The Evolution Of Childish Gambino
“Cause we forget how innocent and beautiful we were so I think, yeah, it is our responsibility to make magic again cause I think a lot of the sh*t happening now is bullsh*t.“ — Donald Glover, Golden Globes
From writing scripts and songs from his NYU dorm room to being a 12x Grammy-nominated artist, Donald Glover cemented his name in hip-hop history at the 61st Annual Grammy Awards by being the first hip-hop artist to ever receive the Record of the Year award in Grammy history. Undoubtably, Donald Glover’s influence completely overtook mainstream media, following the release of the second season of his critically acclaimed surreal comedy called Atlanta, as well as his smash hit titled “This is America” that dominated the airwaves and Twitter speculation over its layered visual presentation. Although the view at the top must be stunning, the price for such a view, I can only assume, must be heavy to bear.
While truly an exciting time for the self-proclaimed renaissance man, many “hip-hop purists” have taken to social media to voice their outrage at this decision, considering it another entry in the long list of oversights of “real hip-hop” by the Academy. Ever since 1991, when MC Hammer’s “Can’t Touch This” was nominated and, subsequently, lost in the same category to Phil Collins’ “Another Day in Paradise,” the hip-hop community has been at odds with the Academy Awards with snubs in this category; ranging from Coolio, OutKast, Kendrick Lamar, Drake, Kanye West, Eminem, and Jay-Z. Others have voiced their frustration over Glover’s absence at the Grammy’s ceremony, touting his lack of presence during a momentous moment of hip-hop history to be a sign of disrespect for the culture. Personally, I’m torn between these two camps. The Grammys have shown time and time again their ignorance towards hip-hop culture and its creatives—most notably in recent memory with good kid, m.A.A.d city losing to The Heist. While music is certainly subjective, many of their decisions appear to be politically based and calculated rather than based upon the artistry and impact of each individual work; case and point: good kid, m.A.A.d city. Therefore, if we are choosing from the most “hip-hop” song, I understand the frustration seeing how “This is America” is not even Gambino’s most lyrical or most tightly constructed rap of his career (I’d give it to either “The Worst Guys” or “You See Me“).
From Sick Boi to 5x Grammy Award-Winning Artist
“But these smart middle-class black kids need a role model … When I wanna be a superhero I just wake up / Renaissance man with a Hollywood buzz / I refuse to go back to not liking who I was” – Childish Gambino, “Not Going Back”
Whether you agree with the Academy’s decision or not, one thing is certain—the evolution of Gambino’s sound and persona has been a sight to behold. Gambino has never been one to shy away from referencing the trials and tribulations at the outset of his career. On the final track of his fourth mixtape, Culdesac, he mentions how he almost quit music altogether after negative reception to his previous work from Internet blogs and reviewers alike. Coming full circle in 2013, Glover’s introspection of both negativity and positivity that brews from the prospect of anonymity and abdication that is entwined with the Internet in tracks, “II. Worldstar” and “III. Life:The Biggest Troll (Andrew Auernheimer),” lead to his sophomore album, Because the Internet, to be nominated for Best Rap Album at the 57th Annual Grammys. His next project, Awaken, My Love, took the entire music industry on a surprise funkadelic inspired trip down Glover’s own experience with fatherhood, while navigating through the carnivorous complex of the entertainment industry with his integrity in tact—earning him both his first ever Grammy and five nominations. After sweeping nearly every category, he was also nominated in this year’s Grammys, and he has stood firm by his stance that his next album shall be his last venture in music.
As a die hard Gambino fan, should this truly be his last hurrah? I hope audiences get to experience the same chills and tingles I did all the way back in 2011. I implore the same bloggers and reviewers to go relisten to Poindexter or I am just a Rapper 2, and appreciate Glover’s vulnerability and rugged nature of his early work. Before he lays the Gambino persona to rest, I hope for a moment that the hip-hop community can view him as I do and cherish “the boy who never got off the bus.” Whatever the future holds for Gambino, I can only hope as a fellow smart middle-class Black kid that he releases “Human Sacrifice” by the end of Black History Month.