Donald Glover aka Childish Gambino… full disclosure but this was never my cup of tea… as out the gate the ‘NBC sitcom TV star rapper’ look was never one that intrigued me (even with Drake’s success), and furthermore Gambino’s somewhat predictable ‘I’m not too cool to be a nerd’ style was cringeworthy to say the least - perhaps best described by a recent excerpt I found floating on the internet that details his new hit show Atlanta:
“It makes sense that a show like this comes from the mind of Glover, a Georgia-raised actor with a brand as an internet weirdo comedian who moonlights as Childish Gambino, a rapper who makes a living as a contentious black fringe player popular amongst the nebulously-defined hipster set.”
Well said… and that’s why to this point I’ve respectfully passed on both Glover and Gambino… yet in fairness every new year provides a new opportunity… and the year 2016 brought upon newfound hope that this talented artist had finally transitioned, or perhaps even evolved, into the legitimate rock star that he always has been.
Awaken, My Love! is critiqued track by track below
Me and Your Mama
“I'm in love when we are smokin' that la-la-la-la-la” The first record on the album is an experience… the type of record that people write think pieces about… I’m just going to say that’s it’s a funkadelic record with a crazy breakdown at the 2 minute mark, culminated by another breakdown at the 4 minute mark… and it’s a beautiful music from start to finish… this is the best type of record for Childish Gambino to be defined by, and if this proves to be his lane than even the likes of Anderson Paak have company. Nonetheless respect is due to Gambino as this is a great record in every way.
Have Some Love
“Have a word for your brother, have some time for one another, really love one another, it's so hard to find” Co-produced by Swedish composer Ludwig Goransson - who has production all over this album - this one is certainly unique with an unorthodox melody and a wide range of instrumentation, yet it doesn’t have much replay value after the fact (although the beat change at 1:50 is definitely worth it 👍
“If you point a gun at my rising sun, though we're not the one, but in the bounds of your mind, we have done the crime” SKIP! No matter it’s underlying message and all it’s psychedelic qualities… this one for the first 2:30 is just not very easy on the ears… or perhaps that’s the point, as even though I’m not a fan, respect is once again deserving to Ludwig Goransson who apparently plays about 5 instruments on this record.
Zombies ft Kari Faux
“All I see is zombies, hear them screaming at her, they can smell your money, and they want your soul, here they come behind you, try to stay alive” Hmmmmm… see above… the same sentiments apply… including the contributions from Goransson - in which case the guitar solo and bridge at the end is definitely flame worthy
“No good's happening, world, we're out of captains, everyone just wants a better life, they tried to kill us, love to say they feel us, but they won't take my pride” At 2:05 this is the shortest record on the album, and with it’s sample of George Clinton and Funkadelic this one is more or less an interlude that does what it’s supposed to do.
“Daylight, I wake up feeling like you won't play right, I used to know but now that shit don't feel right, it made me put away my pride…”Produced by Gambino himself along with Vinylz and the aforementioned Ludwig Goransson, this one is as pure as holy water and almost feels like a religious experience… nonetheless the instrumental and the melody are a perfect marriage, and with that being said this is the stand out record on the project.
“She want to move to California, she must've fucking lost her mind, she want to move to California, that's how they get you every time” the smooth instrumental provided by who else? Gambino along with Ludwig Goransson is without a doubt the track’s best quality, and despite the Carribean inspired hook - which is rather enjoyable - the melody of the verses is a tragedy altogether. A missed opportunity overall because there was potential here.
Terrified ft JD McCrary
“There's a bottom to the top of a moment, you won't always be around, catch a ***** coming quickly behind you, people want you underground” this is 🔥🔥🔥 and Gambino can clearly do a lot with his voice… this can be anyone in R&B from any era… and I’m impressed… this is good… real good …
“Little hands, little feet, tiny heart, tiny beat… There was a time before you, and there will be a time after you, though these bodies are not our own, walk tall, little one, walk tall, let me hold you…” Certainly the most thoughtful record on the album, this one has Gambino reflecting on the recent birth of his first child, a baby boy who he loves so much that he fears for his life - considering the well known plight of being a black man in America. The above quote is also said to be inspired by Ta-Nehisi Coates’s 2015 novel Between the World and Me, further clarifying the tone and context of what’s otherwise not the most
The Night Me and Your Mama Met
“Ahhhhhhhh Ooooooooooooh” just instrumentals and harmonization nothing else - provided by Gambino, Goransson, and Gary Clark Jr on the guitar. This short interlude is enjoyable.
“So smile when you can… when you can…” Gambino saves his best for last… as the first 2 minutes and 20 seconds of this song is immaculate… then it goes on to be more theatrical than it needs to be (autotune was unnecessary) - but overall it’s still a phenomenal record and it’s the perfect exclamation point to an otherwise stellar project that just gained him a fan.
Indeed that’s the truth, I’m a newfound admirer of Childish Gambino’s work, as this album is a musical experience that could fly in both the 1970s & 2017… this shit is jammin… and I for one don’t care about the TV show or the Migos look or any of that social media fame - but THIS ALBUM is a deviation from all that, and all real musicians need to take notice - as Awaken, My Love! Is a work of art that transcends genres and is high quality in every way... MAJOR RESPECT is due to Ludwig Goransson who basically co-produced the entire album, and otherwise shoutout to Gambino, who is a legitimate rock star that I never thought I’d rock with 👌