Donald Glover is best known as a comedian and the star of Community. But as of late he’s made a name for himself as a rapper who goes by the name of Childish Gambino. His new album, Camp, comes out November 15th, but you can hear the whole thing now on NPR.
If you listen to Camp on a computer, do yourself a favor and open up Wikipedia and Urban Dictionary in separate tabs. Childish Gambino’s lyrics are so dense with analogies and comedic references that you’ll need those reference guides to decode some of his verses. While his lyrical content is fresh, he consistently circles back to a handful of topics: the trials and tribulations of high school, the feeling of never being “hard” enough or “black” enough to satisfy his peers, the many people who have called him gay, and his fondness for Asian women.
That said, it’s the rapper’s honesty that keeps things interesting. Glover owns his nerdiness and wears his insecurities on his sleeve. Nowhere is this theme displayed more clearly than in the album’s outro, in which he brings listeners right onto the bus with him as he comes home from summer camp at age 13, and tells a story that perfectly evokes the universal sting of rejection. Where does Childish Gambino fit into the the royal bloodline of rap? He characterizes himself best in a line from “Bonfire”: “Rap’s stepfather — yeah, you hate me, but you will respect.”
The shit is tight, too, btw. I’ve largely avoided any and all Donald Glover rapping things, mostly because Donald Glover rapping. I didn’t want his music to ruin or affect my appreciation for his comedy. But man, he’s got some serious skills.