A Totally Biased Album Review: Childish Gambino Takes us to “Camp”

The best rapper you have never heard of is Donald Glover. I can almost guarantee you, upon a few listens, you will fall in love with the way that “Childish Gambino”, a rap name that Mr. Glover found on a Wu Tang name generator, weaves in and out of comedy, dark humor, and delivers completely personal tracks. Gambino has released a handful of mixtapes, and studio albums, but “Camp”, set to drop on November, 15th, is the first since he signed with Glassnote Records, and will now have his music finally put onto CD’s, and vinyl.

If you recognize Glover, it is most likely because rap, ironically, is perhaps the last thing on his mind. He wrote the for the NBC show “30 Rock” when he turned 22 years old, and is a lead character on the show “Community”. As if that wasn’t enough, Gambino is perfecting the craft of stand-up, that he often does hand in hand with his concerts.

Below, you will find a review to every single song on CG’s album, so those of you who are giving him a shot, know which tracks to sample, and for those, like me, who are are eager to hear every track, can get a good idea what will be awaiting you on 11/15. Counselor Gambino is calling me, so let’s get it started. It’s time for Camp.

1. Outside [4:30]

One of his most personal tracks, Gambino touches on the subject of his childhood, when he lived with his mother, father, and his aunt. The beat is one of the hardest on the albums, with a church like choir in the background, that immediately drops out to a simple clap. The chorus is extremely catchy, and definitely has the feel of a track that would open up the album. CG poured it all out from the get go, I expected nothing less.

“And my uncle on that stuff that got my Grandma shook
Drug dealers roughed him up and stole his address book
He’s supposed to pay ‘em back
He owe ’em money but his bank account is zero
So my momma made us sleep with Phillips heads under the pillow”

2. Fire Fly [3:23]

With a laid back beat, and some dope Gambino lyrics, this is something that his fans have grown accustomed to. I think this track, above almost all the others, show Glover’s jump from a lyrical genius, to someone who is able to wrap his voice around a beat, and completely ride it out. I’m not a huge fan of the chorus, but the verses change rap scheme so much, that the chorus is merely a second thought.

“Even dudes who like me straight lookin’ at me crazy
Like, how the hell he drop a EP and meet Jay-Z?
Girls used to tell me I ain’t cool enough
Now text me pics sayin’, “You could tear this up”

"I love pussy, I love bitches, dude I should be runnin' PETA"

3. Bonfire [3:13]

Ahh, the track that encompasses the Gambino’s lyricism better than all others, it was also the first single of the album. Childish first made his mark by using unbelievable bars that are about 100 times better than anything you could hear on the radio these days. Childish summed it up when he croons “Raps step father, year you hate but you WILL respect”. This track is the “A Milli” of Camp, as it lacks a true chorus, but goes incredibly hard. Great insertion in the lineup, as it preludes another emotional classic…

“The shit I’m doin’ this year? Insanity
Made the beat then murdered it, Casey Anthony”

4. All The Shine [5:46]

Without a doubt, All The Shine, which is the second single released to promote Camp, shows off Gambino’s voice more than any other track. The chorus is creative, and fantastic, and sounds even better with Gambino hitting falsetto notes that used to almost be out of his range. Another personal track, it’s becoming more and more obvious that Gambino wanted people to remember this album for what it is. An in-depth look at the life of someone who has never felt good enough.

“My mom loved to text me Psalm verses
She don’t look at me like I’m the same person”

5. Letter Home [1:44]

The shortest track on the album, Letter Home is a short intervention, separating the seriousness of All The Shine. The beats of the two songs almost collide like two freight trains, barreling towards each other. About a girl that has clearly left a mark on Gambino, as he is doing so on us.

6. Heartbeat [4:30]

A slow piano chord opens this track, before an auto-tuned Gambino comes in over a growing bass kick, symbolizing the heart beat of the song. Immediately kicking into a techno feel, it probably is the catchiest beat of the album, and was stuck in my head, even after hours had passed. Heartbeat is the absolute perfect blend of techy, hard shaking beats, with a piano backdrop, helping it keeping the sentimental feel. Definitely one of the albums golden tracks, the third and final verse is Gambino at his peak

“So we’re done? This the real shit?
We used to hold hands like field trips
I’m a jerk, but your dude is a real dick
I read his post on your wall and I feel sick”

7. Backpackers [3:16]

A track like any other that CG has done, the beat, you can spot a trend here, is a fantastic one, especially for this track. I am desperately trying to figure out if I enjoy the song or not, and I expect you will be too after a first listen. A track that Donald uses to call out all the haters, he touches on everything he has been criticized for, from his profane language, his talk about homosexuality [not in a negative way, either], and even his overuse of the word rape. Gambino gives every critic a new reason to hate him, and I think I love him for it.

