Saturday, 16 March 2013

Childish Gambino's "Camp": A Wonderful Journey

Originally, I was going to post a blog about Lil B regarding his music and appeal and my point of view on that, but that has to wait for the next time because last Monday, I was exposed to something very special that had me occupied throughout the whole week. I was going through the Dead End Hip Hop Youtube channel (which is a dope channel for Hip-Hop conversations, check it out here) and I saw their review of Childish Gambino's 2011 album Camp and they gave it really positive reviews and I wondered how I never heard of this album. I looked up Childish Gambino online and I found out its the name actor/comedian Donald Glover uses as a music artists. Donald Glover is mostly know for portraying Troy in the show Community; one of my favorite shows and one of my favorite characters on the show (along side Abed)! I was very surprised to see that he actually raps as well, having released many mixtapes. That put me in an unsure position; Is he just like the other actors who try to rap but fail miserably OR is he a force to be reckoned with and uses his comedic stance to his advantage? So I decided to take a chance, got the album and listened to it and I'm so glad I did.

I have listened to a lot of Hip-Hop in  my life, with music ranging from the 80s Golden Era, the 90s that produced some of the greatest of all time, and the 2000s that gave Hip-Hop the commercial strength it has now. However, rarely have I ever felt an emotional connection to the artists as much as I did with Camp, considering the fact that its only two years old! Childish Gambino's lyrics are so moving, and his delivery is very believable because he doesn't portray himself as a hard, agressive, and "gangster" character; when you listen to Childish Gambino, you get Childish Gambino. A nerdy, young and versatile person. He admits to being who he is, and wants you to accept that. Gambino is also not afraid to sing on his songs, and in doing so leaves a powerful effect. Many have compared him to Drake for that, but Drake and Childish Gambino are very different. If you can't connect with that and are looking for something materialistic, Gambino isn't your dude. But if you want something substantial and real, I highly recommend you check him out.

So back to the album! The album opens up with Outside, possibly the strongest intro to an album in years. There is a chorus humming in the background and the instrumentation clashing together is beautifully done. Then Gambino just goes off! He starts rapping from the perspective of his younger self, how his father lost his job and his mom had to take double shifts, how his youth played out with people having high expectations for him. And the chorus... Oh my God! Imma go on record and say this album has some of the best choruses an album can have. The chorus goes "There's a world we can visit if we can go outside" over and over as the instrumentation gets stronger and stronger throughout. Its a powerful introduction to a stellar album.  Then, you have Fire Fly, a song that chronicles his success. It creates an incredible juxtaposition effect from the previous song where he rapped about the hardships in his life, while in this one he raps about the success he's achieved. It has an incredible hook (that goes: When they see me on the streets, all they wanna do is take pics and I'm like OKAAY - Hilarious) that I love and some background vocals. So once you got all the background information from the first two incredible songs and you feel ready for the rest of the album, you get Bonfire, a song that will leave you in aww.

On Bonfire, Gambino rhymes his ass off! Its one of those songs with continuous braggadocios Hip-Hop but executed perfectly. He has some of the best punchlines I've heard in a while, such as "You can fuckin' kiss my ass: Human Centipede.", "Black and white music, ni**a that's a mixtape!" and "Made the beat then murdered it: Casey Anthony". Gambino goes HAM on this track and shows his "don't fuck with me" side. Like they said on Dead End Hip Hop (DEHH), Gambino admits he's a nerd, but he knows he can rap better than you! Now I don't wanna bore you with details with the rest of the songs and make this feel like an album review, but I do want to go through them briefly. The beautiful sounding All the Shine comes next expressing his love-hate relationship with fame but appreciates how his music has helped make insecure kids feel better about themselves. The chorus is absolutely breathtaking, giving such an inspiring and positive vibe showing how the buzz surrounding Hip-Hop doesn't drown him; that he can shine all by himself. It is followed by the song Letter Home, stripped down from the instrumental of All the Shine including just the violins. Its a very touching song, resembling Marvins Room by Drake, but being a hundred times better and more effective, while being three times shorter. He sings about an ex he's still in love with and says how he writes her letters, as his mom always recommended he do to girls he loves. Its very touching and emotional and a great interlude to the album. It makes you appreciate his honesty and is very great to listen to him sing and admit his love, saying how alcohol and other substances don't effect his feelings. 

From the moving Hearbeat to the nostalgic Kids, Childish Gambino continues to hold you tight with great lyrics, beautifully sung hooks (especially L.E.S.), and his unique character. But to keep from the mushy stuff overflowing (which I don't mind but I know a lot of people do), he comes back with a banger called You See Me. This song, like Bonfire, is a lyrical assault! Gambino has excellent worldplay and on his third verse, he goes... the fuck... off... spitting faster and faster. And the beat on this thing is monstrous! Sunrise follows and is another great song but we're one away from the great conclusion that ties the entire album together. That Power is one of the strongest outros to an album I've heard in years. Gambino first off raps for about three minutes about how he feels he doesn't get the recognition he deserves because people ignore him for being another actor turned rapper. Its a very powerful starter for a great outro. When the song hits the three minute mark is when things gets serious. I honestly feel like I don't want to give anything away, but he tells a story about some experiences he went through in camp that caused him to learn a valuable lesson. When you connect all the dots together and see the deep value in his spoken word story, you can start to value him as an artist and see how much he values you as a fan. It truly is a touching finale and I love to revisit the last five minutes just to be transported into that camp bus sitting behind him telling the story. He does it so perfectly that I can talk about it on and on and it wouldn't do it justice. It truly is poetic!

So in conclusion, Camp is by far the best album released in years in my opinion. It has everything that makes an album memorable; great lyrics consisting of both emotional and punchline material, a great intro and outro, and absolutely stellar production. Childish Gambino collaborates with Ludovin, the composer of Community, which is an excellent choice because it gives the album a grander and classical feel rather than the poppy sound which clashes with the lyrics and hooks perfectly. What the album succeeds with most is creating a connection between the artist - Gambino - and the listener which is something that rarely happens these days. I cannot choose a favorite song because each is important in bringing the message of the album alive. I have praised this album enough for y'all so I highly recommend you check it out. Also, check out his EP and his previous album Culdesac, those are dope too! From now on, Camp will rank as one of my favorite albums, NOT best but favorite. I do believe there are a lot more sonically consistent and deep albums, but what this album does that the other don't is touch me personally. So what are you waiting for? Cop it! 

10/10 - Classic

What do you think about Camp and Childish Gambino? Did you love it or hate it? Keep in mind the people that didn't like this album criticized the points I and many others enjoyed, so its basically black or white; no grey area. Leave a comment and tell me what you think! Also, if there's a topic you want me to voice my opinion on, please leave it in the comment section. Also follow me on twitter: @firasdarwiche96  for updates.

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