“I’ma die a legend, that’s how it was ‘sposed to be”
First things first — Stunna Gambino is not a new project merging Stunna 4 Vegas and Childish Gambino. Can you even picture the two being a good match stylistically? Me neither but I’ve seen unusual crossover projects work before. Anyway what we have here is (according to his PR packet) a young man from Washington Heights who has been trying to break into the music industry since he was 12. Since he’s only 20 now you can draw the obvious conclusion about his come up, but if it isn’t that obvious I’ll spell it out for you — Stunna Gambino is a SoundCloud rapper. While there are some people who use that phrase as a pejorative, it’s the literal truth here. Gambino built his following off uploading his music online, and when he got popular enough he parlayed that into a record deal. It’s who he is and how he got where he is today.
Now the pejorative part of “SoundCloud rapper” comes from the fact that the genre became defined by emcees who were heavily modulating their vocals into a syrupy sing-song delivery. The stereotype is that SoundCloud or “mumble rappers” abuse both over the counter and prescription drugs ranging from codeine to Xanax, and that they are incredibly hard to understand thanks to being drugged up and AutoTuned. I think like all stereotypes this paints an entire group in a way that’s unfair and incredibly detrimental. Just because you got your start on SoundCloud doesn’t mean that you’re automatically going to sound like Juice WRLD or Fetty Wap.
I wish I could say that Stunna Gambino is the rapper who breaks the mold and proves the SoundCloud detractors wrong. I also wish that Russia hadn’t invaded Ukraine and that the COVID-19 pandemic never happened. Wishing doesn’t make it so and “Vultures Don’t Kry” is everything you expect it to be. He even uploaded it to SoundCloud out of loyalty to the platform that made him famous. He probably has a licensing arrangement that pays him for the streams no matter what service you listen to him on (especially now that he’s a major label artist) so it’s to his benefit to show love even as other platforms have surpassed it in popularity.
It’s also to his benefit to make the kind of music fans of his and/or SoundCloud rap would expect. “Demons” and all of the other tracks here do exactly that. “I got trust issues so I move around with killers/Bitch I am a vulture, don’t confuse me for a villain.” Isn’t that contradictory? I’m not saying that to bust on Mr. Gambino, I’d genuinely like to know how we’re not supposed to confuse him for a villain when he just said he moves with killers. That doesn’t paint the picture of a nice guy — right? That’s someone who could have you merked in a heartbeat. Even if he’s just having a paranoid delusion from all the drugs you could run afoul of his “trust issues” as a result. He sounds paranoid even without drugs on songs like “Everyday Struggles.” Peep:
“Yeah, y’all be some clowns to me
I don’t trust niggaz so I walk ’round with them rounds with me
I don’t trust bitches but my bitch I know it sound funny
This for them niggaz who shitted on me and spoke down on me – for real
I don’t got this laser for no reason boy I shoot to kill
That boy done got his first body, he steady poppin pills”
The production is solid here. Charlie Jay, Ant Chamberlain, Blanco & Crater, Maaui Yahweh, et cetera do a fine job. “Vultures Don’t Kry” isn’t hard to listen to, and at 15 tracks totaling 42+ minutes it’s a far more fully realized effort than a lot of his contemporaries. I can’t knock the sound or diss him for making the music that brought him to the dance to begin with. The issue here isn’t that Stunna Gambino is “bad” per se, it’s that instead of breaking the mold he’s fitting quite comfortably into it. He brings nothing to the conversation that hasn’t already been said, and for an artist with the hype machine he’s got behind him right now that’s just disappointing. I wanted Stunna Gambino to be something brand new but instead this is just more furniture music for the room.