Achieving further cult status with the success of Atlanta. Your new Lando Calrissian. 30 Rock and Community. Donald Glover’s 15 minutes is turning into an age. Then add his rapper persona Childish Gambino to the mix and you have someone
that has become ubiquitous and inescapable. His first record, Camp, received mixed reviews and for all the buzz surrounding a rapper informed readily by comedy, we weren’t sure whether Gambino would be back for round two. His second album, the aptly-titled Because the Internet, saw Gambino’s delivery become more visceral whilst maintaining that connectivity to 21st century tropes. Because the Internet was a rap album for non-rap fans searching for Donald Glover’s enduring wit and in many ways Gambino positively delivered.
But on the rapper’s new single, ‘Me and Your Mama’, the slack, comfortable vibes of his first two albums seems to have all but deserted Gambino. The brittle snare drums tick over and breathy backing vocals slowly proceed to the forefront as Gambino treats his listeners to a delicate berceuse. From there on its devilish, erratic and hedonistic. The backing vocals erupt into apocalyptic wails as Gambino screeches overwrought declarations of love over the growl of guitar. Gambino’s dreamy croon appears momentarily 3 and a half minutes in before being consumed by the hysterical vocal that comes to typify the track. Perhaps it’s an indication that the playful Gambino is gone, that the comedy is only a tool of Glover’s from now on.
Donald Glover and his overlapping personality Childish Gambino set a precedent for the track. The intro is dreamy and innocent, with foundations in soul and groove before the midsection infects that. Gambino’s rapping has always been wrapped up in stand-up one-liners but the step towards this intense vocal performance is a bold new move- especially from an artist whose reputation is safely protected by his durable popularity. The track’s finale returns to a calmer composition, sending Gambino into an ethereal cosmos that’s considerate of the chaos that has just ensued. It’s as if Gambino is allowing listeners to mull over this new chapter. Like Glover and Gambino, it’s hard to tell where one genre starts and the other ends throughout this 6-minute epic. Jazz, gospel, rock, blues and soul merge into one and compete for space on what is a sprawling and ceaseless record from Gambino. But what is particularly interesting, even though this track is not obviously linked to Gambino’s hip-hop foundations, is that Gambino cracks no jokes or one-liners throughout the song. Perhaps Gambino’s biggest masterstroke on the brave ‘Me and Your Mama’ is that he separates himself from Donald Glover. It might just be his finest moment yet. No joke.
Childish Gambino’s third album, Awaken, My Love!, is out on December 2nd.
Images courtesy of Genius and Mashable