Alright, Gambino is a Mastermind

by JG

F**k a bitch to pass the time. Mass appeal, orange rind, smoke your green I’m spending mine.

No lyric better exemplifies the combination of wit and rapping flow of rapper Childish Gambino than the opening lyrics to “Freaks and Geeks”, a single released for free earlier this year. These few words cover some of the main topics that fill up Childish Gambino raps; his proclivity to scoring with women, his wide fanbase, and of course, his excellent wordplay. The mass appeal / mass a peel wordplay and the double meaning of “green” to reference both Marijuana and money is simply put, genius.

Childish Gambino is also one of the few rappers out there that writes, raps, and produces his own work, sometimes using the seemingly redundant pseudonym “mcDJ”. With the help of producer Ludwig Göransson, he has gone from free mixtapes such as Culdesac and the aforementioned EP to release his first studio album, Camp, under indie label Glassnote. The label is known for indie rockers that have achieved recent success including Phoenix and Mumford & Sons, but Gambino is the first major rapper under their imprint.

He’s known better professionally not as Childish Gambino or mcDJ, but as actor/comedian/writer Donald Glover. The fact that it took so long to even mention his real name is a testament to his many gifts.

When he was just 22 and still an RA at an NYU dorm, Glover got hired as one of the first writers for 30 Rock, before the show was even on the air. He’s also developed a cult following for his work with sketch comedy group Derrick Comedy. The group is known for making popular web videos and for producing and releasing their own feature film, Mystery Team, in 2009.

With all these other talents and distractions, Glover remains focused on his budding rap career. Camp is his first studio album, the first one not offered for free. In it, Gambino often raps about the difficulties he faced as a child. From an early age, Glover had trouble fitting in. He was considered too black by his white classmates but, at the same time, too white by his black classmates, a fact he brings up in “Hold You Down”, going on to say he wasn’t considered “black” because his father was still around.

Glover was also teased for the way he dressed and spoke, bringing up the constant hate in “You See Me”; ” ‘What is he wearing? Somebody jack that fool’s steeze’ If I’m a faggot spell it right, I got way more than two G’s”. Many of Glover’s raps are similar to the one above, in your face, and not worried about offending anyone. In “Backpackers”, he even brings up the 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech, (“I got a girl on my arm dude, show respect. Something crazy, an Asian, Virginia Tech”), and in the final line of his first single, “Bonfire”, he raps; “The shit I’m doin’ this year? Insanity Made the beat then murdered it, Casey Anthony”.

Though many of his lines may seem offensive to some, that’s not what Camp is about. It’s more about his growth as an artist. He continues to use rock songs as samples, but songs like “Heartbeat”, which starts slow before being infused with a heavy-sounding House beat, and “L.E.S.” show that despite the title of his first major mixtape, he is not just a rapper. The dude can sing too.

Note: all of his mixtapes can be downloaded for free, legally, here. Just look at the right side of the site under “pages”. Downloader beware, of course, but you should feel no shame in downloading these, they’re mixtapes.

You can also listen to Camp for free, in it’s entirety, here.