Childish Gambino, AKA Donald Glover

You may not know it, but you probably have seen or heard something that has to do with Donald Glover

By Hunter Edwards
Music Career

Donald Glover, known as Childish Gambino when it comes to music, has been releasing music since 2009 when he dropped a pair of independent albums, Poindexter and Sick Boi, then two mixtapes, I am Just a Rapper and I am Just a Rapper 2, later in 2010.

Even after three projects however, Gambino didn’t really get his start until he released the song “Freaks and Geeks” which was used in an Adidas commercial in 2011. This put Gambino on the map and soon after he was signed by Glassnote Records. Under his new label, Gambino released his first studio album, Camp, catching the eye of many and attracting a whole new fanbase.

Camp is home to the songs “Bonfire”, “Kids”, and “Heartbeat” which many people still listen to today. With Camp came a whole new life for Gambino. Interview after interview, radio show after radio show, and a tour where he’d meet all kinds of new artists to help him further his career. After the success of Camp started to fade, Gambino decided to release a mixtape called Royalty. On the tape, Gambino was able to pair up with artists like ScHoolboy Q, Ab-Soul, Danny Brown, Chance the Rapper and more.

Camp and Royalty showcase Gambino’s ability to rap concise lyrics in a way that nobody really has before. Not only was he rapping something new, but his producer, Ludwig Göransson, was bringing a lot of new techniques to the music industry. Together, the two made a name for Childish Gambino that was only getting started.

In December of 2013, Gambino released Because the Internet. This was the album that really captured almost everyone’s attention. Gambino started to experiment with new song structures and new sounds to set himself apart. For people who hadn’t heard Gambino’s music before, Because the Internet was a great introduction. However, some of the songs may have weirded people out with the vocal effects put on Gambino’s voice or the random switch ups in the beats. Although, for existing Gambino fans, this was a refreshing surprise to see what he could really do as an artist.

After Because the Internet’s success, Gambino followed up with a pair of projects he released on October 2, 2014: A mixtape with styles following that of traditional Atlanta trap, STN/MTN and an EP to cater to his more “pop” like fans titled Kauai. Since Kauai, Gambino had abandoned his music fans to follow other media interests.

However on December 2, Gambino released his new album Awaken, My Love! This new album may come as a shock to those who only like one certain genre, but for most there is something to enjoy. Gambino decided to take a more funk/soul route this time. There is no rapping heard in the album; instead, it’s filled with Gambino singing in a different way in almost every song. From start to finish, Gambino is able to keep the listener interested by surprising them with sound effects and different moods behind each song. Whether it’s police brutality like in the song “Boogieman” or the very personal message about his fear of his girlfriend taking his son from him, Gambino has a very clear and powerful message behind each song.

Acting

Glover first got his start in acting as a college student in school projects, but he would soon be seen playing as an extra on Late Night with Conan O’Brien in 2005. Since then, Glover has come a long way with his acting career. He’s made appearances on 30 Rock, The Muppets and even voice acting for Adventure Time and The Regular Show on Cartoon Network. Some of his more notable roles are seen in movies like The Martian, Magic Mike XXL and The Lazarus Effect.

However, before the movies, Glover could have been seen playing Troy Barnes on the show Community. Glover has recently announced that he will be playing in a 2018 Star Wars film as Lando Calrissian, and Spiderman: Homecoming releasing sometime in 2017. Most recently, Glover can be seen starring in his own FX TV show, Atlanta.

Writing

Glover’s background in writing comes from his degree in dramatic writing from New York University. From there, he became a writer for 30 Rock and won a few awards during his time there. After a short break from writing to focus on music, Glover wrote a full length screenplay to go with his album Because the Internet. The screenplay told a story that is carried out in his music with subtle narrative elements to progress the story past the screenplay itself.

Glover also used his writing skills to create the FX show Atlanta, which received a 100 percent rating from Rotten Tomatoes. Atlanta is used as an outlet for Glover to bring attention to social issues in the African American community with a comedic twist to make it enjoyable for anyone to watch. Season one of Atlanta ended just before his release of the album Awaken, My Love! on December 2, and has already been confirmed for a second season.

Awaken, My Love!

On Gambino’s genre-breaking, third studio album, he explores a new sound. Usually, Gambino’s sound is more “mainstream” rap and with some R&B elements. His previous albums and mixtapes have been focused strictly on rapping over a mix of experimental and traditional rap beats. However, with the following he’s gathered throughout the years with his previous projects, Gambino feels a bit more comfortable with his creativity.

This might explain the genre change from rap to a soulful funk. When listening to the album, you might think it’s something out of the 60’s funk era until the lyrics reveal new socially-relevant messages. For the hardcore Gambino fan, this album is refreshing, new style that will open up listeners to a whole new genre.

Ultimately, this album showed just what Gambino can really do musically. This is a vocal-heavy album with mostly raw recordings of Gambino’s voice except for a little bit of autotune here and there to make it sound like a 21st century album. For first time listener, go back and listen to Gambino’s previous projects and then come back to Awaken, My Love! and notice the vast difference in style.

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