Donald Glover aka Childish Gambino releases his third studio album and it’s nothing like we have heard from him before. Gambino takes his first foray into funk with this stunning ode to 70s funk music.
Donald Glover started off in the YouTube sketch group Derrick Comedy and as a writer on 30 Rock before he went on to star in the cult hit Community. This year he went on to debut his own wildly successful show Atlanta. He’s now set to appear in the next Spider Man film as well as starring in the next Star Wars spin-off film as a young Lando Calrissian. Oh, and he also became a father for the first time this year, suffice to say it’s pretty been a huge year for Mr. Glover. But behind the comedian, actor and father there’s an alter ego, the rapper Childish Gambino. Gambino has released 6 mixtapes, 2 EPs and now 3 studio albums, all of this within the past 8 years.
Upon my first listen of this record, I absolutely hated it but that’s because I was expecting a rap album, seeing how Childish Gambino is a rapper or so I thought. However, this record is a straight up funk album and once you realise that you can fully enjoy it for what it is. Now I’m no expert on funk, so I may of missed a lot of things that this album has to offer but I do know that it is an excellent album that fully showcases Donald’s musical talents as well as the talents of his producer and long time collaborator Ludwig Göransson.
The album begins with the first single Me and Your Mama, this track really sets the mood for this record as well as setting a very high bar for the songs to come. The production on this track is incredibly dense, there is a lot going on but it is all perfectly pulled together by Donald’s stunning falsetto performance. Redbone was the second single to be released and if you think the falsetto was good on Me and Your Mama just wait until you hear this track, most people quite fairly thought that his vocals must have been pitch-shifted but any doubt was put to rest after his recent pitch-perfect performance of the song live on Jimmy Fallon.
The rest of the tracks on this album unfortunately do not quite reach the standard of the singles, but that’s not necessarily a criticism of them but rather speaks to the quality of the singles. You can hear the influence of George Clinton’s Funkadelic throughout this album, Gambino nods to this with the album artwork which is clearly inspired by the artwork of Funkadelic’s 1971 album Maggot Brain. The only sample used in this album is indeed a Funkadelic sample on the track Riot which samples Good to Your Earhole from their 1975 album Let’s Take It to the Stage.
What makes this album great though is the stunning instrumentals, producer Ludwig Göransson showcases his versatility throughout this record and as he admitted himself he had little knowledge of funk before starting to produce this album so for him to make these amazing instrumentals just shows how talented he clearly is. Gambino’s range of vocal performance on this album is awe-inspiring but unfortunately at times his vocals can slightly overpower the instrumental like on the track Boogieman where the instrumental is immaculate, but the vocals at times unfortunately detract from the song rather than add to it. The best instrumental though is on the track California, it’s a vibrant sunny track however the vocals have had a very mixed reception from listeners personally I like the fun silly vibe of the vocals but this track would have possibly been better suited on Gambino’s last effort STN MTN / Kauai however the track helps to break up the album a bit in order to stop it from getting a bit too serious and find a way to add a bit of the Gambino/Glover silliness that his fans have grown to love over the years.
It’s impossible to compare to this album to anything else Childish Gambino has done in the past, because it is just so completely different. However overall, this is unquestionably a great album that combines sensational instrumentals with a range of breathtaking vocal performances. If you’re looking for a tremendous funk album that you can vibe to, this is an album that you’ll definitely want to pick up.
Rating: 8/10 🔥 🔥 🔥 🔥 🔥 🔥 🔥 🔥