Donald Glover has taken the entertainment industry by storm. From writing for The Daily Show and 30 Rock, becoming an admired stand up comedian to starring in Community and finally becoming recognized in the rap world. Donald has covered just about every area in entertainment that you could possibly think of. After his last well received EP, he's back for more with Camp, his official debut full length on his first record label, Glassnote Records. A couple weeks back, I talked to Donald about everything that's going on in his life and this is what he had to say.
First off, how are you doing?
Iím pretty good, really. Itís been a pretty rough weekend as far as works concerned. Weíre shooting the "Bonfire" video tonight [October 3], so my body is like, "Youíre going to be up for a long time." And Iím like, "Alright." Plus Iíve got to fly to Chicago. Itís been pretty nuts.
I wanted to start by about Glassnote Records. I'm personally a big fan of them and I think they were a perfect choice in your case. What lead to you signing with them?
I was already making the album when I signed with them. I was like three fourths done with the album, and I knew the other record companies wouldnít do it the way I wanted to. I felt like it was a good fit because there was no features on it and itís not going for what a lot of labels are looking for, and they were the only ones who really accepted that and accepted me, and thatís the first time thatís ever happened. Like eleven people work in their office, thatís it. I meet everyone when I go to the office, but theyíre all behind bands like Phoenix and Mumford and Sons who are like huge. So I wanted to go somewhere that felt at home but was possible to have an effect on music.
You just released your single "Bonfire" a few weeks ago, which was your hardest song yet but still in the vein of "Freaks and Geeks." Can we expect a similar style on Camp or does it have a diverse sound to it? And can you say when we can hear another song?
Well, the sound of Camp is pretty cohesive, but Iíd say ďBonfireĒ is the most like ďFreaks and GeeksĒ on that. I like wordplay and I like doing that, but sometimes people are like, "Be more aggressive," but Iím not an aggressive person. But I felt like ďBonfireĒ was the best first song for Camp because you can play that in your car and you can feel powerful to that, but I donít think most of Camp sounds like that. But I would say most of Camp is diverse, but it definitely has a skrill line. As for the next single, all I can say is that weíll be performing the next single on Conan. I think weíll be doing it on the day the album comes out [November 15].
I know that you're super busy with all of your projects, but in your opinion does being on television, doing stand up and music give you an advantage in every field? They're all forms of entertainment, but all so very different from each other, and I feel like that would give you more experience on what works.
I mean, I really like to learn from stuff, so I try to have as many experiences as possible so that Iíll be well rounded so I donít have to ask for help. I feel like the second you have to ask for help your ideas can get blurred. Working with Glassnote, they all have really good ideas, I just think itís hard for me sometimes, because weíre not all coming from the same place. In general, I think experiences are the most important thing you can have as far as making music or any sort of art.
Do you think writing for TV has a big impact on your lyrics? Your rhymes seem to incorporate comedian wit but still have an edge to them, which seems to be a huge attraction to your music.
I grew up with Eminem and stuff like that, and my favorite stuff of his was funny and it made me laugh, but it was also this thing where he would put out this shit that was really rough. I get that; it just makes sense to me. I wanted to do something for when I was a kid, something that made me feel fun and a little scary. I know some people find it hard to take me seriously because I am a comedian, which I get. Iím not trying to pretend like Iím not doing comedic stuff. And I donít want people to say that my music isnít comedic, because there is some funny stuff in it. But l think itís where people are coming from with it. I think Lilí Wayne is really funny. I think Kanye is really funny. Iím just trying to get people to look at rap differently.
Also on the topic of lyrics and writing, you've sampled indie artists like Grizzly Bear, Sleigh Bells and Animal Collective while lyrically you've dropped handfuls of references to various subjects. What influences your style, and are there any musicians or artists that really inspire you?
I donít know, when I was a kid I really liked Jim Henson. I just thought he was the best. I think what carried him out throughout my adulthood was he was a different thinker and wasnít afraid to get dark or anything like that. A lot of that stuff now when I look back Iím like, "Wow, that was kind of scary what he was trying to pull off." So I just really appreciate that and I try to do that with everything I do. The Disney cartoons that had the scariest stuff were what I ended up liking the most. So Jim Henson really affected me.
Are there any specific artists or musicians that you would like to collaborate with in the future?
I mean, there is a bunch of people I would love to do stuff with. Itís weird, it takes a long time to get your sound right. I feel like thatís kind of the problem with a lot of it. People donít allow people to find their sound and grow. It took me eight years to really be like, "Oh, this is a Childish Gambino song." Like a lot of this stuff I was like, "Oh yeah, this belongs on the album," and there was a lot of other stuff where I knew it didnít belong on the album. It just couldnít be on the album; it just wasnít the sound that we had. I want to protect that. Of course I want to work with new artists and do stuff thatís really cool with people I respect, but I donít think I can right now, because if I do Iíll be confused about what I want to do. But in the future, I would love to work with Missy Elliot, Pharrel, St. Vincent and people like Kanye, of course.
You also tour with a live band, which isn't always the case with rappers. How do you feel this impacts your live show?
Absolutely. When I was a kid I use to go to rap shows and I thought they were so boring. I always wanted to go to a rap show and have it be more of a rock show. Thatís why people like Odd Future shows, because theyíre punk shows. So I try to have a live band and giving the people who support me an experience they canít get at home. The worst thing I think you can do is when you go to a live show and have it sound just like the CD. Itís like, I can do that at home, why did I just spend $30 or $20 on something I can do at home? So I try and do something you canít experience at home.
The last tour you did was split half stand up and half music. Is this tour going to be the same or is it just straight Gambino? Can we expect more split tours in the future and with other artists?
This tour is straight up Gambino, which Iím excited about. My DJ SoSuperSam is opening for us. And Siik is opening for us. I just like his sound. Who Iíve been really listening to, who will be too big to open for me by the time we do the big tour, is Unknown Mortal Orchestra. I love them, so that would be mad cool to tour with them.
So you mentioned a big tour, is that next year?
After the album comes out weíre going to have a big tour. Weíre going to go to Europe and everywhere. Weíre going to be planning it out after the album drops. This tour is kind of like a last hoorah until the Camp tour. The Camp tour, we have so many big ideas, we just need to make sure itís perfect. Itís going to be more like a play than a concert. It will be an experience; itís going to be a lot of stuff.
Kind of like a Kanye West show?
I mean, yeah, but I donít have that much money [laughs]. It will definitely be interesting and something that tells a story. Thatís whatís important; people miss the story. Camp is a story, the whole album is a story, thatís the point. The show should match the album, you know?
So what else can we expect from you in the next 6 months to a year aside from the album dropping and the big tour?
Well, Iím in the Muppet movie. Iím in a movie called the To Do List, which is a movie with Aubrey Plaza. I have a small part in that. Weíre also writing a movie right now that Iím really excited about and just more Community. I know when this album comes out it will tell me what I need to do from now on, so Iím trying to enjoy the moments before the album comes out. Because itís a big moment and Iíve never really done that you know? And I just wanted to thank you guys at AbsolutePunk. You guys have been fans from the get-go. Like when I was just doing stuff for fun, you guys were like "This guyís sick!" and I canít say thank you enough.