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TheKickback – Childish Gambino

Andrew Gastelum | Thursday, August 29, 2013

Welcome back to The Kickback, and I hope you had plenty of them over the summer as well. As I said in the inaugural column, The Kickback is all about hanging out with your best buds, listening to the latest jams and, well … kicking back. 

And this is the space where you’ll get a weekly update on the best of the newest music out every Friday.

Usually this space highlights an album, mixtape or some other form of a full release. But this summer was just adequate. I thought for sure I’d have too much to write about here.

Kanye West’s “Yeezus” was a classic to some, annoying to most, but without a doubt it was polarizing. Jay Z’s “Magna Carta Holy Grail” was a more traditional approach from a legend of the game, but as it went on it just grew more predictable and worn thin. J. Cole’s “Born Sinner” was solid, but too preachy and monotonous as a whole. 

In fact, my summer listens were still dedicated largely to Chance The Rapper’s “Acid Rap,” which I highlighted in this column back in April and is still the best release in 2013 so far.

But this summer The Kickback was, oddly enough, all about one song for me: “Centipede.” It’s Childish Gambino’s first single off his untitled, yet hugely anticipated second album. 

And the way he went about it was perfect. Holed up in a mansion over Malibu, he came out of obscurity and randomly dropped a single that crashed his newly designed website. A 24-minute short film showing the antics of the mansion-turned-studio accompanied the release, which was written and produced by 30 Rock writer and comedian Donald Glover (who, if you don’t know, is Childish Gambino.) 

“Centipede” starts off with a hum-worthy harmony followed by a light piano melody while Gambino rolls over the tune while reminiscing about his childhood and the luxury of the peace he felt on his grandmother’s couch as a kid. 

But the rhythm continues to build and build, before a wildly entertaining switch up when a synth-ridden, pulsing beat takes over right as he starts talking about his recent life of fame and fortune. 

Now that very same couch has become a fear as he repeats “Cuz if not I’m a failure.” Returning to grandma’s couch means returning to a life of poverty, disappointment and, ironically, less worries. His desire to not return to his grandma’s couch ruins his relationships, changes the scope of his family life and drives him to work himself to the limit. 

It’s a pressure we all face when we achieve some sort of success: the fear of going back to a point where dreams somehow paid the bills and a sense of personal failure was always present until the biggest dream of them all was accomplished. 

But after all that and even surpassing his wildest expectations, Gambino drops the realization that maybe there is always something bigger and better out there. Something outside of a dream that is unattainable no matter how hard we try. Yet we try anyway.

Even after everything, “You got your own couch now but don’t feel better.”

Contact Andrew Gastelum at agastel1@nd.edu