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Childish Gambino - Royalty Album Cover

Childish Gambino - Royalty

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7.0
Childish Gambino - Royalty
Record Label: None
Release Date: July 4, 2012

These past 12 months must have been the best worst year for Donald Glover. He's had a lot to celebrate, with festival appearances and headlining tours, plus his cult fanbase through his show, Community. But from the Community hiatus, to the backlash of his Glassnote debut Camp, and finally to the removal of showrunner Dan Harmon from the aforementioned show, Glover has had a lot to think about. However, those are only problems from his standards. To us, the idea of selling an album at all is a blessing. The idea of starring on an NBC comedy isn't even considerable to us, and therefore there's no reason we should feel sorry for him - and let's face it, we don't. The difference between us and Donald Glover isn't our positions in life. It's our hunger for success, and Glover wants to prove he's still hungry for accomplishments beyond Camp, and thankfully for us, that resulted in him donning his pseudonym Childish Gambino and assembling Royalty.

Childish Gambino is determined to be taken seriously and his features list shows that. From legends (Ghostface Killah, Bun B, RZA) to newcomers (Schoolboy Q, Ab-Soul, Nipsey Hussle), he creates a roster of appearances that takes lyricism and energy for days just to keep up with. However, the most compelling appearance doesn't come from any of the legendary rappers. It comes from eccentric 31 year old Danny Brown, who dominates on the skywlkr-produced "Toxic", sampling the Britney Spears song of the same name - yes, Britney Spears. Another strong presence on the mixtape is Beck's production, with his pseudo-off-time "Silk Pillow" (which his vocals appear on as well) and "Bronchitis", which fans still ask "Wait, why is this song skipping?" about. It seems like a bit much to dedicate an entire paragraph to featured artists, but Childish Gambino is rarely one to utilize guests, and adding these features plus production from Boi-1da accents his own performance well. Royalty shows that breaking formula pays off - especially just for the sake of a Tina Fey outro. Honestly, the mixtape is worth downloading solely to hear Tina Fey.

That's not to say Gambino doesn't have a strong presence himself, though. His production has taken huge strides, and he raps as if he's learned a lot from the people he's accompanied since Camp. (I'm predicting he finally completely abandons hashtag rap on his next release - let's hope.) The track where he shines the most is "We Ain't Them", produced by himself and longtime collaborator Ludwig Goransson. He's said in an interview that Camp was an album he wanted to make when he was a kid, and Royalty is a much more mature Childish Gambino. He's becoming the rapper that "Who the hell is this guy and why is he rapping?" listeners have been waiting for, and the rapper that "I don't normally like rap but this is cool" listeners will be extremely polarized by. He has his slight hiccups, but the largest is the entire track "Unnecessary" (It marks the only time I'll ever dislike an Ab-Soul verse, knock on wood.) which almost caused me to ignore his release altogether. However, he more than makes up for that song and other lazy moments with songs like "Black Faces", "R.I.P.", and "Silk Pillow". He's much less quotable in the best way possible, showing a maturity he's never shown before and a level of confidence in his flow that's finally got him recognition from Elliott Wilson and various hip-hop sources that ignored him pre-Royalty.

Childish Gambino has never been just a rapper like he's claimed. If he was, he wouldn't have been relevant enough to make Royalty. He still isn't quite as comfortable or strong as newcomers of this generation of hip-hop, but he's learning, working hard, and he's young enough to have the time to show his music is as much of a reason to pay attention to him as his acting. He's always had his core fanbase, and Royalty is his proof that he's not afraid to stray from what made them love him so much. He's not afraid to sacrifice, and if Royalty is any indication of the direction he's headed, his next release may just be what makes fans ignore any of his other ventures and see him as "just a rapper". Just a rapper, but a damn good one. We'll see.

7/10
This review is a user submitted review from Dustin Harkins. You can see all of Dustin Harkins's submitted reviews here.
 
Displaying posts 1 - 5 of 5
12:01 PM on 07/10/12
#2
weworemasks
save the drama for wilmer valderama
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"He's much less quotable in the best way possible, showing a maturity he's never shown before and a level of confidence in his flow that's finally got him recognition from Elliott Wilson and various hip-hop sources that ignored him pre-Royalty."

you fuckin' nailed it. i love gambino, but i understand his novelty. this is the first release where i feel like he's finally RAPPING.
12:11 PM on 07/10/12
#3
Dustin Harkins
Go support Kony 2012 some more
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"He's much less quotable in the best way possible, showing a maturity he's never shown before and a level of confidence in his flow that's finally got him recognition from Elliott Wilson and various hip-hop sources that ignored him pre-Royalty."

you fuckin' nailed it. i love gambino, but i understand his novelty. this is the first release where i feel like he's finally RAPPING.
Exactly! It's really, really refreshing. It's making me take him a lot more seriously again.
12:12 PM on 07/10/12
#4
_veges_
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Fantastic review, agreed with everything
06:52 PM on 07/10/12
#5
ChaseTx
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Good review. I guess I need to look into his back catalog to really figure out who this guy is.

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