Childish Gambino shines on label debut

Charlotte Kyle
Features Editor

Photo courtesy of iTunes

Rapper Childish Gambino has a handful of mix tapes under his belt, but “Camp” is the first album fans will be able to hold in their hands. It’s also the first album Donald Glover, the man behind the moniker, is actually selling. It was well worth the wait and is well worth the price.

Glover, best known for his role as Troy Barnes on NBC’s “Community,” is not just an actor-turned-rapper. If you want to get technical, he’s a creative force to be reckoned with, with credits as a writer, actor, comedian and musician. One would not be crazy to suspect Glover has a time machine and that’s how he’s able to accomplish so much at the same time.

His jack-of-all-trades attitude comes off on tracks as he drops lines such as “I won’t stop until they say James Franco is the white Donald Glover.”

The album begins with “Outside,” a track which has Glover reflecting upon his childhood. This is not the first time he has opened up about growing up, but this definitely goes into more detail on the hardships his family faced.

He describes his family’s fear for their own safety after an uncle’s address book is stolen – his mom had the kids sleep with screwdrivers under their pillows.

The song features less pop culture references and quips than his other tracks; this one is just an emotional and raw look into his past.

“Street took you over, I want my cousin back / the world’s saying what you are because you’re young and black.”

The hook, which features a group of singers, shines light on the promise of a world out there if “we go outside.”

The song is easily one of the best on the album.

“Fire Fly” ages Glover a bit, with the track focusing on his progress as a rapper. It is an excellent example of his style, with pop culture references ranging from “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” to fleshlights.

“All I do is make the stuff I would’ve liked, reference things I wanna watch, reference girls I wanna bite,” he raps.

The stuff he likes – the nerd culture and fairly intelligent puns – is a double-edged sword. It often causes haters to say he “acts white,” but it also helps broaden his audience to a point where it’s not about race. It’s just about people liking things. I don’t listen to a lot of rap but I genuinely enjoy everything about his songs.

“Bonfire” is this album’s “Freaks and Geeks,” which essentially means that it’s incredible. It’s rough, with sirens and alarms opening the track and a haunting chorale backing his verses.

The album is not for the easily offended or faint of heart. Glover does not censor himself when it comes to sex and race. He even calls out those who have criticized his vulgarity and offensiveness on “Backpackers.”

When it comes down to it, if you’re not OK with swears and sexual songs you won’t find much here to approve of. Not every song solely focuses on those topics, but at least one line slips in most songs.

“Heartbeat” features some of the raunchier lyrics. The music, meanwhile, is like a dirty version of the “Tron: Legacy” soundtrack paired with heartbeat-esque drums. It’s one of the catchiest tracks, combining a smooth hook with low, emotional verses.

“L.E.S.” is an ode to New York girls and a love-hate relationship with hipsters. The song features a lot of contradictions and features one of the best lines of the albums as Glover breaks his usual rhyme scheme to say: “I’m a mess / That don’t rhyme with shit / that’s just true.”

The album ends with the nearly eight-minute “That Power” which goes into a spoken-word track around the 3:20 mark. Glover tells a beautiful, poetic story of coming home from camp at age 13 and describes his crush on the girl next to him.

“A girl who’s smart, and funny, and who, if I say something dumb for a laugh, is willing to say something two or three times as dumb to make me laugh,” he says. The details get specific, down to T-shirt colors and hair tie lines.

It puts the listener into the moment, bringing the album to a quiet close. Glover sounds as if he’s opening his soul up to the audience.

“Camp” is not a perfect concept album, but this moment ties the rest into a nice package, a duffel bag ready to be tossed into a bunk at summer camp. The album is strong from start to finish and was definitely worth the wait.

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