Childish Gambino - EP
Record Label: Self-released
Release Date: March 8, 2011
Often times an artist comes along that has something special about them, an inconceivable piece of flair that's difficult to explain. Donald Glover is that kind of artist. No matter what he has his hand in, whether it be writing, acting, or producing music as Childish Gambino, Glover exudes an air of charisma without coming off as cocky or artificial. Early in his music career, Glover felt he had to hide behind gimmicks to get his point across, but finally shed that image with his last full-length release, Culdesac. His normally confident lyrics were backed up by more personal themes, which helped to craft a more well-rounded and inspiring experience. Glover's latest release, an EP simply titled EP, continues those tendencies. Although it's only five tracks long, each one is an intimate look at the Childish Gambino persona Glover has crafted while also providing insight on how the added success has affected his personal life.
EP opens with “Be Alone,” a somber track that features Glover's signature vocals and lyrical skills. Be it falsetto or not, the sung vocals are solid without overpowering the track. Combine that with low-key production, and you have track that really lets the lyrics speak for themselves. While they're full of the usual witty double entendre, they speak volumes about Glover's experiences with his growing fame. Far from the game he references getting in later tracks, “Be Alone” is an honest look at the future, one Glover hopes isn't spent alone or with someone who only attached themselves to him for publicity.
“Freaks and Geeks” is infinitely more positive than the opener, with Glover putting his traditionally personal lyrics together in a highly amusing way. Classic lines like, “E.E. Cumming on her face / now that's poetry in motion,” conjure images of Lil' Wayne and Drake without coming off as annoying or overplayed. Glover's lyrics are playful, while still thought out and surprisingly intelligent. The lines are backed up by some basic production that still manages to impress, incorporating strings and sampled vocals to create a fun, if a bit generic, basis for an overall great track.
The same solid production follows Glover into the third track, “My Shine,” which is probably the most straight-forward track found on EP. The sung vocals make their comeback in a big way as Glover details his style and the reasons he makes music in the first place. The subject matter tends to get a bit grating at this point in the album, but “My Shine” is still a very solid track with immense amounts of substance. My favorite thing about Glover is the way he uses the image of the cocky artist while at the same time making observations other rappers have probably never thought of, and he showcases that wonderfully in this and every other track.
“Lights Turned On” is EP's club banger, with enough synth and bass to fill another track or two. While the subject matter is mainly about women and sex, there are enough hints at substance to save the lyrics towards the end. It's hard to hate on a song that references The Social Network, Pokemon, and Glover's own ads for GAP with reckless abandon, but on “Lights Turned On” he almost falls off the odd line between heartfelt and cheesy that he straddles throughout the record.
EP closes with the definite stand-out track “Not Going Back.” In it, Glover details his recent success while also lamenting the relationship problems that followed him. He's equal parts confident and self-conscious, but eventually states he's never going back to not liking who he was. Highlighted by a self-referential verse about Rashida Jones and the guest vocals of Beldina Malaika, “Not Going Back” closes the album beautifully, introspective and dauntless without a hint of dishonesty.
While many in the hip-hop world hide themselves behind a facade of pompous behavior, Glover openly admits his own faults and never shies away from what he truly wants to talk about. He's thoughtful without veering into uncomfortable territory, and the profound way in which he expresses himself makes you want to sit down and listen again and again. EP is a cornucopia of mainstream sensibilities and Glover's own unique brand of passionate lyricism that needs to be heard, sooner rather than later.
Thought this was rated a little low, Ian -- I would've given creativity like a 9.5. Just about every single couplet on the EP is a fucking fantastic one-liner and while they are very pop culture based, they're awesome.