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Childish Gambino changes the game

| Monday, October 13, 2014

childish gambinoMARY McGRAW
Childish Gambino just redefined the game. He released a free mix tape, “STN MTN,” on Oct. 2 and an EP, “KAUAI,” followed the next day. Artists have been trying different promotional strategies recently — or no promotion at all if you’re Beyonce — and Donald Glover just capitalized on the trend.

“STN MTN” serves as an homage to Atlanta, featuring Gambino rapping over ATL-based beats.

“I had a dream I ran Atlanta. And I was on every radio station,” Gambino opens on “Dream/Southern Hospitality/Partna Dem.” The “I had a dream” motif harkens back to Martin Luther King Jr., as Gambino describes the effects he would have on the city and its problems. The track resembles Lamar’s “Kendrick had a dream” concept in “Backstreet Freestyle,” where he raps about his rise from Compton.

“STN MTN” emphasizes how important Gambino’s hometown is to him. In continuing his attempt to shed his reputation as “that guy from ‘Community’,” he wants to establish his credibility as an Atlanta-based rapper. He acknowledges that many would say Iggy Azalea fits that description before him.

In his plan to better the city, he mentions in “Dream” that he would keep Chick-fil-A open on Sundays — appealing to my own dreams.

The mix tape employs Gambino’s fast-paced, hard-hitting verses intermixed with other Atlanta-based rappers: his younger brother and upcoming rap talent, Steve G. Lover and Young Scooter.

The Gangsta Grillz mixtape hosted by DJ Drama features beats from staples such as “Move That Dope” and “Go DJ,” with Glover spitting his signature comedic, fierce lyrics over recognizable rhythms.

He even added an elaborate, amusing commercial for himself that sounds like it was ripped off my local radio station for hip-hop and R&B (shout-out 101.1 The Wiz), featuring an unenthusiastic Gambino trying to get you to his performance at The Atrium in Atlanta on Friday. The fictional concert promises to feature every Atlanta-based athlete and offers free admission to anyone with a connection to the Atlanta Twerk Team.

“KAUAI” acts as the second piece in Gambino’s cohesive project. While “STN MTN” portrays his dream to be Atlanta’s top rapper, the EP acts as his whimsical reality after waking up from the dream on the shores of the Kauai Island, according to Glover’s Complex interview. The ideal seems to be somewhat of a stretch: the island lifestyle of Kauai and experimental nature of the EP sounds more illusory than the recognizable hip-hop beats and idea of topping the Atlanta rap game central to the mix tape.

The exploratory EP features eccentric beats combined with Glover singing and rapping interchangeably in a hypnotizing flow.

On first listen, I was ready to tear the EP apart. I had not yet heard “STN MTN” and was both expecting and wanting Gambino’s in-your-face style and unique lyrics. I was met with lulled lyricism, styling similar to what I would expect from Drake or Frank Ocean and Jaden Smith reading poetry to bongos.

However, after downloading “STN MTN” off DatPiff and satisfying my craving for his trademark stylings, I returned to “KAUAI” with an open mind. Although Jaden Smith’s spoken word poetry, reminiscent of his existential Twitter style, is absurd and humorous, tracks like “Sober” and the catchy “Pop Thieves (Make It Feel Good)” have started to lessen my initial hostility.

The proceeds from the EP, available on Spotify and iTunes, will go to preserving Kauai Island, Hawaii.

The mix tape/EP duo pulls a Beyonce/Sasha Fierce: “STN MTN” showcases Gambino’s hard-hitting rap game, while “KAUAI” exposes his exploratory, breezy nature.

The duo acts as an extension of the experimental nature of his previous album “Because the Internet.”

A music video was released for “Telegraph Ave.,” a track off the 2013 album, on Friday. The video, filmed on the shores of Kauai, starts out as a commonplace ocean-side romance but ends with an unexpected dark twist.

A secret track, discovered by fans who decoded messages on Glover’s website and Twitter, put an a capella track found on his site to the instrumental “3005 (Beach Picnic Version)” off “Kauai.” The discovery, confirmed by Glover, further linked his new work to his previous work; the lyrics to the new track a continuation of the song “3005” off “Because The Internet.”

In another connected experiment, Gambino has a TV show for FX, “Atlanta,” in the works.

Gambino’s recent works showcase two different styles in an experimental fusion of his different realities. “STN MTN” plays on his roots and signature rap style, while “KAUAI” acts in experimental juxtaposition. The project pushes the sometimes limiting boundaries of the rap game, which may polarize fans. However, in the wise words of Jaden Smith’s Twitter: “Hate Me Love Me Doesn’t Matter I’m Still Occupying Time Inside Of Your Psyche.”

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About Erin McAuliffe

I'm Scene's editor and a senior Marketing & Journalism student. To quote the exquisite Sadie Dupuis, "I'm not bossy — I'm the boss."

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