If I were a rapper, I would be Childish Gambino.
Like myself, Glover grew up as an awkward Black kid in The “New” South. It’s a rather fascinating world where you could have friends of multiple races and faces, yet still face the consequences of living in an area of the country still tainted by segregation. So in turn, Glover was most likely picked on for being the smartest kid in class, for liking comic books, and the like–and most likely by Black people more than his White counterparts.
So lies the complexities within Donald Glover’s alter ego Childish Gambino. Let’s let the cat out of the bag,Gambino is kind of a fake. In this character, he manages to rip off every rapper imaginable, from Drake, to Wayne to (and most notably) Kanye. Now, of course he raps very well, almost besting his influences in some cases, but honestly as far as a rapper he brings nothing new to the table.
However, where Camp wins is not in it’s cadence but in it’s content. Childish Gambino might just be the best out of the class of so-called “post-racial” rappers. Sure he raps about girls (on “Kids”), but the most poignant lyrics deal with his insecurities as a “smart” Black guy in a still White world. Let’s face it, Glover is America’s Black friend, a dude that’s well-spoken, articulate, and can debate you on Star Wars until late in the night. But being that friend is tough. You’re either too Black or not Black enough. Those types of racial identities take a toll, and Glover’s ability to bring this to the forefront is where he shines.
On “Hold You Down,” he speaks of not getting held down by “the man,” but his own people. It’s aimed at the Black people in this world never gave him is “ghetto pass.” Again, as a dude who got teased for being the smartest person in class, I know the feeling. But the choice line from this song completely destroys the haters: “Culture shock in barber shops cause I ain’t hood enough/we all look the same to the cops/Is that hood enough?”
Add to this his opening lines on “Backpackers,”That well spoken token that’s never been heard, the only White rapper that’s allowed to say the n-word.” A marvelous play on words if you ask me.
The beautiful thing about this album is that these lines are delivered with such ferocity. Unlike Drake, Kid Cudi, or even Kanye, Glover sees his insecurities as a badge of honor. It’s almost like he’s screaming “Hey, I’m the nerdy Black kid from NYU, but fuck YOU. I got more money than any of y’all and I’m banging your girl. WHUT Nigga?”
With the Black unemployment rate nearing 20%, most people will dismiss Gambino’s diatribes as #FirstWorldProblems. But there is more than that. Gambino shows the true complexities of race is living, vivid color. As a writer and actor, Glover has played his greatest role yet.
8.5 out of 10.