A Child Grows Up

“Community” Star Shows Off His Maturing Musical Talent


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Childish Gambino – “Because the Internet

Childish Gambino, aka Donald Glover, is a man of many talents. He got his start by doing stand-up comedy and writing for “30 Rock.” During his stint as Troy Barns on the NBC series “Community,” he started releasing mixtapes online. His two breakout mixtapes, “I Am Just a Rapper and the sequel “I Am Just a Rapper 2,” had him rapping about women, partying and being an outsider over beats constructed from indie rock samples. His 2011 debut, “Camp,” saw him rapping about being an outsider. Since those projects, Glover really grew up. That maturity shows on his latest release, “Because the Internet.”

“Because the Internet” chronicles the story of a young rich boy and his life; from falling in love, to his want of isolation, to his breakdown. Thematically, it recalls the themes of Kanye West’s “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.” A person at the top of the world slowly reveals their insecurities and eventually breaks down. That’s hard to get from the album though. The album includes a 72-page screenplay that tells the story that goes with music (you can find it at  becausetheinter.net). The album stands well enough on its own to enjoy without the screenplay; it just helps to get the story right.

The story is hidden in the lyrics, which range from surprisingly witty to cringeworthy. Witty lines like “bought friends like I’m TBS” from “Life: The Biggest Troll” or “We spend it with no shame, we blow that like Coltrane, we in here like Rogaine” from “3005” are peppered throughout the album. But lines like “I gotta wait in line for that/ Ain’t nobody got time for that/ Ain’t nobody gotta rhyme with that” from “Crawl” come off as lazy. Gambino’s bars are littered with references to all things internet. Things like Uber, Instagram, “Ain’t nobody got time for that,” and hashtags are referenced often. His lyrics and flow draw heavy inspiration from people like Lil Wayne. A lot of metaphors, rapid fire lines, and mild wordplay dominate the album for the most part. Songs like “Worldstar,” which has more of a trap/drill music influence, and the latter half of the album, which focuses more on singing, forgo the Weezy influence. On “No Exit,” Gambino channels Captain Murphy and utilizes voice changers in his rapping, pitch shifting his voice up and down to give a surreal, dark feeling matching the lyrics. The vocal delivery is more varied than his past projects, opting for a less nasally flow on some songs.

The beats on “Because the Internet” are really good. Gambino and composer Ludwig Göransson (known for his work on “Community among other sitcoms) manage to make a very impressive soundscape that feels like spending a day in Los Angeles. Between that and the trap influence, the beats sound like Flying Lotus and TNGHT. Gambino uses familiar hip-hop drum patterns and mixes it with uncommon synths and melodies to create a great atmosphere. The sounds and beats on the first half of the album could have come straight off of a Flying Lotus album. On the first half of the album, the beats have a heavy influence from trap music. It ends up creating an uptempo energy that compliments Gambino’s lyrics, especially on “Crawl”, “Sweatpants”, and “Worldstar.” The second half of the album slows things down and brings more singing. These instrumentals become more indie-rock sounding, while still keeping the LA influence.

Overall, the album is very good, but suffers from a need for a clearer narrative. Gambino’s lyrics have stayed roughly the same, for better or worse. Fans of Lil Wayne and Jay Z’s lyrics will be comfortable. The beats are very impressive throughout the album. While Gambino’s most recent effort isn’t perfect, it is worth a listen.