Full disclosure, I’m a big Donald Glover (a.k.a. Childish Gambino) fan. I was first turned on to his mixtapes back in 2010, and it was a game changer for me. His songs were relatable and also emotionally raw. At the time, he was a young writer on 30 Rock that had the whole world in front of him. He was basically where I fantasized myself being in 5 years. But you know life doesn’t work that way. But hard work, determination, and a passion for what he did are basically what he practiced and preached. And that’s what I find myself doing today.
With that being said, I did have some reservations about his latest album, “Awaken, My Love!” It’s only 11 tracks, and it wasn’t rap. Rap is what Childish Gambino is known for (hell he got his name from an online Wu Tang Clan name generator), and a majority of his fans anticipated another rap album. The first single, Redbone, was released ahead of the album. And although I was immediately caught off guard with funky instrumentals, the vocal threw me even more for a loop. I wondered if he produced this album rather than actually sing it. But I was wrong.
With the album’s release, I found more conceptual funk tracks that defied his niche. And after the first listen, I only liked a couple of tracks such as Me and Your Mama and California. But the more I listened to the album, it began to grow on me and I kind of understand what he was doing with the album.
The fact of the matter is, since he first came on the music scene, he was a “black nerd” that had a hard time with girls and struggled with life as an actor, writer, comedian, and musician. That theme continued into his EP, but he found a little bit of fame and “celebrity” along the way. His first debut album reflected the success that he found with his mixtapes and in his writing and acting career. It showed that although he was famous, he still didn’t know what to expect from life. He then released another mixtape, Royalty, in which he experimented with his sound and reflected his new reality of life and fame. That theme again showed up in his second album, Because of the Internet, in which I think also serves as a commentary of technology and its affect on society.
With “Awaken, My Love!” we see his evolution as an artist; where he can’t be defined by labels. He’s come to grips that he is all of these things, a modern day renaissance man. And this album, along with his entire career, is something we rarely see in many of today’s artists. It’s a nod to funk of the past, but gives it a very modern, conceptual twist.
I usually listen to albums while driving. And for the past couple of months, I listened to this album while driving at night. I find myself having these moments where I have to pull on the side of the road and just listen. I soak in the track and hear something that I didn’t notice before or something that just catches me. I very rarely have moments like these with most of today’s artists and albums. And sometimes I even have a philosophical, existential moment. I think this album will be timeless, and I give it a 5/5 stars.