Donald Glover owns an enviable position in two different worlds – successful as an actor/comedian on shows like NBC’s “Community,” and successful as Childish Gambinoin the music world. Owing to his success as an actor, many people were skeptical as to whether or not he was serious about hip-hop. Glover’s response was to refine his craft over a series of free mixtapes, showing gradual improvement from one to the next, each time vowing that he was taking his rapping as seriously as his acting. I can’t speak for every critic out there, but as for me Glover earned my respect with his dedication. I’ve come to consider him a “two sport star” for the modern generation – he is to the early 2010’s what Will Smith was to the early 1990’s. He may even have the same upside as a Hollywood movie star, but only time will tell.
“Because the Internet” is the latest chapter in the Gambino saga. It’s also his most ambitious album to date. Glover has structured the album into sets that number anywhere from 2 to 5 tracks. You could consider each one books on a shelf, lined up from left to right, and each book being its own mini-album. That doesn’t mean you can’t read a chapter out of any book at random if you so choose. In fact the fifth chapter of one book is “3005” and that’s been branched out of the album as a single with an accompanying music video, which for your enjoyment we’ve included below.
“Yeah, mi casa su casa, got a stripper like Gaza
Got so high off volcanoes, now the flow is so lava
Yeah, we spit that saliva, iPhone got message from Viber
Either the head is so hydra, or we let bygones be bygones
‘My God, you pay for your friends?’ I’ll take that as a compliment
Got a house full of homies, why I feel so the opposite?
Incompetent ain’t the half of it
Saturdays we Young Lavish-ing
Saddest shit, is I’m bad as it
These they took from the cabinet (woah)
Sorry, I’m just scared of the future
‘Til 3005, I got your back, we can do this, hold up”
It’s more than remarkable that Gambino manages to juggle his acting and lyric writing with producing, and although he has co-producers throughout (most notably Ludwig GÃ¶ransson) it’s still extra work he’s putting in. It’s hard to find an area that Gambino has slacked in out of the three – the quality throughout “Because the Internet” is consistent. It’s not a short album either – most versions have no less than 19 songs. Some tracks like “Flight of the Navigator” are almost six minutes long. Phoning it in? Not even close. Glover put in some work. As for “Navigator,” Glover shows his versatility in another area on this track, singing as opposed to rapping. He’s added some extra distortion to his voice, either because he likes the sound or because he lacks confidence singing, but he reminds me of Frank Ocean when crooning and should try it more often.
“I fell in love again
And none of this ever ended
Everything just kept going, and going and going
And even when you laughed, when you cried
And even when you were sad you were really happy
Because you were here
And I got to meet every star, every planet
Everything that made me
And we all kissed
And became the same”
If there’s any kind of downside to Donald Glover becoming increasingly serious as an artist, morphing into his own version of Kid Cudi or Tyler, the Creator, it’s that something of the playful comedic nature of his earlier free mixtapes has been lost. There are hints here and there on songs like “Sweatpants” and “Pink Toes” featuring Jhene Aiko, but I don’t think we’ll get back to him trading bars with mc chris or Chaz Kangas any time soon.
This is a difficult spot to be in because I want Glover to take rapping seriously, and if he wants to make artistic visionary albums instead of jokes, I can’t fault him. It’s fair to say he’s not a Childish Gambino any more though – he’s an Adult Gambino. He grew up, and put away Childish things. I fear if he takes himself TOO seriously from this point forward he’ll lose what made him an interesting rapper in the first place. He may be a success “Because (of) the Internet,” but he shouldn’t have to prove his art to them or anyone else. Glover can make art and still have fun. I hope he’ll try.