Donald Glover happens to be one of those people who jump from career to career, picking up fans along the way. Ever since he first became Childish Gambino, however, he’s faced an onslaught of disapproval from critics and rap fans alike, and in many cases he was brushed off as a poser who threw out nonsense lyrics and called himself a rapper. Despite these drawbacks, his music has managed to gain a massive following, and the quality of his music is rising. His newest album, Because the Internet, has been received much better than his last album, and his fans appear to be more than satisfied.
I’ve got to hand it to Gambino with this one. He knows how to make his work his own. He’s always managed to distinguish himself through his ideology, but this one takes the cake. Earlier this year, he left behind his role in the hit TV show Community, and later posted a series of confessions on instagram that spoke about his fears and insecurities as both a human and a creator. Because the Internet reflects a lot of those insecurities, creating a much more sophisticated album than Camp ever was. The album acts almost like a personal monologue, revealing internal struggles with the futility of daily life.
What really made the difference was that there was more to the story than the music. In addition to the album, Gambino posted a full-length screenplay meant to be read along with the album. It features a main character known only as “The Boy,” played by Gambino in short clips interspersed between the lines of text. The play, much like the album and Gambino himself, questions reality and meaning, playing up the loneliness and pointlessness of The Boy’s lavish lifestyle. Even before the release of the album or the screenplay, Gambino integrated parts of the story into his life—evidenced by the phrase he coined: “roscoe’s wetsuit.” Despite having no real meaning, it became a meme prior to the release of the album, and then appeared in the screenplay itself.
His stylistic qualities have improved without a doubt, and he’s left behind some of his more superficial lines out of this record, while still keeping touch with pop culture references as he is known to do. The album contains quite a few instrumental interludes that successfully encompass emotion. “Playing Around Until the Party Starts” does this exceedingly well as it has recorded voices scattered throughout and rising in volume while the sound becomes more overpowering. His collaboration with Jhene Aiko creates an excellent duet in “Pink Toes,” while “The Worst Guys” with Chance the Rapper may be one of the standout pieces of the album.
Overall, Because the Internet was a huge step for Gambino. It shows him as a serious artist. The multiple parts that extend beyond the album offer it depth, but the record doesn’t even need this much. Gambino’s exploration of the effects of technology and the harsh reality of modern life do enough to set him apart. Because the Internet was much more authentic than Gambino has been in the past, and that’s what pushes it over the top.