Childish Gambino album review: ‘Because the Internet’


Childish Gambino performs onstage at the 2014 mtvU Woodie Awards and Festival on March 13, 2014 in Austin, Texas. (Rachel Murray/Getty Images For Mtv)
March 27
CHILDISH GAMBINO
“Because the Internet”

Kindred spirits: Danny Brown,
Kendrick Lamar

Show: Tuesday at the Fillmore. Show starts at 8 p.m. 301-960-9999. www.fillmoresilverspring.com. Show is sold out.

Childish Gambino is the hip-hop alias of actor/comedian/television writer Donald Glover, best known for his role on the NBC show “Community.” As a rapper, Gambino has come a long way since his 2011 debut, “Camp.” On his new album, “Because the Internet,” he uses improved rhymes to offer social commentary on life behind a screen.

As a concept album, however, it isn’t easy to follow. The ambitious 19-track effort (part of a larger multimedia project that includes a short online film and a 76-page screenplay) has an inconsistent flow. Like he’s clicking between Web pages, Gambino exhibits a short attention span as he moves from track to track. Meaningful quips about Internet saturation (“Common sense, the consequences / Retweet the tweet then regret the mentions”) get lost among hokey similes (“We can kick it like it’s FIFA”) and distracting genre cliches (“Got a Lambo like Lebron’s mom”).

Sonically, too, “Internet” is all over the place, with mixed results. Well-crafted
winner “The Worst Guys” cruises with a jazzy, psychedelic bounce and guest chorus from popular upstart Chance the Rapper. Gambino also finds a tuneful groove in the futuristic R&B of “3005,” highlighted by an enticing hook and melodic synth accents. But a collage of manic dance-beat snippets mars the message of “Earth: The Oldest Computer (Last Night),” and the grating, dub-step-inspired “The Party” should have been scrapped.

Gambino is at his best during the steady roll of album closer “Life: The Biggest Troll (Andrew Auernheimer),” a trippy meditation on digital identity in which he asks, “Where’s the line between Donnie G. and Gambino?” After plenty of twists and turns, we’re left to wonder.

Jedd Ferris

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