Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Childish Gambino Camp



A week before the public schools let their students out for the summer my news station received a disturbing tip from an anonymous source. This tipster informed us that all was not right behind the cheery outer fa├žade of Camp Glover, one of the premier summer camp destinations in Los Angeles, California. My station manager attempted to get more details from our tipster, but the only concrete statement he could get was that the children ‘were being brainwashed’. The tipster begged my manager to investigate, and he agreed. Due mainly to my seniority I drew the assignment. I checked out the necessary surveillance equipment from the station’s inventory and enrolled myself in the camp using their online registration form. Once I shaved my facial hair completely off, greased my hair, and put on some designer tees and a backwards baseball cap I resembled a seventeen year old boy. Huzzah!

I won’t bore you with every detail that emerged from the audio/video surveillance over the next couple of weeks, but I will highlight the event that I found most shocking and strange. On the very first night, the boys and girls were separated. The boys all gathered at the ‘Meeting Hall’ after the evening meal. My video cameras caught everything. Two young men addressed the assembled crowd from a stage at the end of the hall. One of the men sat in a throne-like chair and was identified as the founder of the camp, the Childish Gambino. He never spoke a word. Instead he allowed the second man (his Consigliere), to dole out all of the important information.

“Greetings campers. Welcome to Camp Glover. My name is Derrick. We are going to have a great summer, but first I need to let you know about a few important guidelines you’ll need to follow. First of all, the girls attending this camp along with their leader Belanie are not to be trusted. Treat them with respect, but never forget that they all live solely to break your heart.”

“Second, it is against the rules to refer to any of your fellow campers as a ‘bro’. There are NO ‘bros’ here, end of story. On a related note, you will not find any Nintendo gamecubes around this camp that ‘bros’ might ask you to play with them.”

“Third, every other Friday starting next week will officially be opposite day. We strongly urge you all to not go along with the scheduled activities on those days. Not attending these events will result in your ongoing residence at Camp Glover.”

“Lastly, I wanted to let you campers know about the exciting educational trip we have planned for the end of the summer. If any of you were unaware, there is a long running historical bond between Wallmart and Six Flags. History books willingly gloss over this subject, but trust me when I tell you that the connection is deep and profound.”


Attention waveriders, this is your captain speaking. If you would point your eyes towards the nearest available TV screen you will notice we are only running video clips highlighting a man named Donald Glover. You see, Donald Glover is a man of many talents. You might not know this folks, but besides being a terrific comedic actor (see Community) with hilarious stand-up material (recently featured on Comedy Central) he is also a very talented hip hop artist. The music is released under the name Childish Gambino, and for the next little while we are going to be discussing his debut album Camp.

Let me make this abundantly clear up front. Donald Glover is a very funny man but his music is not, I repeat not, a joke. Is it amusing? Absolutely! Could someone dismiss any of the songs on Camp as simply novelty music? Absolutely not! Each of these tracks provide exactly what I’m looking for when I listen to hip hop, honest expression based upon that artist’s unique perspective/experience. Seriously that is the main thing I’m asking for. The very first verse from album opener “Outside” is a great example.

I used to dream every night, now I don't dream at all / Hopin' that it's cause I'm livin' everything I want /
Used to wake up in a bed between my mom and aunt / Playing with this land before time toy from pizza hut / My dad works nights / Putting on a stone face / He's saving up so we can get our own place / In the projects, man that sounds fancy to me / They called me fat nose, my mom say you handsome to me / Mrs. Glover ma'am, your son is so advanced / But he's acting up in class and keeps peeing in his pants / And I just wanna fit in, but nobody was helping me out / They talking hood shit and I ain't know what that was about / Cause hood shit and black shit is super different / So I'm talking hood shit and cool it now like New Edition / Mom and dad wouldn't listen / They left the Bronx so I wouldn't be that / All their friends in NY deal crack / It's weird, you think that they'd be proud of him / But when you leave the hood they think that you look down on 'em / Truth is we still struggle on a different plane / 7 dollars an hour, with vouchers, it's all the same / Facebook messaging hopin' that could patch up shit / But all they get now is, "can your son read this script?"

Need another example of the kind of lyrical content I’m refering to? Try this second verse from “Hold You Down”.

The reason that they say I'm nothin' what they seen or heard's / The same reason Will Smith always opposite Latino girls / They only see you how they wanna see you / 'Til you make them see you in some other way / I'm trippin' off the other day / Cause God knows what these white kids sayin' / Dude you're not not racist cause The Wire's in your Netflix cue / Subtle racism / It's hard to pin it cause you'd only understand / If you were me for just a minute / This one kid said somethin' that was really bad / He said I wasn't really black because I had a dad / I think that's kinda sad / Mostly cause a lot of black kids think they should agree with that / If you're a father, you should stick around if you could / Cause even if you're bad at it, you get Tiger Woods / MJ / We warriors, we all need senseis / Change everything that we've done so far / I don't mean makin' B.E.T. T.E.R / I mean just the way that we see each other / I won't stop until they say, "James Franco is the white Donald Glover" / Yeah, these niggas wanted Cookie but instead I gave 'em Loch Ness / Sick Boi for life, my swag is in a hospice / Aimin' for the throne, Jay and Ye said to watch that / They ask me what I'm doin', I say I'm stealin' rock back

I’m not suggesting that every lyric in every song is going to set your listening world on fire. That’s preposterous since everyone identifies with and enjoys lyrical content differently. I’m merely suggesting that it would be well worth your time investigating Childish Gambino.

Now a few words about the production on this album. Camp maintains a solid, radio-friendly sound for its entire running length. Mr. Glover and production partner Ludwig Goransson clearly studied under the tutelage of Kanye West (no, not literally). Several tracks strongly remind me of Kanye’s work. I mean that as a compliment because I can easily imagine hearing every song on Camp being played on the radio. If the world is just, that may happen.

Waveriders, Childish Gambino is really good. No, scratch that. This Childish Gambino album is fantastic! If I had listened to my best friend and coworker (Horn) when they tried to expose me to this artist months ago, best believe you all would have heard about him much sooner. Ah well. Better late than never. Waveriders I urge you to pick up this album immediately. If you like quality hip hop, you’ll love Camp!

--Penfold





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