Most hip-hop fans have already made up their mind on Childish Gambino, the rap alter-ego of Donald Glover. He entered the music industry as a self-proclaimed outsider, pushing music teeming with cheeky wordplay, and often targeted at lampooning hip-hop culture itself. Case in point: His nonsensical name, which was created in a Wu-Tang name generator. As a result, Glover’s music never strayed too far from the swelling chip on his shoulder about the fact nobody believed he could make it in a culture that celebrated the battle-worn and dangerous. But Gambino created a space for himself in the genre with his punchlines, and on each release, from Royalty to Because the Internet, he’s rubbed it in the face of his early doubters.
However, the Childish Gambino that made many a Tumblr dashboard swoon with his effervescent fanboy approach to hip-hop is near unrecognizable on his third studio album, Awaken, My Love!. The album is a departure from Gambino in everything but name; he doesn’t spit any raps and lists no collaborators, A-list or otherwise. What he brings instead is 11 tracks of hypnotic gospel, often coupled with a thundering falsetto that carries undeniable echoes of D'Angelo and Prince.
It amounts to an unapologetically personal statement for Gambino, one that dramatically lifts his artistic persona out of the kitsch and into more consequential and eternal subject matter. They’re songs about desperate, soul-consuming love, the joys and responsibilities of fatherhood and inter-generational pain. Ultimately, it doubles as an unofficial counterpart to the ambitious new series Atlanta that he created, wrote and starred in. To that end, the Pharos event that introduced this new Gambino music also aired three episodes of the series for attendees.
Anyone else think it’s hilarious that J. Cole is rapping about how biting is a problem in Hip-hop on his new track? He’s literally rapping over Joey’s “Waves” beat lmao! What was that about biting Cole?
We already know we’re in for one heck of a ride from the get go when we first plunge into Ride. It glowers darkly and whirls ominously before SWIMS’ emotive gripping voice kicks in. Deep resounding bass builds quite the white knuckled backdrop for this moody pining, somber aching electro R&B ballad. As it turns out, I’ve just learned despite falling for SWIMS’ music for quite some time now that the London based project is a collaboration between Moving Castle co-founder and producer AObeats alongside singer and producer SAKIMA. No wonder I’ve been drawn to their sound together. In many ways, SWIMS’ Ride and plenty of their other tense transfixing tunes have reminded me of EDEN gone The Weeknd and Drake. SWIMS has a debut EP in the works to look forward to. In the meantime, you can purchase Ride now from iTunes.