Review: Childish Gambino’s leaked album, ‘Because the Internet’
As one of the popular cast members of NBC’s comedy show “Community,” the hilariously charismatic actor and stand-up comedian Donald Glover has constantly shown his knack for composing creative concepts for the sake of comic relief. Under the Childish Gambino alias, he has also been able to do the same for his music ventures and as evident in his “Camp” album release in 2011, his first impression into the hip-hop scene turned out to be a stellar introduction.
With the lacking “Royalty” mixtape behind him, Childish Gambino took time off from his comedy roles in order to bring about “Because the Internet.” This full-length album, which is set to release on Dec. 10, tackles a number of Glover’s personal issues that ultimately point to his issues with solitude.
Accompanying the inner turmoil is the recurring theme concerning the consequences of today’s technological advancements, especially the Internet and its effects on society. Gambino stylistically fiddles with the slippery line between loneliness and the perceived connectedness that some may have while logged onto the World Wide Web, which we find are often identical to his current state of mind — he’s logged into his fame, and it’s a party. On the inside, he finds himself completely secluded in the midst of his day-to-day festivities.
In regards to the production as well as keeping ties to different themes, the tracks are skillfully intertwined. With sections of the album separated by roman numerals sitting beside track names, “Because the Internet” quickly feels like a theatrical play or a scene-by-scene layout of Gambino’s point of view.
“The Party” and “No Exit” best depict his back-and-forth switch between being the man of the party and being solo. The moods between the these tracks cleverly contrast each other, with the first track having some bass-heavy sounds and the second taking on a dark and trippy atmosphere in the instrumental.
Tracks five through nine are standout scenes in the album and deal with a highly-relatable topic: love and relationships. Gambino’s descriptive verses concerning his interaction with the world in “The Worst Guys” and the lines “Love me better, kiss me back, love me more” in the “Shadows” circle back to his obsession with solitude and his relationship with the music industry and with those around him.
While “Sweatpants” and the radio-friendly “3005” also stay aligned with the theme, “Telegraph Ave (‘Oakland’ by Lloyd)” is the best track out of the five in this particular scene. Backed by soothing, melodic beat production composed by the rapper himself, the themes of uncertainty (and solitude again) are pushed as he spits about going out of his way to drives to a woman’s house in Oakland for a spontaneous adventure, only to find out that her feelings about him have changed.
The pacing of the album rushes in the last stretch. Gambino sings to portray several sentiments at once, the main two being the feeling of loss and the acknowledgement of an unsettling truth about human nature when it comes to the Internet — anonymity.
“Flight of the Traveler” is driven by depressing, looping guitar samples and a hugely melancholic tone, which serves as an appropriate medium for a tribute to a dead friend. Gambino poetically reflects both the dream of living forever and the cruel reality of death.
“Zealots of Stockholm (Free Information)” is great follow-up to the bar that the previous track had set, starting off with some more fluid vocal work and abruptly shifting toward a chaotic, drone-like sound at the half-mark. Gambino’s forthcoming note about his lack of faith and existential worries is lightly mentioned here and is a great drawback from the worn-down theme of solitude.
However, as the album moves to a close with the funnily titled “Earth: The Oldest Computer (The Last Night)” and “Life: The Biggest Troll (Andrew Auernheimer),” the take-away seems to be only half-delivered.
Gambino speaks more about his own complications than he does with the complications that everyone else encounters. He’s more prominent than a lot of us, so it’s not very surprising when potential lady friends Google his dating history before meeting up with him. The last two tracks are the only time that the ‘Internet’ theme starts to really resonate, as he speaks on how technology has truly evolved and the negative outcomes it has on us. Even with the conclusion, identifying with the full album as a whole feels convoluted.
The rush to the conclusion can leave listeners feeling like they’ve walked away with only half of the story and not the full book. Despite this, “Because the Internet” is possibly the best concept-driven album of this year and it marks as Gambino’s best work so far. Gambino successfully executes sharing his introspective state of thought and his aggravations through varying colors in the production and vividly storytelling lyricism.