About a month ago, Shuf reviewed Childish Gambino’s second studio effort ‘Because The Internet’ and we were less than complementary. The record showcased an ego that was a lot more focused on ambition than it was an actual ambitious idea. In the promo run for the record he wore the same clothes to every interview; a worn out t-shirt, short shorts and a pair of round-the-house shoes that made for a superbly premeditated vision of an apathetic creative-type trying a little too desperately to be heard. This feeling of over-deliberate detachment from the spheres that made his name (hip hop, comedy, the internet) made the record a little bit cringeworthy and painted Gambino in a slightly shallow and uncomplimentary light. This show at Gorilla didn’t change our view of the album, or it’s maker that dramatically but it did show that the geeky wordsmith who initially won fans off the back of his carefree approach to rap might not be buried for good.
Opening with ‘I. Crawl’ from ‘BTI’, this was a set built heavily upon the cuts from the latest LP. The moments where that album becomes more shameless party-rap and less pseudo-perceptive art were some of the highlights of the evening. ‘V. 3005’, ‘IV. Sweatpants’ and the chant-along wonder of ‘II. Worldstar’ saw Gambino play to the needs of a crowd who wanted to celebrate the punchline driven nature of his early style. These children of the Tumblr generation were at fever pitch when they heard a medley of ‘Freaks and Geeks’, ‘Firefly’ and then ‘Bonfire’. These quotable treasures were never written to be remembered and perhaps it’s telling that the tracks with the most longevity are the ones made when he was trying to achieve the very least. The moments where Childish Gambino appeared to be “giving this rap shit a try” were by far the most enjoyable. Nothing proved this quite like his encore freestyle session where he brewed up some pun about ejaculating on a girl’s chest. Punchline: Man Chest Her.
It’s not always the best idea to condemn someone for trying to do something big. However, enterprise is pretty useless when all it’s reaching for is the initiative itself. It’s never been that cool to like Childish Gambino but when there’s 700 kids screaming along to ‘Freaks and Geeks’ he can be forgiven for being slightly... Childish. The overriding problem with him as a rapper is best summed up by one of his contemporaries- he might be too strong out on compliments and overdosed on confidence.
Words: Duncan Harrison