Gambino gives Rap a Wrap

Sidney Richardson

Childish Gambino, aka Donald Glover, at a concert in Austin, Texas. Image taken from

Childish Gambino, aka Donald Glover, released his new album “Awaken, My Love” on December 2nd. This was his 11th album overall and fifth since he emerged into the music scene with his single “Freaks and Geeks” in 2011.
Early on, it was quite clear that Glover was dedicated to his raps, as shown by his early album “I Am Just A Rapper” and it’s sequel “I Am Just A Rapper 2.” This most recent album was highly anticipated by his large fan base and was led by early releases of singles “Redbone” and “Me and Your Mama.”
“Awaken, My Love” gained praise for the production value and the work put into it, but for some fans like myself, it was disappointing. I’ve loved Childish Gambino both as a person and a rapper, and have grown fond of his style of rapping. But lately, with his newest album as well as its predecessor “Late Night in Kauai,” there has been zero rapping. Gambino took more of a singing approach in Kauai, which, though executed very well, is a letdown.
Senior Gabe Runyon believes that Gambino is trying to take a new angle in his work. He, like me, isn’t too happy with the outcome.
“I always thought that Childish Gambino made his music for himself and what’s going on with his life. However with this album, I don’t know if he’s trying to be something new or appeal to a more popular audience and do it for the money. Overall, I’m disappointed that Childish Gambino tried to be something different entirely,” said Runyon.
It appears that this time, he may have pushed the envelope too far. I don’t like this identity change that Childish has gone through. I want the older Childish Gambino back, primarily the one we saw in his album “Camp,” which showcased his lyrical artistry with masterpieces like “Bonfire” and “Heartbeat” that were each released in 2011.
His lyrical genius and unique flow that bring an almost quirky nerdiness to rap has been something that I’ve grown very fond of, and its absence in his newest works is disappointing. Glover has a very unique voice and large vocabulary that he showed off in his earlier works. Like in his 2013 hit “Sweatpants,” he rapped “I got more tail than that Petco, you faker than some Sweet’N Low,” Gambino showcases his cleverness.
His quirkiness and unique persona was put on display in many of his music videos where he often raps while holding a stony faced glare as a variety of crazy things happen around him. Like in his 2013 video for “3005” when he is seen sitting on a ferris wheel with a large teddy bear and with each revolution the apocalypse surrounding him grew more apparent and the teddy bear began to deteriorate. And all the while, Gambino holds his steady fast paced flow with a poker face that could be matched by few.
That quirkiness seems to be gone in “Awaken, My Love” as the videos are now mellow and there is an absence of his unique rap style that have become characteristic of his work. There is no showcase of his vocabulary, rapping ability or odd personality.
As an isolated album, completely separate from his past works, it’s not terrible. The beats are relaxing. Glover utilizes a variety of unique rhythms and vocal ranges across the entirety of the album. At some points, there is even an absence of vocals which can be offputting to some. It’s a somewhat new style that comes off as edgy and different. It’s not something you’d party to or jam out with friends in the car. It’s more like something that you would listen to while studying or before bed.
However, I don’t like this album, instead of meeting my expectations, I got something completely different. The album was expected by some to be Gambino’s return to rapping and instead was met with his entry into a whole new genre. Many find it very weird for a rapper to have his two most recent albums contain no rap.
This album isn’t really for those who are like me and are waiting for a return to a time where Childish Gambino was a rapper. I think he’s trying to reach a whole new audience. At this point, perhaps we will never see Childish return to the rap game.