Thursday, January 8, 2015

Childish Gambino and the Countdown

(UPDATE 1/9/15 @ 7:30 AM)

About six months ago, I saw an especially lame, badly designed ad on It was an ad for an album by an artist I had never heard of.

Oh great, Donald Glover. The guy from the TV show "Community." Let's see, he's named "Childish Gambino" and the name of the album is "because the internet." That's what I need, another lame actor trying music. Probably a comedy album, I thought. Ugh.

For the next couple months the ad followed me around everywhere I went on the web (Amazon, and many ad providers, read your cookies and try to present you with "relevant" ads). This was a FAIL in my opinion. Why would I like this album?? Eventually, the ad went away and it fell out of my memory.

Fast forward a couple months more, I'm surfing Amazon's $5 albums (they put out new albums every month and I sometimes bolster my music collection, or try out new artists). And there the album was again. It was labeled "Rap & Hip Hop."

I took the chance and hit the "Preview All" button, and found one of my favorite artists of all-time.

See, Amazon had it right all along. Donald Glover's stage name for his alter-ego rapper's latest album wasn't far from the experimental and brilliant "Yeezus" by Kanye West (yes, I listen to rap). Amazon matched me with it because it knew I would love it, based on the other hip-hop albums I had purchased over the years. And once again, Amazon's algorithms sparked a sale. Actually, several.

Childish Gambino is brilliant and transcends the entire rap genre in a way that few have. He's less of a gangsta rapper and more of a spoken-word poet who uses experimental music - music he wants to invent, not something he thinks he should invent, to get air play - to describe stories of life. When you explore his four albums, especially the later one, you'll be taken on a brilliant, heart breaking experience of a child growing into a man in Atlanta (OK, being from the South, I'll admit that is part of the allure). He's also a brilliant comedian, as proven on "Community," and for people who don't "understand" rap music: The comedy of the rhymes is part of the attraction of the genre.

And finally, he seems to enjoy Hawaiian shirts, though they, I suspect, are part of a statement that he's not a typical ghetto rapper, he's well-off, educated, preppy, and not afraid to go against the hard-core rappers out there.

He's also a bit of an enigma. Despite the name of his last album "because the internet" and a crapload of references to technology in his lyrics, he literally disappeared off the web on the one-year anniversary of the album dropping (12/10/2014). He zeroed out all of his Social Media accounts and his website, and had not been heard from again online... until yesterday when he put up a simple countdown clock on a random URL via one tweet that was live for only minutes.

The countdown ends tonight.

UPDATE: The countdown gave way to a new video premiere for his recently released song "Sober." I agree with what NPR said about the video:

As with much of Childish Gambino's work, it's both comical and kick-ass. Just when you think it's all a joke, he busts out some genuinely cool moves. And when "Sober" starts to feel a little too cheesy, like some steamy seduction we've heard a million times, it erupts into a gnarled, dark grind. Is this guy for real? Is it all a put-on? Not knowing is part of the joy in watching it all unfold.