"Set the game ablaze, I'm an arcade fire."
You might know comedian Donald Glover from his role as Troy on the NBC sitcom, Community, or from his hilarious comedy troupe, Derrick Comedy, and their millions of hits on YouTube. However, Glover is also known as Childish Gambino, his gangster rapper alter ego. Not only is Glover a talented humourist, but it's clear he is also a gifted wordsmith and rap artist.
Although I hate this meets that comparisons as mostly lazy writing, that's exactly what I am about to do. Glover's Childish Gambino is a musically intense and pompous yet talented Kanye West meets ironic but comedic Eddie Murphy.
Don't expect too polished a sound or rhythm but the beats are there. The rawness and visceral feel of his rhymes are eclectic. His five self-released EPs and albums since 2008 are progressive and flow naturally. Glover releases all his music for free.
That said, EP is probably Glover's most finished work with songs like "Freaks and Geeks" (bottom) and "Not Going Back" that show a sense of artistic maturity. His raps are often vulgar and explicit but always creatively subversive and sublime. I would tempted to call his music geek rap if his lyrics were not so explicit.
His I'm a Just a Rapper mixtape and its follow up from last year are furiously quick-beated entries with dizzying dynamics. Glover subverts the genre by playing up to racial stereotypes. All the ridiculousness of his lyrics burst at the seams with a biting humour that upon further thought reveals itself brilliantly.
Unfamiliar with Glover's comedic streak, Childish Gambino would play as a humourless, serious, straightforward thuggish gangster rap effort. However, Glover brings this ultra straight man sensibility in a manner that works on multiple levels. There's even an great Tumblr blog dedicated to his rhymes mocking any sophistication. For the curious, his rap name comes from a random Wu-Tang Clan name generator.
The hardcore lyrics mixed with his quick wit sharpened from a fresh out of college stint as a staff writer for the Emmy-winning sitcom 30 Rock, set everything figuratively on (arcade) fire. Even his references to the aforementioned show's star and creator, Tina Fey, are sprinkled throughout.
You can download the new Childish Gambino EP for free here. Glover and Gambino hit Vancouver on Aprill 22 at the Commodore Ballroom.
Photo | Bernard Evans