Childish Gambino

Jumping in Headfirst bringing you more dope music. One of my best friends, JuxtaposedWords over at Epic of Maloy, let me know about the existence of Community, a brilliant sitcom airing on NBC.

While he is a brilliant colleague and a good friend (and a hilarious conversationalist), our tastes do not always sync up, so I took quite a while before I finally believed he might be on to something (as he was the person who pointed me to Scrubs). Although a couple of the earliest episodes didn't immediately warm me to the series, in a short amount of time I found myself hooked. Abed's Batman impression did it for me, but I confess the primary reason the show had any chance at all, was that Donald Glover was apart of the cast. I became a fan of his through Derrick Comedy (I'll get to that another time), and learning he was part of a series I had to give it a try.

I found out a little later that dude made music under the name Childish Gambino, and listened to...some song. It was...okay. No offense to dude, but it felt kinda like a easier to hear (but) lyrically weaker mc chris rhyme, so I wrote it off, since I KNEW he was a funny comedian and great on Community.

...But nobody would shut up about him, so after reading a Twitter about an early track off his EP, I figured I'd give him a second chance.



Ever been to TVTropes? I'm asking, 'cause this dude's rhymes very clearly took a level in bad-ass.

With haunting music and a chorus that sticks with you so you find yourself humming it hours after you listen to it and a drum beat that keeps you bouncing and ALMOST drags you away from his lyrics, it bowls you over when you learn he made it himself.

His lyrics are brutally honest, with a very real awareness of how weird it is to hear someone like him rhyming, Glover (excuse me, Gambino) starts out the gate with killer lines like, "Music was my side chick/but now we're moving in together", and "My swag like Jehovah Witness/It never take a holiday", he drags you in within the first few bars and keeps you enthralled the entire song.

Gambino bares his soul on this track, hitting you with line after line of what it's like to be a black rapper that's perceived as more "nerd" than "street":

I try to clear my mind of thoughts that only slow me down/like when these niggas call me "faggot", and we "homies" now. But we are *not* homies/I just keep you around. 'Cause all your talking is noise I use to kill the sound/Of all these voices telling me no one can help me out

And a relateable struggle of the road we all have to take to become adults:

I wanna pick up the phone/ask my dad how to handle it/But what will happen/When my dad's not there to answer it?

The second verse is even more ridiculous than the first:

"You are the bestest...I will obey you..."/These words I wrote for you when you were fucking other dudes. The only thing I need from you now/Is some solitude. Actions over words/Girls will be girls, that's all it proves. I used to be this guy sitting with an open heart/Now this computer screen's the only place I feel a spark. I don't fuck with fake bitches/except for when I/fuck with fake bitches. Canon 5D to take pictures/of these girls who wouldn't talk to me a year ago.

In these lines alone, Gambino proves he's head and shoulders above most rappers, using the same subject matter (money, women) but speaking about them in a far more clever and frank manner, displaying a willingness to be clever but a defiance of typical underground "conscious" rap stereotypes.

I had to give the guy another shot, so I spent another thirty minutes checking out other songs of his. You'll hear more of those later, but I wanted to give you guys another track:



With this track, I regretted sleeping on this dude even though I only learned about him two months ago. "Untouchable" (trust me, the live's better--there's this distortion on the album track that ruins his beat and lyrics) sees Gambino address critics, family, and fans alike with an energy that you rarely see from most artists these days. (In a Mickey Mouse shirt, no less. Your favorite rapper wouldn't sound nearly as confident spitting these lines:

And to the critics with reviews that were more than sour/Is it strange having jobs I can do tomorrow? You bitches don't like shit, and it's really sad/I like food, sex, clothes, watching Breaking Bad
And to all my smart friends saying/"I really liked your album, dude/But you could be the next Mos Def if you wanted to"/Dear friends, I respect your responses/But my life is a dream, so I rap unconscious./I'm sorry guys, I hope I didn't let you down/I rap what I know so I hope the fans can work it out


Online guys talking about they better me/I'm doing three other jobs, bitch you better be/'Cause if you trying really hard, that's embarassing/I won't stop 'till I'm fucking running everything.



Childish Gambino resonates with a part of me that I rarely talk about. I've never been an especially angsty person about my life, but it's not exactly the most popular existence. Intelligence does not breed as many friends as it should, and "geeky" habits like comic books, video games, and anime in your teens generally leads to one being shoved into lockers, not comrades.

That experience is multipled if you're non-white--even the friends you make don't generally know where you're coming from. You find yourself tailoring your conversations for different friends--your white friends don't care about the new Little Brother album and your black friends don't care about the Avengers.

That's changing now, fortunately, and while it's more likely to find fellow "nerd" friends, it's still a long way from where it should be. It's easy for children, especially teenagers, to get tired of being on their own and throw away what makes them happy to be someone they aren't, despite us supposedly being a society that prides itself on allowing everyone to be themselves. For me, it's never been that big of a deal since fortunately I managed to find friends that WERE cool with (most of) my interests, but not everyone can be blessed to have friends like mine.

Gambino represents a small slice of the population, but a slice nonetheless, and I'm glad he's giving them a voice. And he's inspired me to keep pushing at being one hundred percent honest about who I am. If people don't like it, screw 'em. Let's end this with more Gambino music though. A freestyle at that. (I gotta get my Urkel on/I won't stop 'till I see a afro at Comic Con!)


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