Childish Gambino – Because The Internet – The STiXXclusive Review

To call Donald Glover (otherwise known as Childish Gambino) a character, really doesn’t give who he actually is, any justice. He’s a person that you either like for one thing or the other when it comes to his acting and music. Oddly enough, there are even people who like him for both, but it’s not all the way unanimous for the masses; unless you read Entertainment Weekly who crowned him the new Kanye West (I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS). I’ve been listening to Gambino for a couple of years, and for me it all started with Freaks & Geeks, where I was able to hear a dope flow and some cohesive bars, but was he able to actually make good music? That was the question that I was waiting have answered, but when I heard CAMP, it was pretty clear that he could make some better-than-just-decent-music. Now, as far as him as a person, there was a skepticism as to if he could actually be a good music artist with longevity while maintaining an acting career. Well, in what’s been a wacky year, not only did he announce his departure from acting, and also releasing a rather random short movie called Clapping For The Wrong Reasons, and sparking rumours that he’s dating R&B rising star, Jhene Aiko, it seems like that question would be answered since he was clearly starting to take a progressive step towards the music side.

Now, when it comes down to this album, because the internet, the marketing campaign that Gambino had for this revolved around the aforementioned movie, and also a bunch of random appearances at parks around North America (although I’m sure Toronto was the only Canadian city he went to) to play the album, granted that someone bring speakers (and gloves, because it was pretty chilly). It was unorthodox, and since Kanye West’s promo with the projections across the world, a lot of artists have got creative with their promo (or lack thereof – just ask Beyonce how that worked out for her). After talking to a few people, there was a response that compared the sound of it to (ironically) Kanye West’s Yeezus album, but I could only judge for myself when the album leaked released. What really captured my attention was when he released the Yaphet Kotto (Freestyle) that had a Drake 9AM in Dallas aggression and strength in delivery. It gave me the notion that Gambino was really ready to drop some serious heat for the streets. There were a couple of other tracks that came out as well, but I didn’t listen to them – I just figured I’d listen to the album as a whole. However, the tracklist was pretty weird when it dropped because I saw a bunch of acts along with song titles, which would give off the impression that it was a movie. I thought to myself “that’s a dope concept”, but little did I know that it was really going to be a mini movie (or a screenplay) that was included. I was advised to read the screenplay while listening to the album to gain a broader perspective on the album, so why not?

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There’s a major difference in experience when you listen to the album as whole, and then when you listen to the album while reading the Screenplay. Crawl serves as the opening music to the first scene as you have ‘The Boy’ (being Gambino) as the main subject; the song is based on being fifteen years later from the prelude (I’ll be jumping back and forth between the screenplay and the album) and Gambino is in a phase where he’s going through some trying times. It should be noted, that another element that provides a solemn tone to the album is a little rant that Gambino had about his darkest thoughts and at first, I had the impression that maybe he was having an emotional breakdown, but it was just a serious vent he wanted to get out there – the album would essentially be a long winded version of that. A lot of it has to deal with relationships, and between finding himself and finding love, there’s definitely a personal battle going on. A constant thing that Gambino does is to always drop a question that asks the listener (or perhaps himself) “who is Childish Gambino?” He said it on Unnecessary, he said it in the freestyle with Flying Lotus on Clapping For The Wrong Reasons, and even at the beginning of this track, the first bar is ‘who am I?’ I think the people have an idea, Donald – or do they? I wonder.

With the tracklist being numbered as if there are different acts and scenes within them, it gives you an idea that there’s a particular theme throughout each one, and the first act is a bit rowdy and wild. Where ‘Crawl’ started, WORLDSTAR continued with the thunderous crashes and trap inspired drums. Now, we (unless you’re really not all that into the depths and crevices of the internet) have seen the popularity and the turmoil that WorldStarHipHop has brought to the internet age. People scream ‘WORLDSTAR’ when they think they’re witnessing something so incredible that it’s going to spawn thousands of views, and evidentially, it always happens. Is it stupid? Of course it is, but there are people who literally live for watching Worldstar videos to make themselves feel better about the comforts in their surroundings. The name of the site doesn’t even stand for what it represents (anymore), but that’s for another day to rant about. In the Screenplay, Gambino and his boy Fam are going to a club, and as ‘Bino waits outside, he witnesses an altercation, and what does he happen to do? Pull out his phone and record it. A guy gets shot (*cue in the “WORLDSTAR” shouts), and then all hell breaks loose. When you’re reading through, the music is really set out for when things are supposed to happen at that given time and you can really grasp the environment of the situation, but at the same time, Gambino is saying all that needs to be said about the idiocy that is WorldStarHipHop.

