Childish Gambino’s “Awaken, My Love!” – A Review
When Donald Glover, a.k.a. Childish Gambino, released his first studio album Camp in 2011, many people were writing him off as another actor-turned-rapper with too much time on his hands. However, the funny thing about talent is that it's incredibly hard to ignore.
Surprisingly enough, Gambino put out an album where he proved that he could not only spit bars, but that he could also sing or vocalize (if you're picky about what a singer truly is) in a time where Drake's brand of hip-hop was more than welcomed by fans.
Gambino didn't draw mass, ephemeral appeal with the first album. Instead, he drew a huge crowd of loyal fans who have supported him ever since. In 2013, his second studio release, Because the Internet, created even more fans, which was reflected in album sales allowing Gambino to dodge the sophomore slump and earn a Gold certification in the process (the single "3005" went platinum, biatch!). I mean the album was dope, so it was no surprise.
Nevertheless, success creates a problem; when you start doing dope shit and people begin to take notice and you get more fans, expectations get higher and higher.
Gambino took a little break from recording to focus on writing and producing his own TV show on FX called Atlanta. You may have heard of it. The show revolves around Earnest "Earn" Marks who manages his cousin's, Alfred "Paperboi" Miles, up-and-coming rap career as he strives to make a living on his terms. The first season of the show was incredibly successful and, given the subject matter, it had Gambino fans anticipating his next album to have some sort of gritty, trap-like, ATL-infused vibe.
In a bittersweet turn of events, Gambino fans got that new album they wanted (sweet!), however, it's not a rap album … at all (bitter). If you just finished watching Atlanta and you then listen to Gambino's third album, "Awaken, My Love!" , you'll most likely be disappointed. Especially if you know that Gambino's the one who delivers the lyrics on the show's only fictional song "Paperboi" – that song's straight fire by the way.
I mean, shit, I was a little disappointed too. I wasn't expecting an experimental album inspired by 70s black music laced with a funkadelic/soulful theme.
However, I'm not mad at this album. Complex's Ross Scarano disagrees with my opinion and considers Gambino's latest effort to be a misfire.
I understand where Ross is coming from and he has some valid points. Specifically when he claims that Gambino doesn't have the vocal range or "gravitas" of a singer like D'Angelo or Anderson.Paak's style to pull off this type of album. I agree with that.
The song "California" is annoying as fuck. I give Scarano that point too.
However, I don't think this was as bad an attempt as some may think it is. There's some good music here. It's kind of like when Kanye dropped 808s and Heartbreak and everyone dissed the shit but then started bumping half the songs of the album because they were actually good.
We have to make one thing clear: we demand a lot from music artists and entertainers. We want them to keeping giving us the good shit, but to make it some different shit at the same time as we completely ignore how hard a task that is to achieve. And when they try, we're unbelievably quick to trash it if it doesn't meet our expectations without even giving it a chance.
I like this "Awaken, My Love!" much more than I thought I would. There are a lot of songs I rock to. Mainly, "Redbone" and "Baby Boy", which both have beats that are as smooth as butter and hooks that will have you attempt to sing along. "Me and Your Mama" is cool too and "Stand Tall" is a track you can just vibe to.
Like I mentioned earlier, "California" is the worst track of the album and I don't really like "Boogieman" but aside from those two tracks, you can play this album in the background and it makes for some great mood music.
Lyrically speaking, this isn't Gambino's best, but it's not like he's rapping on any of the tracks anyway, so it doesn't matter all that much. But if you really care about lyrics, once again, "Baby Boy" is the highlight here … especially if you have a son.
Experiments, whether successful or failures, help everyone reach new heights and explore different aspects of their creativity and talent. Like I said earlier, I'm not mad at this album. It won't be in this year's top ten but don't write off Childish Gambino because of it. I'm sure that his next hip-hop album is going to be fuego as Darius would say.
written by Joe Renegade