In a November interview with Billboard, Donald Glover recalled the inspiration for his latest project began with a childhood memory.
“I remember hearing a Funkadelic scream and being like, ‘Wow, that’s sexual and it’s scary.’ Not having a name for that, though; just having a feeling,” he said. “That’s what made it great.”
Glover, better known on stage and in the studio as Childish Gambino, released his latest work Dec. 2 called Awaken, My Love!
Perhaps a shock or initial disappointment to some, the album doesn’t have a single rap song on it, the genre he made his name on. Rather, he leaves hip-hop behind entirely, instead exploring genres like funk, groove, soul, ambient and spacey electronic and even classic rock.
For the LP, he has cited influences such as Sly, The Family Stone and Funkadelic, but it’s easy to pick out at least a handful more upon listening, like James Brown and Aretha Franklin. Independent of Glover’s vocals, one can sense hints of bands like the Doobie Brothers in the instrumental arrangement for the song “Have Some Love” and Edgar Winters Group in the ones for “Me and Your Mama” and “Boogie Man.”
If you’re into music of that era, then this album was likely a more than pleasant surprise, but if you’ve been a devout fan of Childish Gambino since his EP days, there’s a decent chance this might not your favorite album of all time.
While the album is vastly entertaining and groovy, his use of what almost seems like voice acting sometimes overshadows the musicality and production on songs like “Boogieman” where he is reminiscent of Ozzy Osbourne, “Zombies” where he sounds rather ghoulish and on “California” it’s like listening to a Jamaican Fetty Wap.
None of these are necessarily bad, however, they will definitely be divisive. Long-time fans might consider them nothing more than weird or interesting, while others might consider them to be praiseworthy stylistic choices as they get down.
And as a deep and longtime lover of the music of the ’70s, this album was a sweet, blessed gift from above.
It’s overflowing with raw emotion and soul and makes you want to scream along with him, and I mean scream. It covers so many aspects of life like love, jealousy, pain and fear, sometimes all in one song.
It also manages to be a political commentary on social dynamics without being overtly political. Instead, he uses feelings and sounds of the ’70s revolutionaries to make parallel the struggles of that time with the those of today. This album is absolutely a trip, and if you don’t listen to it closely you might miss the point and its good sides entirely.
The maturation of Donald Glover’s life is manifested perfectly in the album’s music, and it’s definitely worth a listen.
Just keep an open mind.