Yeah, motherfucker, take your phone out
To record this
Ain’t nobody can ignore this
I’m more or less, a moral-less individual
Making movies with criminals
Tryin’ to get them residuals
When it all go crazy
When I hear that action, I’m a be Scorsese
(My nigga hold it horizontal man, Be professional)

That would be the ending of the first act as Dial Up would be the transition to The Worst Guys in which features Chance the Rapper (he made an appearance in Clapping For The Wrong Reasons as well), and it was the 2nd time that the two have collaborated since Favorite Song on Acid Rap. There’s no word of a lie that “All she needed was some…” is a line that I’ve seen quite frequently since this song came out (you can fill in the blank as to what ‘she’ needs). This track is dope as hell (the beat alone is crazy), as it highlights the low levelness that guys have (I mean, shoot, we’re made like that sometimes). It’s only too bad that Chance didn’t have a verse (it’s like the same sentiments I had when J.Cole featured Kendrick Lamar on Forbidden Fruit but only for the hook). The significance of this song may not make sense if you don’t read the screenplay, but while this song is happening, ‘The Boy’ is with 2 girls, Sasha & her friend, and they’re teasing him to show them his dick (that should pretty much tell you what she needed). Production wise, there’s some good stuff I’m hearing so far, and how the music is playing out as the soundtrack for the movie, it’s just making the album listening experience that much more intriguing.

Shadows is that relationship struggle that men and women deal with on a regular basis – the arguments and the communication standstill. What do all women ever want from a significant other? Someone to love them, listen to them, and just be there for them. It seems like there’s a bit of an issue with that happening here, although things happened to be going well (hence the Jay Z/Beyonce reference).

Love is Russian roulette, I had the safety on
We popped pills at the Coachella
Hold my head in the weeds, man I can’t tell her
The fear that I feel man it might kill her

I found those lines interesting because when it comes to love, it’s true – you want to do your best to protect feelings at all costs, but when it comes down to having to open up to someone, you’ve got to let the truth come out at point or the other. It’s not a diss song; it’s a real song – a break-up song. And it’s wild that he jumps from one girl and goes to Oakland on Telegraph Ave. to see his ex. It’s love that has him in such a dizzy phase (helluva drug; love is). The production on ‘Shadows’ is wicked, especially when it breaks down in the second half (shout out to Thundercat – who’s signed to Flying Lotus’ label).

The most that I know about the city of Oakland all comes from watching the NFL, and the fact that the Oakland Raiders have been one of the most dismal teams in the NFL for about 15 years or so (at least they have the Golden State Warriors). I saw the realistic side of it when I watched Fruitvale Station which is based on the life of Oscar Grant and the fact that his life was taken by a Transit officer. Besides that, there’s not much that I knew about Oakland since I didn’t listen to a lot of E-40 and Too $hort back in the day, but they were some of the representatives. But when it comes down to this song here, the basis of it stems from professing to an ex and going back and forth with commitment issues. It wasn’t necessarily the fear of being with her, but whereas it wasn’t his scene to be. He didn’t want to stay in Oakland and be stuck in one spot. A lot of people fear getting in too deep with someone where they don’t necessarily know what the outcome will be, but also it’s the state of whether you’re ready to make such a step happen. I didn’t know that Donald is 30 years old, so perhaps, he’s still in that transition where it’s still unclear as to what he wants in his life for the years to come.

Sweatpants (the names for some of these songs are random, yet make sense) is a track that I thought was referenced in CFTWR as “track 7” because when Gambino asked the girl what she thought of it, she said it was alright, but she didn’t think he was scary enough. Now, how this track came to mind was because on it he says:

I’m chillin’, real nigga feeling
Rich kid, asshole, paint me as a villain.