“I got a girl on my arm dude, show respect
Something crazy, an Asian, Virginia Tech
She too fine… I do dimes
If not that, I’m walking out with two fives”

"My swag Jehovah Witness, yeah it never take's a holiday"

8. L.E.S. [5:18]

A fantastic, string driven intro, Gambino gets back to the singing roots again, before belting into the first verse. This song has it’s ups, but more downs than I would’ve preferred. Gambino has his peaks, like his second verse when he rapid fires a few bars in only a matter of bass kicks. Definitely my least favorite track on the album, it almost has no real topic, and seems like it was thrown on there. I mean, it’s still better than anything Waka Flocka is going to give you…

“We could pretend if you want to, like
We in love and started datin’ at your art school
Cause either way we both lyin’ more than half of the time
Except for when I’m home workin’ on your graphic design”

9. Hold You Down [4:52]

The second I thought we might have heard the best Gambino was going to deliver, which would’ve been more than enough, I got slapped upside the head by “Hold You Down”, which Gambino uses to obliterate the subject of racism, and growing up around it. The orchestra ending is fantastic, and the chorus is perhaps the best on the track. Definitely in my top five for the album, it had fantastic pace, and even better bars. Excellence.

“Yeah, these niggas wanted Cookie but instead I gave ’em Loch Ness
Sick Boi for life, my swag is in a hospice
Aimin’ for the throne, Jay and Ye said to watch that
They ask me what I’m doin’, I say I’m stealin’ rock back”

10. Kids [Keep Up] [4:58]

The absolute pinnacle of the album, “Kids” is the best track Childish Gambino has released, and there should be no question.The beat is tremendous, and the chorus blows me away. This track will define what this album means for white kids, hipsters, blerds, and everything in between. It makes you take a step back, and realize in the last few years, Donald Glover has transformed into a machine, and a hit making one at that. I even stopped the track halfway through to start it over, trying to delay the inevitable ending. Genius track from CG, and the best part is, I wasn’t even surprised.

“Women talk shit on men like all day
But it’s Pete Wentz… goes both ways
They too busy stabbing hoes like OJ
They too busy trapping pros like Kobe
The only thing I put before me is do re
If you had told me the truth… we’d be ok”

Donald Glover, far right, is a staple on the cast of NBC's hit show, "Community"

11. You See Me [3:15]

If “Kids” is the soft, perfect Childish Gambino, than “You See Me” is the hard rapping counterpart that we needed. You See Me is your favorite rap song… on steroids. The chorus is short, but very catchy, and, Gambino fans won’t find this surprising, is about CG’s love of asians. The third verse is absolutely ballistic, and makes the song worth it all on it’s own. The best “rap” song on the album, Donald Glover went insane. So insane in fact, you might need to have a wikipedia tab open to understand exactly what he’s talking about, but then again, when don’t you?

“Told me I was shit, but that shit couldn’t stop me
Nigga still hungry, black kobayashi
When I talk about you I hear a “who?” like Horton
I was born for this shit, you a rappin’ abortion”

12. Sunrise [3:40]

“Sunrise” is Gambino’s assault on the horrible rappers that have somehow succeeded far quicker than himself. The track definitely has an end of the album feel to it, as “Outside” did for the beginning of it. A simple track, that Gambino really goes in on, it is becoming more clear with every track that “Camp” really became something that Gambino held close to him, and wanted to give fans something to talk about. If I had a gripe with it, it sounds too much like our next track “That Power”, and that’s not necessarily a horrible thing.

“Thats that 20/20 hindsight
My shit be Jackson, Jordan, Bolton, Keaton, Tyson: 5 Mikes
Donald Glover, no relation
Always workin’, no vacation
They couldn’t feel me, no vocation”

13. That Power [7:42]

What starts out as a normal track, after completely blasting through two verses. He begins talking as the beat continues and tells a simple story, that has a great Gambino feel to it, and does an incredible job of wrapping up a perfect album. I promise you, after listening to Gambino’s short story, you will have a greater appreciation for his music, and perhaps even get goosebumps, like I did. I have never heard an album end the way CG ended his. Then again, I have never heard an entire album the way Gambino did “Camp”… The way that ONLY Gambino can do something… to perfection.

“So CG but a nigga stay real
Though I’m fly I’m ill I’m running shit
3-points, field goal
Rappers used to laugh like I tripped and fell
Cause I don’t stunt a gold cross like I Christian Bale
Yeah, they starin’ at me jealous cause I do shows bigger
But your looks don’t help, like an old gold digger
Uncool, but lyrically I’m a stone cold killer
So it’s 400 blows to these Truffaut niggas”

==========================

Without a doubt in my mind, “Camp” is a premier album in 2011. It’s a true shame that not nearly as many people will hear this album as those who will hear “The Carter III”, or even my personal favorite “A Sideline Story”. Lil Wayne and J. Cole had the hip-hop world wrapped around their finger, and rightfully so, but CG deserves far more love than he will ever get. The album was fantastic on so many levels. There isn’t a song on the album worth skipping, not even close. What genre CG fits under, we will never know. What we do know, however, is that no matter how hard he tries to escape it, Childish is exactly what the rap game needs. Someone willing to not only pour his heart out, but tell everyone to take their opinions and shove them up their ass. No matter what race, age, or gender.

A masterpiece, with a sound that no one will be able to match for a long time, Gambino delivers himself in such a way that will stick with you weeks after you hear it

Comments
2 Responses to “A Totally Biased Album Review: Childish Gambino Takes us to “Camp””
  1. Justin Yattaw says:

    This almost made me want to listen to rap. Almost.

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