Artist Profile: Childish Gambino

Actor, writer, comedian, rapper, and all-around renaissance man Donald Glover, aka Childish Gambino, will be performing this Saturday, November 10, at Bridges Auditorium. I would guess that the majority of the students at the Claremont Colleges are familiar with Glover in some capacity, but I thought I would give you guys a little background and share some of my favorite tracks and other various works of his. I was lucky enough to see him live at Rock the Bells in 2011, and I can guarantee the $25 ticket price is, without a doubt, worth it. 

Donald Glover: The Actor, Writer, and Comedian

Glover has written most notably for the Emmy Award-winning television series 30 Rock and stars in the popular CBS show Community. You might remember him from his earlier work with DerrickComedy and CollegeHumor playing out some pretty hilarious and classic YouTube skits. In 2009, while with the DerrickComedy team, Glover co-wrote and starred in a full length film, titled Mystery Team, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival (check the trailer above). The movie is actually hysterical, as it catalogs an immature and jaded trio of high schoolers trying to live out their childhood dreams of basically being The Hardy Boys. He is also an accomplished standup comedian with an awesome special on Comedy Central that is definitely worth checking out.

Childish Gambino: The Rapper and Performer

Early in 2010, an unconventional rapper named Childish Gambino began to emerge on the Internet through several mixtapes. In interviews, Glover would later discuss how he found his rap name through an online Wu-Tang Clan name generator and had rapped as a hobby for many years before launching his career. Gambino's early work featured a more comic approach marked by an instantly recognizable high-pitched voice. However, his talent was undeniably coming up with some of the most creative and absurd punch lines out there.

Although his early work was impressive, his artistic growth since that time has been incredible. His debut album, Camp, was one of the strongest hip-hop projects of 2011, as Gambino painted the story of his struggles and triumphs while growing up without holding back his strongest emotions. All the while, his lyrical ability and delivery only continued to improve. On his most recent mixtape, Royalty, he demonstrated a new level of comfort and confidence behind the mic, giving likely his strongest effort to date. Just in case you're still not impressed, Gambino also produces music, having cultivated many of his own instrumentals along with his friend and in-house producer, Ludwig Goransson. Glover also makes original tracks and remixes under the pseudonym mcDJ (check out his original "Central Park Love").

In his live shows, it is clear that Gambino is a born performer. He often plays with a live band and, in the past, has included part of his comedy routine, as well. I got the sense that he approaches his shows like an actor would a theatre performance, appearing focused and prepared and successfully telling his story with a wide range of feeling. Also, his singing is surprisingly on point. Gambino's got pipes.

A Dozen Childish Songs You Should Hear 

1. "B$*ch Look At Me Now" (2010)

from: I Am Just A Rapper (free download)

This was the first Gambino song I heard that really grabbed my attention. I love just about everything about this song, from the use of alternative band Grizzly Bear's "Two Weeks" to Glover's less polished sound.

2. "Turd in the Oven" (2010) [over Vampire Weekend's "Diplomat's Son"]

from: I Am Just A Rapper 

3. "So Fly" (2010)

from: Culdesac (free download)

Even though this is a slight departure from rapping, this is easily one of my favorite tracks by Gambino. It is brilliantly simple, carrying a doo-wop feel.

4. "Different" (2010)

from: I Do Not Talk (free download)

5. "Break (AOTL)" (2011)

This one, inspired by Kanye West's "All of the Lights," highlights the best of Gambino, in both rapping and singing.

6. "Be Alone" (2011)

from: EP (free download)

7. "The Longest Text Message" (2011)

8. "Bonfire" (2011)

from: Camp (iTunes)

Gambino showing off his analogy rap abilities. If you're digging it, make sure to check out "Freaks and Geeks," one of Glover's first tracks to reach a wider, mainstream audience. Note the Casey Anthony line. Pretty ridiculous...

9. "Heartbeat" (2011) (Video)

from: Camp

10. "Unnecessary" (featuring ScHoolboy Q and Ab-Soul) (produced by Childish Gambino) (2012)

from: Royalty (free download)

This embodies Gambino's confident and crisp style as of late, as well as his move towards more collaborations. Also, note the production credit. I wouldn't be surprised if we heard this one on Saturday.

11. "Black Faces" (featuring Nipsey Hussle) (produced by Boi-1da) (2012)

from: Royalty


12. "Eat Your Vegetables" (2012)

The Donkey Kong Sample though... *drops mic*

Bonus: "Tryouts" (Brenton Duvall Remix with Childish Gambino) by Javelin

Talented electronic/hip-hop producer Brenton Duvall flips Javelins "Tryouts," adding Childish Gambino's vocals from "Let Me Dope You" making for a light, playful listen.

I hope to see you all on Saturday! Enjoy...