Donald Glover, also known as Childish Gambino in the music industry, excels at numerous forms of entertainment. He is a fantastic scriptwriter, comedian, actor and TV and music producer. Not to mention he has also released three studio albums, seven mixtapes and two EPs, earning himself a great resume as a hip-hop artist.
As a huge fan of Childish Gambino’s work, I was extremely excited for his latest album “Awaken, My Love!” to come out on Dec. 2 after hearing the lead single “Me and Your Mama” last month. “Me and Your Mama” was such a different sound compared to Gambino’s old work. It begins with a roughly two minute spacey-sounding intro that leads into a powerful guitar riff over which Gambino passionately sings about pleading for love. The album opener then fades into a two-minute outro with an electronic bass to complete a near-perfect song, in my opinion. Glover really showcased his ability to sing and brought a whole new dimension to his music with this soulful single.
Gambino followed up “Me and Your Mama” with another great single, “Redbone,” which continued in the soulful direction that his single started. Based on the first two songs, it was clear that Gambino wanted to significantly change his sound from the more rap-centered albums of his past. That was fine with me personally as long as he made sure he nailed the new sound.
While I did enjoy the rest of the album, I wasn’t quite sure Gambino had nailed the sound I hoped he would. Songs like “Have Some Love,” “Boogieman” and “Zombies” were all solid but weren’t anything special. Those three songs especially felt like the funk sound that André 3000 invoked as part of OutKast in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and although that is not a bad sound, it didn’t quite stand out on Gambino’s album.
The latter half of “Awaken, My Love!” redeems some of its flaws, with songs like “California,” “Terrified,” “Baby Boy” and “Stand Tall” to complete the album. “California,” in particular, has more of the soulful and funky vibe from earlier in the record, but with a twist in Childish’s voice that gives it a great road trip to the beach feel. “Stand Tall,” in comparison, is a fantastic way to end the album as it has similar sounds to “Me and Your Mama” and probably highlights Glover’s voice the best out of any song on the album.
Several friends of mine aren’t very happy with “Awaken, My Love!” and are upset with what Childish did to change his sound. While I agree to some extent and definitely criticize some of his decisions, Gambino really hits the bull’s-eye with “Me and Your Mama,” “Redbone,” “California” and “Stand Tall” and the other songs on the album are solid. In fact, I think his effort to bring back a 1970s sound to modern hip-hop warrants a 3.5 out of 5 stars and is definitely worth the listen if you’re looking for some funky soul music. I can’t wait to see what Glover puts out next, especially if he continues to refine this new sound in the future.