Now, where that all ties in together; I just looked at ‘villain’ and usually they’re some pretty scary folks, so that was my take on it. At this point if you’re reading the screenplay, ‘The Boy’ and his friends are literally in a restaurant and they’re eating. Now, like the notable TDE video taught us, when you’re ‘eating’, it means that you’re making money and you’re pockets are fat (along those words, but you get the idea). This is Gambino stunt raps and (as usual) taking shots towards the people taking shots at him (we all need haters, right?)

Are you eating though? Nigga, are you eating though?
Breakfast, lunch and dinner’s for beginners, you ain’t even know
Never catching cases, why they faces look so e-m-o?
Watch a hater hate me, wanna play me like a piano

During the song (going back to the screenplay), Gambino overhears a group of kids at another booth talking about Roscoe’s Wetsuit (used frequently throughout the movie), and he gets a bit rowdy. When he slams the table at the restaurant, it’s in the same manner in which he’s presenting in the song. It just goes to show you the detail that every song brings to each scene.

3005 comes up when ‘The Boy’ is at someone’s wedding and he’s talking to an older gentleman about marriage and the fact that he doesn’t believe in it. Not only does the song play into that topic presented, but he’s also questioning what’s real to him (friends, love, his future) and that there’s a great deal of uncertainty, but at the same time he wants to be with that someone for as long as he can (I mean, 3005 is a long time away). The video of this song is just him in a Ferris wheel with a Teddy Bear that slowly decays over the duration of the song, and then at the end of it, Gambino’s gone, but the bear still remains. Life’s a cycle and we’re born and we die, but the wheel of life keeps turning.

The Party is where CFTWR starts to make a lot of sense, because the whole movie is based on the day after the party, so this is the party that made all of that happen. The (unfinished) beat for this song was played in the movie, so it’s definitely noticeable right off the bat (only if you watched it). Again it works so well with the screenplay since ‘The Boy’ gets mad at his friends and tells everyone to get out of his house (party pooper – sheesh).

[Something to keep in mind; in the Screenplay, The Boy started smashing everything in sight and a girl with a cast reached out to save her phone before he could save it. Remember the girl in the cast]

After all that happens, and he kicks the people out, he’s restless and decides to take a drive out to collect his thoughts. Exit has a grungy sound that I can understand where the Yeezus comparisons come in, but they’re not on the same scale; not even close, really. Miguel on the hook always makes things better (ask J.Cole how that worked out for him), so it was dope that he was on there. If there was anything that sounded Kanye-ish, it was Death by Numbers (another transition), and I wish this was a full length song, because it was overall wicked how it all came together, and it was also a turning point because he made some sort of drug concoction that landed him in the hospital (I guess he had a really bad trip – don’t do drugs, kids).

Flight of the Navigator was also previewed on CFTWR, and because of the guitar melodies and Gambino talking to himself in the beginning, it reminded me of Andre 3000 when he had the ‘God’ interlude on The Love Below (seriously, the guitar sounds exactly the same), but instead Gambino is in a trance-like state where he’s in a dream sequence, but he’s coming back to reality (hence the vocal effects). Getting into the song and coming back to consciousness, when it begun, the questions start to fly out as Gambino starts to question himself as to how he got to such a state of unknown in his life travels. Death is the theme around this song because there happens to be a death in the Screenplay close to him, so it fits the theme of him wanting to be comforted at this time where he doesn’t want to be alone; he just wants assurance and companionship (it’s not that hard to ask, really).

