Childish Gambino is the music moniker for 30 year old Donald Glover. This record comes after his persona has transformed from goofy ex-NBC punchline merchant (‘30 Rock’, ‘Community’) in to goofy ex-NBC rap punchline merchant (‘CAMP’, ‘Royalty’). Now all we can really bank on is the fact he used to work for NBC and he is a bit goofy. This LP is accompanied by an aesthetically pleasing but ultimately valueless short film entitled ‘Clapping For The Wrong Reasons’ and now a script for a screenplay penned by the man himself. It’s very easy to get caught up in all the decoration surrounding ‘Because the Internet’ and in doing so assuming that Gambino has come of age. What this LP boils down to is, unfortunately, ego in the very worst form. By the end of the nineteenth track you’re left feeling like a guy you met at halls sat you down for an hour and showed you what he made in his year out. You’re impressed by the effort but slightly disconcerted by the fact he assumed you’d care.
On ‘IV. Sweatpants’ Gambino bounces around the hook “Don’t be mad ‘cos I’m doing me better than you doing you” on a beat that is fun but will be forgotten by Boxing Day at the very latest. Similarly, when you compare the super smart tongue-in-cheek lyricism Drake uses about his middle-class upbringing on ‘Started From The Bottom’ to Gambino’s quip about himself as a “silver spooned coon”, you can’t help but wonder whether there is really room for him in rap’s burgeoning lyrical climate. Lead single, ‘V. 3005’ has the same gimcrack production and Gambino’s signature anxious sounding flow but it packs no punch whatsoever. That is the ultimate flaw that cripples this LP, even on ‘II. Worldstar’ Glover rhymes “twerk” with “wet shirt” on the only track that appears to actually be loosely based on the aforementioned Internet.
The peaks are few and far between but the LP does have a few moments. The chords on the final track are cinematic and effortless and compliment the more unruffled side of Gambino’s delivery. There is also some fun word-play here and there that will create good mic-to-crowd moments when ‘Bino hits the road. But unfortunately there is simply no escaping Donald Glover’s gargantuan self-importance. It’s the most transparent pretentiousness of the year which is upstaged tenfold by the direct, no-frills hit of records like ‘Yeezus’ and ‘My Name Is My Name’. Gambino becomes harder to like and impossible to love as he showcases the 21st century blueprint of an ego that’s gotten way out of hand.
Words: Duncan Harrison