KUMD Album Review: Childish Gambino

Dec 14, 2016

Credit Childish Gambino

Childish Gambino | Awaken, My Love!

In retrospect, the signs of what was to come from the mind of Childish Gambino were all there. It was all too obvious. Yet there was no way to prepare for the bombshell that is the eleven tracks of Awaken, My Love! Not even the more soulful moments of his previous release, Kauai, are enough to explain what’s about to take place.

After years of experimental approaches to hip-hop, Gambino has chosen a new path for his career. His roots in rap are largely left behind for an intense soul experiment, a modern funk epic to threaten the classics. This is Childish Gambino, and he waits for no one.

It begins with a simple piano solo. Gambino has already hit his first home run. “Me and Your Mama,” Gambino’s opening number, is an awe inspiring mix of classic, soulful melodies and pleading lead vocals that runs over six minutes. Under halfway through, the listener is denied the peaceful and soulful opening vocals and thrown into the terrifying core of the record. Childish Gambino arrives into his own record with a storm of panicked lyrics that can’t help but be listened to, and then suddenly it’s all over. Instrumentals carry the listener out of the war room.

Many songs on the album feature almost opposite elements, ranging from tasteful use of autotune to the collective voices of grand choirs erupting from the background. Perhaps the most synthesized example of this is “Boogieman”, an ever so slightly creepy track that still radiates with the love Gambino wanted to fuel his newest record. The following track, “Zombies” doubles down with an ever more creepy performance. Childish Gambino wants to scare and woo down to the last listener.

On the subject of love, the track “Redbone” can’t help but become the topic of conversation. “Redbone” exudes that classy yet sexual energy that R&B has become synonymous with. Gambino is relentless in his use of R&B instrumentals, allowing the last third of the track to expel a funk vibe like nothing this century has or will, while allowing high pitch vocals that flow with ease. “Redbone” cements the fact that Childish Gambino knows R&B in and out.

It should be made clear that Awaken, My Love! is a weird album, there’s no denying that, it just pulls off that weird in a way no one else has. It so rarely follows Childish Gambino’s existing expectations of style that one could be tricked into thinking that the record comes from an entirely different artist. This album is a statement from an artist to his audience. It is beautiful. It is terrifying. Awaken audience, the new Gambino is here.