Review: Royalty – Childish Gambino
There is zero excuse to have no clue who Donald Glover is. Actor, a former writer for 30 Rock, Star of NBC’s Community and accomplished comedian. The name Childish Gambino however… might escape you. A stage name created by a Wu-Tang Clan name generator — Gambino has become a well known rapper with several singles, music videos, multiple tours, 6 albums/mixtapes and ROYALTY making the 7th. With rappers these days — it’s easy to make comparisons. But Gambino stylistic approach to metaphors and rhyme schemes, combined with a great production lets him stand out and secure a spot for Hiphop royalty.
A quick warning to returning listeners and kind hearted “Communies”… Childish Gambino’s flow on ROYALTY might shock you. Not in that violent “Oh my god how horrible” way but in this new, evolved grimier form. It’s clear that Donald went back to his Georgia roots and adopts a southern sound the likes of which would make any dirty south legend eager to accompany Gambino on a track. “We Ain’t Them” opens everything up, where we get more insight into Gambino feelings toward receiving recognition and criticism. “That reminds me — I sent a long text message to my mom and pop. I got the same speech when I left 30 Rock. My mom like “Why you wanna leave a good job?” My dad like “Do you thing boy, don’t stop.” Really great lines like that make Gambino’s tracks feel relatable. “No cosign, no bovine. More Swag, pulled pack on the punchlines” sets a precedent as Gambino keeps that promise through out the mixtape. “One Up” is the beginning of this, were Donald’s little brother but active rapper Stephen G. Lover displays his talent. I get the light sense of sibling rivalry here, which is good. Speaking on every quotable line will take too much time here, so I humbly suggest you check out Rap Genius for great breakdowns. Having heard the whole album many times, “Black Faces” still remains my favorite track. With a verse from Nipsey Hu$$le, this song sounds like an empowerment anthem — similar to Young Jezzy’s “My President is Black”. The wordplay used here phenomenal. “If I show my face west of Texas, That’s a big event. Gotta pay me twenty cent just to hear me vent”. “People wrestle over petty cash. When we really should be crying over that one percent like we tipped a milk glass.” I hope it getting clear to anyone reading this, that a majority of the lyrics might go over your head. Borrow a friend’s thinking cap.
Now is when the star studded tracks appear. And where the fair weather Gambino fans might be put off. Gambino gets up incoming street rappers Schoolboy Q and Ab-Soul from Black Hippy on “Unnecessary”. Call it “swag rap” if you want to, but there’s a lot of intelligence here. “Unnecessary roughness? We just trying to function. Used to sport them Filas cause my cousin packed them heaters. We don’t wife em like Khalifa, we just party then we leave em.” I’m perfectly okay with Unnecessary replacing “That Shit Cray” in the hiphop dictionary. “Shoulda Known” should bring those older Gambino fans back as it’s just him rapping and singing the hook. “R.I.P” is a true gem as I would have never pictured Bun B rapping on a beat like this. Almost has a new age Miami Vice feel to it. “Man, my flow is so parabolic. The energy will knock you over even if you Broly. Goddamn, now thats one for the Gogglers. That fell asleep on they desk and never step their noodle up.” That’s a DBZ reference… from BUN B! If your minds not blown, then I don’t know what tell you. Continuing on to “American Royalty” and “It May Be Glamour Life”, with features from the RZA and Ghostface Killa — I think it time to make Childish Gambino an honorary Wu-Tang member. Immediately, the beat on “Toxic” with Danny Brown, should be familiar to anyone alive in the 90’s. Beck on “Silk Pillow” is a miss for me. Gambino has a nice verse, and the beat produced by Beck is decent, but I’ve never cared for Beck’s voice.
Glover is definitely calling to the streets with “They Don’t Like Me” and “Arrangement”. “Wont Stop” will remind you of the more melodic side of Gambino, similar to his older tracks like “All the Shine” & “Heartbeats”. “Bronchitis” and “Wonderful” are mentionable tracks with that “stay humble” vibe but could seem like just filler. “Make it Go Right” with Kilo Kish is clearly for the ladies, pretty much the only one on the whole mixtape. We end with “Real Estate” featuring Alley Boy, Swank and (wait for it) Tina Fey. No lie. Don’t bug out, she’s not exactly rapping. More like a guest apperance to drop some knowledge on listeners. “My president is black and my Prius is blue, motherfucka!”
Halfway through is review, I stop to check how the fans are receiving ROYALTY. It’s sort of half and half with some praising Donald Glover’s bold change in flow with the willingness to bring on some less then well know artists to give a more solid street wise mixtape. The other half, seem to be disgusted, like someone peed in they’re cereal… in front of them. And I get that. I felt the same way when I heard they changed Cookie Monster into Veggie Monster. But I feel like ROYALTY was a big Rick James pimp slap to anyone doubting Childish Gambino’s seriousness to the rap game. Which is what I’ve been asking for. I’ve had many conversations with friends about Gambino future in rap… “Man just wait, he’ll go harder on the next one” I say. While ROYALTY might not feel as cohesive as CAMP for the lack of storytelling — the lyrics, beats and overall tone put this at higher rank then of Childish Gambino’s mixtapes. From me, ROYALTY earns 4 mics out of 5.
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