Donald Glover, aka Childish Gambino, is taking on the world in his own extraordinary way, and is supplying various modes of entertainment by doing it.
In September, Donald’s tv show, ‘Atlanta’ premiered as the most watched comedy debut in cable history. With this milestone achievement, ‘Atlanta’ would go on to be nominated as ‘Favorite TV Cable Comedy’ from the People’s Choice Awards. Come December, Gambino would release his 4th musical project, ‘Awaken, My Love!’. Joe Reitan dives into the magic of this album as well as the quality and impact of ‘Atlanta’.
Awaken, My Love!
Earlier in 2016, Kendrick Lamar had met up with legendary producer Rick Rubin for a very unique conversation. In the video, Kendrick was asked if he ever was going to do a complete soul or R&B album. Though he showed interest, that has yet to be seen, so whether or not K.Dot plans to do a project of the sorts in the future, it appears that Childish Gambino has beaten him to punch.
’Me and My Mama’ and ‘Redbone’ were the lead singles for the album, setting quite the standard as well as setting the atmosphere and the genre! We’re not sure anyone really saw this artistic approach coming from Gambino, but the dominating tones of soul and funk are incredibly refreshing. As for the singles, ‘Me and My Mama’ is angelic, wild, and trippy. While ‘Redbone’ is easily the sexiest song on the album, with beautiful female vocals and an enchanting hook.
’Awaken, My Love!’ has quickly been categorized as a soul/funk album, and it’s certainly hard to make a case for this being a hip-hop album. Though Gambino’s last three projects have been predominantly hip-hop, he’s no stranger to experimenting with new ideas, as we’ll see, this album borrows aspects from an array of genres and influences.
Donald Glover doesn't rap a single line on this entire project, except for (kind of?) on the song ‘California’. This song is decidedly the hardest to come around to liking, and sounds almost as if Gambino is putting his spin on the flows heard by pioneers in the “mumble-rap” genre, Future and Young Thug. Perhaps this song is ahead of its time, but we’re just not feeling it right now. Fortunately enough, Childish Gambino provides another 10 songs of greatness and innovation.
From ‘Have Some Love’ to ‘Riot’, we see a transition from a funky and folksy song about spreading love, to a a short, chaotic, and might we say rushed song about riots. In between, ‘Boogieman’ and ‘Zombies’ strongly enforce the haunted, monstrous wonderland type atmosphere, most realized in the form of the album cover-art. With this set of songs, Childish Gambino lets loose with wild vocal performances and daunting messages across the board, singing about issues like financial and culture vultures, to racial tensions.
By this point, Gambino has led us down several emotional paths, all sprinkled with fantastic instrumentation along the way. ‘Zombies’ being a highlight of how far the psychedelic guitar riffs can go on this project, and the atmosphere and vibes truly persist throughout the album. With ‘Terrified’, the vocal performance continues to give a chilling feel, while the extremely soulful hook is bound to bust you open.
The last three songs on the album serve to be the biggest confirmation for the theory surrounding ‘Awaken, My Love!’ and ‘Atlanta’. ‘The song ‘Baby Boy’ is most certainly directed towards his newborn child, and is a very nice song indeed, but gives the feeling that it’s much more special to Gambino himself. While ‘The Night Me and Your Mama Met’ is purely atmospheric, the title alone provides a key piece to the overarching story of the album. Following this is the last song, ‘Stand Tall’, which is the calmest song on the project, making for a very peaceful ending.
The finale of the first season of ‘Atlanta’ had actually wrapped up by the time this album was released, but starting in only September, the show and album can easily be lumped together as a major 2016 fourth quarter run for Glover. With 1.8 million total viewers watching the pilot, we’re going to briefly explain why the ‘Atlanta’ earned its way to setting a record for the most watched basic cable comedy premier.
To get it straight, ‘Atlanta’ is much more than a comedy, in fact, aside from one skit-centered episode and a wealth of humor lying beneath the script, you might hardly come away from the series thinking it was a comedy at all. With mysterious as well as realistic characters, the show pulls you into every conversation and every scene with extreme conviction. Beautiful camerawork only adds to the magnetism, as well as portrays the actual streets of Atlanta Georgia, which Glover admitted inspired the tone of the show.
Story alone, ‘Atlanta’ is one of the most purely hip-hop shows in all of television, but to add to that, Atlanta natives Migos make an astounding one episode appearance as a trio of drug lords. What’s possibly most admirable about the show is that it’s trying to make a serious point about society with each line and each arch in the story, making it much more than a comedy.
Gambino is clearly capable of telling a story within each of his songs, but it seems evident that the overarching story of the album is that it is in fact a devotion to his baby boy. Now this shouldn’t come off as a wild or controversial theory, and in fact was probably logical to some of the listeners. From the title of the album to the title of each song, it makes sense that these stories would largely apply to his newborn child. From songs like ‘Redbone’ describing Glover’s relationship between him and his wife, to the songs like ‘Boogieman’ which give his thoughts on the world, this album feels like it was made for his son.
Does ‘Atlanta’ tie into this theory? Well, that's a bit more of a stretch, but the answer would have to be a reluctant yes. If ‘Atlanta’ is in the same creative universe as Childish Gambino, than there are some dots to be connected. In the show, the plot heavily revolves around Earn (Glover) desperately trying to support his daughter and the family around him, providing an alternate reality to the one Donald Glover lives now.
Give ‘Awaken, My Love!’ a listen and slip into a new world.
’Awaken, My Love!’ proved to be an album worth waiting for, even though the rollout for it was pretty quiet until the preceding weeks… Regardless, Childish Gambino provided timeless music that not only supplies the fans with a new world of atmosphere and storytelling, but also an early Christmas gift to his new child. Not every song is perfect, and some may certainly pass on the genre, but we find it hard to object against a modern spin on a classic era of music by a very talented artist. Though Gambino borrows from a handful of artists such as Jimi Hendrix, Funkadelic, Outkast, and many more, he has shown he’s capable of creating his own innovations for his very special music.