By Robert Stephens
Donald Glover is a prodigy. Although I am posting about him due to his rap persona Childish Gambino, Glover’s talent is staggering. While still at NYU he was a writer on 30 Rock (He would later rap: “I figured I was different from these other guys/ When I wrote for 30 Rock/ I was under twenty-five”). In 2008, Donald Glover quit 30 Rock to pursue an acting career, and in 2009 he began starring in the NBC show “Community”.
In addition to acting and writing:
- A gap commercial…
- Stand-up comedy…
- Sketch Comedy
- Accomplished DJ/producer who remixed a Sufjan Stevens album while in college…
Childish Gambino, which is a name Glover got from a Wu-Tang name generator on the internet, is the most exciting artist in music today in my opinion. He raps, sings, produces beats, and uses live instruments. His rap style relies on a lot of wordplay, but it’s his storytelling that truly sets him apart. His music often explores themes and thoughts related to his rise from being a bullied Black nerd from suburban Atlanta to a multidimensional talent making waves in Hollywood.
Let there be no doubt that Childish Gambino is a proficient rapper, but for me it is the story he tells that makes his art so compelling. How many rappers are talking about being a Black nerd? What rapper is dropping Smurfs references in raps, or is openly excited for the Muppet Movie? Forget rappers, how many people are talking openly about low self-esteem, suicide, and self-doubt? Childish Gambino pulls the listener into his current celebrity lifestyle filled with whiskey, drugs, and sex, while never losing touch with his own journey.
In Spring 2011 Glover embarked on the IAMDONALD nation-wide tour. The concerts were a showcase of a combination of his talents: stand-up, sketch comedy, and music. Part of the show’s theme was a meta-narrative of Glover’s struggle over whether to embrace the full scope of his creativity, or suppress his talents in order to pursue one genre at a time. I attended a show in May 2011. First, I had never been to a rap concert that used live instruments this prominently, which will forever alter how I look at future shows. He came onstage and began his stand-up set, which was interactive and benefited from his ability to tell great stories. His most memorable joke involved Justin Bieber hooking up with a goat, and Glover’s ability to use humor to connect with the audience from the outset really set an intimate tone for the rest of the show. Simply put, it was the best concert that I’ve ever seen.
This is an impromptu music performance while Glover was on the IAMDONALD tour.
2011 Free Album: EP
2010 Free Album: Culdesac
Freaks and Geeks is the song that took him to internet fame
Singing “So Fly” Live