Childish Gambino – EP
Record Label: Unsigned
Release Date: March 8th, 2011
”Renaissance man with a Hollywood buzz / I refuse to go back to not liking who I was.”
What better way than to start a review of a Childish Gambino EP than to use lyrics directly from the EP, specifically from the song “Not Going Back”? Childish Gambino is the brainchild is actor, comedian, producer, writer, and rapper Donald Glover; one could say he really is a modern day renaissance man, however, the focus of this review is his music career as Gambino. He claimed to have gotten the name “Childish Gambino” when he put his name into a Wu-Tang Clan generator, and for the past few years, Glover has been releasing various mixtapes under that name. 2010 mixtape Culdesac did garner him some attention, but it wasn’t until 2011’s aptly titled EP did Glover really get any mainstream exposure, specifically with the track “Freaks and Geeks,” which is the one of the best songs that Childish Gambino has ever made. EP kind of served as a teaser for Childish Gabmino’s debut album Camp, which was one of my favorite albums last year, despite the fact that I don’t listen to a lot of rap / hip-hop. That’s what makes Childish Gambino so interesting to me, because I don’t listen to a lot of this genre. It’s strange that I don’t, considering that the main focus of rap is the lyrics, and I value lyrics quite a bit. That’s the main thing I enjoy about Childish Gambino; his lyrics are either fantastic, or rather awful. That’s not to say Childish Gambino is terrible, but sometimes, his lyrics are not the best, however, his lyrics are clever a majority of the time. He’s what’s referred to sometimes as a “punchline rapper,” meaning his lyrics are full of clever jokes, essentially. Glover himself seems to be combining his music with his comedy. That’s only the half truth, because a lot of his lyrics are very personal as well, and on this EP, the listener does get the best of both worlds.
The EPs starts off with “Be Alone,” which is a song that’s about Glover and his loneliness from being a celebrity. It begins with Glover singing, and that’s another thing I really enjoy about Childish Gambino; Glover actually sings as well, and while he does not have the best voice I’ve heard, he really can sing. He doesn’t do what many rappers do these guys, and rely on auto-tune. In fact, I don’t hear it whatsoever. This song focuses on his fame, and the loneliness that results from it, as I just mentioned. It also seems to talk about a love interest that Glover has recently broken up with, and that attributes to his loneliness. Next track “Freaks and Geeks” is without a doubt my favorite song on the EP. This track is one of the “punchline raps” that Gambino has; this song is filled with nothing but punchline after punchline. Gambino has a few more of these songs, and the one that comes the closest is “Bonfire” from debut album Camp. After another “punchline rap” song, “My Shine,” fourth track “Lights Turned On,” is a very interesting track, because it’s really just about sex. Granted, it’s not a cliché hip-hop track about sex, but instead, it’s masked between lots of clever jokes and metaphors. Last track “Not Going Back” is the track that I mentioned right in the beginning. This is a track that’s ultimately about Gambino not wanting to back to how he was before the newfound fame.
Overall, the lyrics are pretty solid, save for a few moments here and there. The overall ideas of the songs are nicely put together, and there are lots of clever jokes, metaphors, and similes that are woven throughout as well. The beats are also very interesting, because Glover himself creates them. Ultimately, this EP really does serve as a teaser for Camp. That album is more or less a continuation of what this EP brought to the table.
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