In Plain View: Childish Gambino's Journey to Awakening


From starting out as a writer on 30 Rock, to his role on NBC hit sitcom Community, to the release of his first commercial rap album 'Camp' in 2011, Glover's journey as an entertainer has been a fascinating one. The journey hasn't always been easy to understand, but those with an affinity for Glover and the way he collides the two drastically different realms of comedy and rap (and singing), while trying to merge the two together at times, has kept many tuned in to see what the final product will be.

In his initial shift from television to music, Childish Gambino appealed largely to self-righteous hipsters who felt like they couldn't fit in with today's rap aficionado with their perceived lack of lyrical content in mainstream rap. He appealed to who those who felt like they were too hard to "get" and needed someone who could reflect this sonically.

And Childish Gambino was that guy. His lyrics reflected that of an outsider trying hard to show up rappers with his word play and movie and tv references while also feeding into the notion that he didn't appeal to Black kids because he "talked white" and didn't grow up in the hood. His bars constantly reflected an obsessive love (or fetish) for Asian women while also taking slight digs at Black women for their lack of interest in him.

It was the typical recipe many alternative rap artists used to grow a following. This rap was hurt and bitter and it was received increasingly well by suburban white teens, but not without countless side-eyes from others.

Since that time, Gambino released two albums 'Because the Internet' and 'Kauai' in which we see Gambino peel back those layers a little more, tapping into his emotions through love and heartbreak. This goes even further as a video of him covering R&B songstress Tamia's hit single 'So Into You' went viral. It was raw, it was pure, and although Gambino has sang in prior performances, whether on tour or on during a talk show appearance, this was surprising and unexpected and overall, beautiful.

And now, Donald Glover is at the top of his game. and has created a lane for himself that is his most honest yet. In September, Glover premiered his FX comedic and drama infused television series 'Atlanta' that depicts how an aspiring rapper navigates the Atlanta's largely populated rap scene, and the cousin who reaches out to him to become a manager in hopes of having a better life for himself, in which Glover both created and stars. The show has garnered positive reviews for its honest and nuanced depiction of the Black experience and has been picked up for a second season.

Gambino just released his fourth studio album 'Awaken, My Love!', where Gambino sings over funkadelic sounds. The album poses itself as a feel good album, a sigh of relief for those who need based on the current state of affairs facing our nation.

Donald Glover made a career in both the acting and music world out of being seen through the lens of the "token black guy," but that image is shifting now. 'Awaken, My Love!' seems to be an ode to that shift - that awakening - of a once surface level identity as an outsider to an identity packed with layers of emotion, reflection, and cultural pride.

This new creative storm, for many, is his most honest to date. One can only wait and wonder what Glover's next awakening will be.


Article by Deneia Washington