Childish Gambino Is Afraid Of The Future

When Childish Gambino—or is it Donald Glover?—announced the title of his second album, because the internet, last month, it seemed to be in tune with his quirky, comedic persona that has served him so well as a writer and actor for a series of NBC shows and on his debut album, 2011′s Camp. The first indication that things would be different this time around came in the early evening of October 14.

Over the period of about a half hour, he posted a series of photos of handwritten notes on Instagram, with thoughts that ranged from “I’m afraid of the future” to “I’m scared I will never reach my potential.” It was a very real moment—honest, he would call it—and one that is rarely seen these days from mainstream artists in any lane, much less in hip-hop. The range of reactions from fans and onlookers ran the gamut: letters of support, posts appreciating his candidness, people clowning him for being a bitch, others conjecturing that he may be suicidal. After the posts, his Instagram went silent for two weeks.

It was a week later that the first single from his new album, “3005,” dropped, the second indication that things were different this time. “Sorry, I’m just scared of the future,” went one line; “Man, nobody out here’s got it figured out / So therefore, I’ve lost all hope of a happy ending” went another. “That’s what it’s about—building on something you’ve never seen,” he said during an interview at the XXL offices recently. He explained the rationale—that we’ll never see the year 3005, that we don’t know what we’re building towards—with an analogy. “I’m sure the people who built the pyramids did not know what they were doing,” he said. “You’re just building these great, amazing things. What is this for? Who is this for? I don’t know. So I’m just trying to enjoy whatever this is.”

In the XXL offices, he played more music from because the internet; songs that included lines like, “I don’t know who I am anymore,” and, “What’s the line between Donny G and Gambino?” The whole time, he sat next to the speakers, reading a book that included selections from Dostoevsky, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche and Kafka. It couldn’t have been more clear: Donald Glover—or is it Childish Gambino?—is trying to figure it all out.

“I don’t want to be a rapper,” he said, minutes after he played selections from his genre-bending—yet still hip-hop—album. “Rappers can only go so far…I think this is my superpower. I wanna do something dope.”

With his new album slated to come out December 10, Gambino—or Glover—is certainly on the right path. But the thing he keeps coming back to is the question of what, exactly, that path entails, where it leads, what the point of walking down it even is. What people think of him as he walks it. What he thinks of himself as he continues. “I’m afraid people hate who I really am,” he said in one of his Instagram notes. “I’m afraid I hate who I really am.” On this album, Childish Gambino is just trying to be the best Donald Glover he can be—or vice versa. Maybe he’ll never figure it out. But who ever does? —Dan Rys (@danrys)

Recommended for You

Around the Web

Best of XXL

  • Mike Pooler

    Everybody needs one friend who is going through similar emotions and questions, or has done. Someone who can listen, understand, and empathize. Such a friend can’t make it easier just like that, only assure you that you’re not alone in this and that you will reach different and much better phases of this process. That you just have to trust that and hang on until that point, that it’s worth it.

    To me it seems like Mr. Glover is trying to mash the entire internet into this one friend, as if collectively we could be there for him properly. But the dynamic doesn’t work like that. Fans are selfish, that’s how it’s supposed to be. Those who could really be like a real friend, how can they even step forward through the noise and do that, and how would anyone believe it’s with the same motive as with people who do not possess anything at all to give back. Friendship like this is given because when you were in the same kind of way, perhaps someone tried to give it to you- so you know that on the levels that counts, this process is something you really want more than anything else.

    Find that friend Donald Glover. Believe that friend. Trust that friend. Feel that friend. Count on that friend, that one friend.

  • kai$oundz

    Because of Vic Mensa

  • Taylor Hamilton

    I believe in you man always if you need anything I’m here I’m going through the same thing with my comedy they want me to water it down because they say it’s to raw our generations is lost. I’m going to put you up on knowledge Martin Luther King Jr. got what he wanted because he played the white man’s little games to get what he wants, Rosa Parks didn’t she stood up for what she believe, Malcolm X spoke with a purpose but he didn’t get the recognition because he didn’t play the white man’s game. And you see this generations thinks that we have to play people’s games in order to get what we want we don’t every race except Black people I am as real as they get and my comedy is cutthroat I am 23 years old, 2 jobs, no kids, never went to jail, and I live in Milwaukee now tell me how I make it I’m going to always be up on game that’s Why I call myself the definition of Black because I am that best believe that and you can believe this or not but it is the cold truth and I’m giving to you raw like I am always going to do. Now watch someone says is this spam this ain’t no goddamn spam this is a real person Hi nice to meet you my name is Taylor”The Definition of a Black Man” Hamilton always Love and Peace and God bless.