Album Review: Childish Gambino – Because The Internet

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Album: Because The Internet

Artist: Childish Gambino

Label: Glassnote

Release Date: December 10, 2013

Two years after Donald Glover appeared on the rap scene as Childish Gambino with his debut album Camp, he delivers the follow-up Because The Internet. The actor/comedy writer/rapper demonstrates his growing ability and confidence on the latest project.

Through social media, he has been sharing his feelings of depression and seclusion, and using these avenues to filter and distill the ideas that appear in his lyrics. Bino combines his various skills to create a project that combines his humor with fits of emotion, and plays out in scenes spaced between instrumental interludes.

The album offers a look at a fictional child of rap culture, which can be interpreted as an elaboration on a Gambino instagram pic or a tweet. Like many heroes before him, he’s battling with the distance between the want for recognition and (unfound) happiness. Childish Gambino uses Drake-style rap-singing to ilustrate this struggle, a tactic most present on “Telegraph Ave.”

The nineteen track-album features appearances from Chance the Rapper, Azealia Banks, and Jhene Aiko. The rumored Glover amour and Gambino join sounds on “Pink Toes.” His ability to flow stands alone on “The Party” and “Worst Guys” where he is accompanied by a hook from Chance the Rapper, who doesn’t include a verse of his own.

Because The Internet is laced with references to popular pockets of the internet like “Worldstar,” and cribbed lines from YouTube viral hits like “Ain’t nobody got time for that,” and some retrospective titles like “Dial Up,” “Telegraph Ave,” and “Earth: The World’s Oldest Computer.” But the overture toward internet culture and the allegory of an artist finding his place in a constant echo chamber is often drowned in a vague plot and still murkier narrative arc. Whereas Donald Glover has proven himself a potent comedy mind, he sometimes stumbles to find a balance between the comic and tragic themes painted with broad strokes on his future-leaning, abstract rap projects.

While his able rapping on potential hits like “3005” underscores a will to take on different types of ambient production, he consistently lacks substance in his lyrics, the support beam of his flattest work. The intricate production and samples throughout enhance the largesse of the album, but don’t wash completely over the strained singing and corny punchlines. The range of sounds is broad with trap beats thumping and softer R&B tracks gliding throughout. It’s a lengthy album that starts off fairly light in tone and gets progressively darker in its second half. However, if a few tracks had been edited, the Lost Internet Artist theme may have been more understandable, and created a clearer experience. During the epilogue, Childish Gambino decrees “Because The Internet is forever…and nothing ever gets erased” completing the truncated title with that premise. Maybe the ultimate irony of his album, aside from his take on the predatory nature of the web, is that his obsession with attention has left only a forgettable mark.