Childish Gambino - Awaken, My Love!

by Nathan Fidler Rating:9 Release Date:2016-12-02

It’s been a pretty good year for Donald Glover, aka Childish Gambino, having become a father, delivered his own television series ‘Atlanta’ and landed a coveted role as Lando Calrissian in the upcoming Star Wars spin-off. Now he’s releasing his third studio album under his musical guise, moving him out of the rap game and into something altogether more soulful.

When ‘Me And Your Mama’ landed as the tease for the album it took many by surprise, a soulful outburst (“Do what you want!” Glover bellows) sandwiched between some pleasant but unassuming ambient music. ‘Redbone’ followed suit, offering an even funkier turn complete with high pitch vocal manipulation and bouncing bass.

What’s prompted such a dramatic change from Because The Internet? Well, ‘Baby Boy’ would seem to signal that the struggles of managing being a parent have shaped this effort in conjunction with Glover’s own admission of looking back on the music his own parents listened to. “When momma cries from daddy’s lies” and “Don’t take my baby boy” gives the impression things might not be going smoothly in this respect, but whatever’s happening behind the scenes, we’re certainly benefiting.

A lot of Glover’s success is due to the fact he has stuck with collaborator Ludwig Göransson once more. Adding a touch of psychedelic feeling to the album, evident in the soulful instrumental of ‘The Night Me And Your Mama Met’ (Gary Clark Jr. also adds a brilliant, squealing guitar solo), it’s a clear vision he’s helped to produce, one with little fat and plenty of purpose; both pleasing and progressive.

There are times things can get a little too weird, such as the on-the-nose ‘Zombies’ or the plentiful use of vocal distortion across the album (‘California’ seems to be the most heavily distorted but actually comes off as a pleasant trip) but nothing on the album is boring or unlistenable.

The comparisons with Bootsy Collins, Prince and other great black musicians might lead you to believe this is a self-indulgent, backwards looking album produced for nostalgic purposes - that isn’t the case though, as Glover and Göransson bring their own modern twist to the genres they borrow from.

Childish Gambino may have stood for rap and hip-hop, but this album shows he stands for himself and his own musical journey. His singing has come on leaps and bounds, exuding charisma whether he’s cooing with a fiery passion or delivering a wise chorus line. There are few artists who can deliver such quality and change all at the same time, putting him up there as one of the most influential and out there right now.

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