The birth of Childish Gambino happened back in 2008 when Donald Glover plugged his name into a Wu-Tang rap name generator, thus his name was born and out comes his first tape, Sick Boi. For the early part of the 30-year-old’s rap career, hip-hop purists assumed the once writer for NBC’s 30 Rock and cast member of NBC’s Community was trolling in his spare time, slinging goofy raps and calling himself a rapper. However, the growth is present on his sophomore effort Because The Internet.
In terms of creativity and originality, Because The Internet excels. Examine The 25-minute Clapping For The Wrong Reasons short-film and the digital 76-page script that accompanies the album as a collective body of work. Everything works in symmetry and takes you on an odyssey through Childish’s psyche and inner demons. The storyline follows a reclusive gentleman named “The Boy,” as he treks through life by technology and relentless introspection. Will this tape wow you lyrically? Not at all, but the story will fascinate you. Gambino’s writing is ambitious and experimental that displays his script writing background and imagination. Though it’s a improvement from his debut album Camp, there are moments on BTI where he is pushing the boundaries and making it a very captivating and perplexing listen. You are rarely bored.
“3005,” a lush radio friendly record that showing off both Gambino’s lyrical and singing competence. The song is an easy favorite—addictive hook and a simple yet crisp beat over smooth drums. Another standout is “Telegraph Ave” (which samples Lloyd’s “Oakland”), a cinematic record that finds him baring his soul through self-depreciating thoughts: “And you wanna be a mom and I wasn’t mad at her / I was thinking ’bout me, I’d be really bad at it.”
Everything isn’t so introspective though. We see Gambino’s comedic writing take shape with “Sweatpants,” where he’s poking fun at individuals viewing rich people as obnoxious with ego problems (“I’m chillin’, real nigga feeling / Rich kid, asshole: paint me as a villain). “Crawl” is a head pounding record that kind of feels like the beginning of a Calvin Harris record, yet it feels like you’re about to go on a wild ride. There is also a good amount of Gambino singing that really works well with cuts such as “Shadows,” “Flight Of The Navigator, and “Urn,” which the latter he channels his inner Maxwell.
Now, ‘Bino does go left-field with some joints such as “Worldstar” (named after the popular WorldStar Hip-Hip website) that is a bit off-putting and whimsical. “Zealots Of Stockholm (Free Information)” is weird cloudy rap with lazy lyrics (“We can kick it like it’s FIFA, homie / Nevertheless, I got that fresh like it was Crest”) mixed with chaotic production.
Because The Internet shows off his full array of talent (writer, musician, comedian) and makes him stand out from the rest. If you literally pick up this album and try to listen to it randomly, you may feel it’s erratic, sloppy and too gloomy. However, once again, look at Childish Gambino’s background. He is a man of television, comedy and storytelling. The whole album rollout—from prelude short-film to the script to the music—proves Gambino can carve himself a place as an viable figure in the genre. Traditions are meant to be broken.—Emmanuel C.M.