They say imitation is the best form of flattery. If so, then Donald Glover, more commonly known by his rap monicker Childish Gambino, is trying to flatter too many people on his latest album, ‘Because the Internet.’
The title is said to be that the Internet is the reason for Glover’s success in both comedy and music. He has been quoted saying that “because the Internet I’m here, because of the Internet we’re all here. It’s the language of earth…” A bit of a bold statement. I’m fairly certain we were all here before the Internet.
Glover’s justification is not why I see ‘Because the Internet’ as a fitting title. Instead, my reason is that musical influences are celebrated endlessly on the Internet. I am talking about Kanye West (most specifically ‘Yeezus’), Kendrick Lamar, Drake, and Chance the Rapper. Gambino emulates the Internet’s biggest rappers.
‘Yeezus’ was huge because of a single undetailed tweet. Kendrick Lamar’s verse on Big Sean’s “Control” was the most discussed verse on music blogs for two months. There is a twitter parody account called “Drake The Type Of” mocking the rappers emotionality. And Chance, who appears on the album, has only released free mixtapes online and is unsigned. These “because the Internet” rappers who truly made the album.
The differentiating qualities of these four make a slurry that is ‘Because The Internet.’ We hear the madness and distortion on Yeezus; Kendrick’s varying voice of boasting, fear, and admission; Drake’s weepy sentiment; and Chance’s nostalgia and glee. Independently, all of these are great for the artist, but Gambino’s emulation of all of them is nauseating. He doesn’t do all of this on one track, but instead in an album that can’t decide on an identity. It bounces between dark and happy with head-spinning results.
The production is fair, but it doesn’t fit Gambino’s rapping. It was more fitting on his early mixtapes and first album, ‘Camp,’ where the beats were more out there, like freestyling over Grizzly Bear’s “Two Weeks.”
I have always been a bit skeptical of Gambino. He’s trying to prove that he can be a rapper as well as a writer, actor, and comedian. It’s not that he’s untalented in any of his pursuits, but he just doesn’t seem to find a place in music. Early Gambino music bored me; it relied too much on him being overly clever like an NYU-educated Lil Wayne, full of cultural references. He tries a different route in this album, but it still doesn’t work.
Rap accepts characters such as Danny Brown, Tyler, the Creator, and RiFF RAFF; however, Childish Gambino is both too obscure and not obscure enough. He’s too smart to the point where it’s unbelievable for him to dumb it down. His talents are better suited for comedy.
Also out this week: lyrical mad genius R. Kelly’s ‘Black Panties.’