Zealots of Stockholm (Stockholm, Sweden is where he had to pick up the ashes of the person who died – I won’t spoil it) started off peaceful as to what felt like a simple continuation from ‘Flight’, but all of a sudden it gets crazy and the beat flips out of nowhere. He meets a girl (a follower on Twitter – THE FLY OUT) and chills with her because he didn’t want to be alone, plus he didn’t know anyone in Sweden. They chill for a bit and basically Gambino has processed life & death and just wants to lose himself in someone – understandable. The beat changes up yet again after the 1st and 2nd verses, and the subject matter greatly contrasts each other. The 2nd verse deals with more ideals in society as a whole and why people look at the world the way they do, but Donald’s beliefs aren’t spiritual at all, whereas he just thinks about life on a wider scale like people who don’t believe in God would. In relation to the screenplay, the Swedish girl he meets (Alyssa) is chilling with him with the urn of ashes, she takes it while he goes to make a drink, and she helps him release the ashes to get him out of the funk that he’s going through to get him to shift back to reality and lead him onto going back to living his life. Urn felt like something that Frank Ocean would have made because it was smooth, and the vocals gave it that impression. Letting go of something that’s lost is one of the hardest things to do in life, but it’s the only thing that enables us to continue to move forward with our lives – to live and learn.

When he comes back to the states side in the screenplay, he meets a girl (now, scroll back if you remember when I said to keep in mind of that girl who had the cast on when he was going to smash the phone) and her name happens to be Naomi. Now, you can call it paying attention or obsession, but Jhene Aiko broke her arm around the time this album was being made, and her daughter’s name (which she often short forms it on Instagram) is Nami; add an ‘O’ and there you have it. They have a bit of tension between each other, but then a form of chemistry is solidified between them, and thus Pink Toes highlights just where they are in terms of their relationship where The Boy has taken on the career of drug dealing. You don’t often hear about what it’s like to be the significant other of a drug dealer, but here Jhene goes with her explanation that it’s a conflict of interests, but it’s what she prefers because it’s going to eventually be alright when enough money is made to change their lives. I liked this collaboration between them more than Bed Peace, but you can definitely join the connection between the two when you look at this story and how it’s played out.

He slangs, his yay, through the corridors
Every day, 20 K, yep, at the very least for sure
And they say there’s no way I should stay with someone like you
But I tell them no
There’s no way I could stray, gotta stay with someone like you
Cause I know one day, you could take me away, far away
I know you could pay, all the money you made
There’ll be plenty of sunshine

When The Boy goes to do what needs to be done, something goes wrong, and he gets into a hostile situation. Earth: The Oldest Computer brings things to a climatic point where it’s all about not knowing when our time will come that we see our last day. Its up-tempo pace made it a good fit for Azealia Banks to blend with as it matched with the intense and dramatic ending (I won’t spoil it)

But we don’t give a damn about the next day
We were never here, never know if the world change
Common sense, the consequences
Retweet the tweet then regret the mentions

There’s still a lot of people who aren’t familiar with the term ‘trolling’, so in laments terms, it’s being fooled; people running a joke on your own expense to get a reaction out of it. Life: The Biggest Troll is an emphasis of Gambino saying that life, indeed, is a troll because when we’re born we’re going to die, so we have to make use of the time that we have here. Take it as you may, but that’s a pretty in-depth way to look at it. This album has a lot of internet references that pertain to ‘errors’, websites, and social media. Because of the internet (where the term ‘trolling’ originated), people have been looking at life a stretch different because there’s so much information out there that can be passed in light speed. What’s weird was that the song cut-off abruptly towards the end of what was a very lengthy 2nd verse, and it just played into the irony of the art of trolling – giving you the impression that it was meant that way to happen; who knows.

Donald Glover may have just snuck in and delivered the album of the year, because when you look at Clapping For The Wrong Reasons, the screenplay, and just how all of the music made it cohesive to experience, it’s not like any other album to come out this year (arguably WOLF). Musically, Gambino leveled up from where he led off with CAMP, and even demonstrated that he can drop bars when necessary much like how he did on his ROYALTY mixtape. In terms of the internal battle that he’s having with himself in terms of where he’s going to go in life, the album serves as like a mid-life crisis as a newly turned 30 year old is entering a new chapter in his life with no real notion of how he’s going to tackle it. The topics of love, depression, and his career all make for a very personal album that displays his vulnerability, but at least it’s honest. I thought it was well done, and it’s definitely one that I’d recommend listening to. The screenplay makes the experience better, but on its own, it holds up well.

Realities like allergies, I’m afraid to go nuts
Life’s the biggest troll but the joke is on us
Yeah, the joke’s you showed up

But for now, this is my opinion, this is my review

That’s My Word & It STiXX

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