camp is Gambino’s first album exploring some really rough and tough sounds, like the songs "Heartbeat", "Backpack", and "Bonfire", each known for their bass bumping sound. Camp also carries lots of softer songs, like "Kids", which is a soft ballad about love being easier the younger you are, and "That Power," which includes a monologue mid-song about an experience Gambino had going home from camp. This album is for people who love and respect traditional rap.

Because of the Internet

Here is where Gambino starts to explore his more techno side, as this album explores the ebbs and flows of adding a techno backtracking to his sound. In songs such as "II: Earth. The Oldest Computer (Last Night)", and the popular "3005", he combines rap with a very eerie techno beat. This album is also filled with hardcore rap, like "Worldstar", and softer rap dance tunes like "Sweatpants".  This is often referred to as the ideal “stoner album” because of all the blended techno and rap sounds.

Kauai

This EP brought the fans six new songs, which were very different from anything on his previous releases. Kauai features little monologues of spoken word poetry from Jaden Smith on select tracks and songs that included a sunny, upbeat tempo. It is also more on the pop side, rather than the rap side, expanding his music into the ears of people who may not enjoy rap. Listening to this album makes you feel like you’re relaxing on the beach.

Awaken, My Love!

This is the most recent Childish Gambino album and explores a different side that was unknown to fans. In this album, Gambino explores his softer side with more ballad-like tunes that make you feel relaxed… and little bit “out of this world”. Favourites include "Terrified", "Stand Tall", and of course, "Redbone", which was a huge success in the summer of 2017. This album pushes the fact that Glover has an amazing voice, and can do way more than just rap.

Hidden Meanings

If you have just signed on to Childish Gambino’s music, you probably know the song "This is America". This iconic song swept it’s way through the charts and had Youtube’s biggest first week debut. The song revolves around gun violence in America, and in a deeper exploration, the way pop culture covers up what we don’t want to see. In the video, Glover is dancing, using a combination of popular dance moves now, and African pop dance moves which distracts the viewers from what is going on in the background. At one point, a man commits suicide from a balcony, but it is often looked over because of Glover dancing in the foreground. He uses imagery like a stance resembling Jim Crow, and a hooded figure riding a white horse, representing Death, strolls through the back frame, and no one really sees it. This whole video is showing people that we, as a society, are letting a culture be victimized because we are blinded by the pop culture that surrounds it.

Then there is his newly released hit Feels like Summer”, which is a slow ballad about a hot summer’s day, which is a very easy listen. The music video was released and it was a beautiful warm toned animation of Glover walking through a street in Atlanta, and as he walks by, he passes lots of important figures in the black hip-hop community. This includes Frank Ocean, The Weeknd, Drake, Migos, Oprah Winfrey, Will, Jaden, and Willow Smith, and many more. There are also more integral moments of the video in the flashbacks, when we see an homage to Michael Jackson in his Motown era, Chris Brown crying to himself, and the biggest shock of the video, Kanye West wearing a MAGA hat crying while being comforted by Michelle Obama. Everyone in this world is telling a story in some way, which pulls the audience in… but have you ever closely listened to the lyrics? "Feels Like Summeris a song written about the death of our planet due to global warming. Glover sings “Every day gets hotter than the one before. Running out of water, it's about to go down” and “Air that kill the bees that we depend upon. Birds were made for singing, wakin' up to no sound.” This is often missed by the imagery in the music video, along with the smooth feeling of the song.

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What’s Next?

Gambino’s This Is America 2018 Tour has come to a sudden stop, as an ankle injury prevents him from performing, but there is no doubt he will come back and finish the tour, along with releasing his last album, perhaps with singles “Algorithm”, and “Spirits”, which he debuted on the tour setlist. As we are all patiently waiting for his last album release, we can bask and bathe in the brilliance of Childish Gambino.