Childish Gambino – Awaken, My Love

Childish Gambino – Awaken, My LoveChildish Gambino - Awaken, My Love Album Cover Art

Reviewed By: Lee Bennett, III a.k.a. Da Vinci Parks

You May Like This Album If You Like: Parliament Funkadelic, Pink Floyd, Prince, etc.

You May Not Like This Album If You Like: Childish Gambino strictly as a rapper, hard to really say….

The Lowdown:  Ok–so–this is clearly one of my favorite albums from 2016.  Full disclosure–I was way into older stuff last year, so I may have missed some gems here and there.  That notwithstanding–this album would have still been one of my favorites from 2016.  Side Note: I still use the term “album,” and I think bears noticing seeing as though we are in the age of mix tapes and quasi digital LPs and what not (whatever that means…seriously, though, was that shade?).

Flash Back (no pun intended), I “discovered” Childish Gambino (Donald Glover–yes–that dude from The Community & Atlanta) by tripping over the Camp LP on NPRs website.  There had been a write-up on him, and I was familiar with his face, but didn’t know him as a rapper.  After reading the write-up, streaming some of the tracks, I tore through the internet until I found some of his videos.  The kid was dope.  Like, for real.

A bit too many references to his dick for my liking, but seeing as though my third book has had a somewhat similar response, I could look past that.  I’m evolving.  So, needless to say, I’ve been on the proverbial Childish Gambino train for a while.  He was one of those beacons I could cite to affirm that the next generation of hip-hop wasn’t a total loss.

So, as he grew as an artist, I grew along with him.  I tried supporting his LPs (when he actually sold them as opposed to gave them away for free), and I told others about his awesomeness.  His weirdness was relatable to mine.  So, imagine my faux surprise when I discovered that he wasn’t going to be rapping on his late 2016 release, Awaken, My Love.

I’ve been on this ride before.  3000 has done this.  Cee-lo Green did so prior.  I feel like as you grow in the confines of being a great lyricist, you begin to discover that the confines of the 4 measure bar becomes too constricting.  You want more.  I was interested to see what Mr. Glover had in store.  I had heard him sing here and there–but not an entire album…

Awaken, My Love–if I absolutely had to compare, feels like D’Angelo, Prince, George Clinton and Bootsy Collins doing a mash-up of funk/erotic/soul/R&B dipped in the waning throes of an acid trip.  I absolutely mean that in the best way possible.  This album feels like some of the best parts of growing up in the 80s while listening to 70s funk, yet somehow the album feels current and relevant.  In short, this album feels instantly timeless–infinitely vintage–and I love every bit of it.

Ask me what my favorite track is?  I have no earthly clue.  On more than one occasion I have awakened, again, no pun intended, with the song Redbone playing in my head.  I really dig Stand Tall in the sense that I can listen to it over and over like Mos Def’s There Is A Way track off of True Magic.

This album almost completely bumped Tribe’s last album out of my rotation (I understand some of you feel a way about Tribe’s LP–but that’s another review, no?).  Sonically, the choral arrangements range from loud to soft, trippy to hypnotic, the instrumentation switches from gentle and soothing to loud and chaotic, and Childish Gambino’s vocals had me asking on more than one occasion if that was really him or was he somehow getting help.  This isn’t what one would call a “safe” album;  Sonically, this album takes risks–especially as his first departure from hip-hop.  Nothing feels forced and it all seems to mesh perfectly.  If you play the album sequentially or randomly–it just works.  It sounds good while I’m playing it through my headphones at work, or blasting it in my office at home.

As an artist, this dude made me want to get in the studio and create something timeless.  That feat is easier said than done, but I will try to answer the challenge.  

For now, I’m going to be rocking this latest Childish Gambino LP until 3005.  Get it?  5 stars out of 5!!!

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