Thursday, December 12, 2013

Childish Gambino – Because the Internet (2013) – Review

Review: Childish Gambino is back with his second studio album Because the Internet, following up his first Camp – an album that I really liked, but overall saw very mixed reactions. In between, Gambino also released a good mixtape with a few great songs called Royalty.

Because the Internet is highly ambitious musically, again showing off Donald Glover and Ludwig Goransson’s producing ability (something that also really shined on Camp). This album explores a lot of different sounds and rhythmic schemes to great effect. In this way, it does not sound like anything else in hip hop right now (which is a good thing). It is nice to see artists pushing the boundaries of the genre.

Thematically, Glover addresses the phenomenon of the internet in today’s culture – something he seems to have a somewhat negatively skewed perspective of, in that the internet allows for anonymous negativity towards artistic output and ambition on message boards, blogs and so on as well as proper online critical sites (this probably stemming from the harsh reviews his music has received by some, like Pitchfork) – how everything is very public and exploded by clicks-driven media (let us be honest, American media has become abysmal, far beyond embarrassing, just mean spirited, ill-informed, and completely uncaring – as if people ‘in the public’ are no longer human beings afforded the same rights as the rest of us; it is shameful). The album has a dark, angry feel and in many ways feels like a companion piece to Yeezus (a talented artist just fed up with the way the system works).

As a rapper, Glover is very talented. He nimbly navigates his beats with varying tones and flow styles. His voice at times sounds disinterested, as though what he is telling the listener are truths that they should already know, and he is forced to repeat himself over again because people are just not getting it, getting him. But, this is an aesthetic choice, to match his whole persona that he has developed during the year – that of a dejected, misunderstood artist. This choice is probably going to rub some fans and critics the wrong way, but the talent is undeniable.

I have said this in many other reviews of hip hop albums, but I like and respect the fact that Glover has delivered an album that primarily revolves around his own voice. There are no guest verses, with Chance The Rapper, Jhene Aiko, and Azealia Banks featuring in more backing roles. Too often hip hop albums, both good and bad, are overcrowded.

Because the Internet does not completely jump out at the listener with very catchy tracks like Camp did (the singles are good – songs like Crawl, Worldstar, Sweatpants, and 3005 – but the deep tracks are even better). However, it is one of the most ambitious and creative hip hop albums of the year – one very much worth checking out. 4/5

Essential Tracks:
1)     Life: The Biggest Troll (Andrew Auemheimer) – Produced by Donald Glover and Ludwig Goransson
2)     No Exit – Produced by Donald Glover and Ludwig Goransson
3)     Crawl – Produced by Donald Glover and Christian Rich

Available on: Digital Download

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