#4 Childish Gambino- Because the Internet
Released: December 6th
By: Dequan Huggins
In 2013 no artist had a better album rollout than rapper/ producer/comedian/ writer/ blah blah blah.. Donald Glover aka Childish Gambino. Accompanying his second studio album, Because the Internet, Gambino wrote an interactive screenplay that follows a disturbed and doubtful young man that is loosely based on his life. There was an abundance of rappers spent time trying to convince the world what they were doing was “Art” this year, but none did a better job than Gambino fusing the worlds of music, film, and writing.
BTI is the best conceptual album of the year. Childish Gambino trolled the world into believing that he became some depressed and self-loathing kid when really he’s been acting out his character in the album the whole year. From wearing the same clothes all year to him being in love with soul singer Jhene Aiko it was all an act. Gambino’s Character, named The Boy, rides an emotional rollercoaster throughout the album. His plight is detailed through the song structure, as the beginning of the album is very upbeat and energetic. “Worldstar” is one of the better concept records on BTI detailing what its like to watch or be on the popular viral video website (“Yeah, mothafucka, take your phone out/ To record this, ain’t nobody can ignore this /I’m more or less, a moral-less individual making movies with criminals, tryin’ to get them residuals”). The album then transitions into records that deal with disturbia and death leading to the demise of The Boy. “No Exit” is a conflicted conversation The Boy has with himself while staring at spider on the wall. Voices shift from speaker to speaker hoping to make the listener feel what it would be like to be this troubled young man.
If there was an award for most improved rapper of 2013 it would have to be given to Childish Gambino. Vilified as just a punch line rapper, the 30-year became more confident as a rapper, developing flows that made him more entertaining than on his previous work. Gambino figured out a way to give his fans the same witty banter they’ve grown to love from him without some of the corniness that existed on his last album Camp. Okay sure, the “Girl why is you lying, girl why you Mufasa” line is a little corny, but its fun to recite and people get excited over it which is ultimately the job of an emcee.
What makes the idea of BTI work is how complimentary the production is. Gambino made tremendous strides in his production skills from adding beautiful guitar solos on “The Worst Guys” to the EDM influence on “Earth: the oldest computer.” The instrumentals are emotionally layered that help the listener connect the dots of his story. “Urn” is full on Frank Ocean-esque R&B instrumental that evokes sadness as Gambino sings about the passing of his father.
BTI is as confident and daring body of work this year from a rap artist. Every facet of the rapper Childish Gambino has improved. This isn’t the first time someone has made a concept album but this may be the most devoted that an artist has been to his/her concept while not losing a beat musically.
Favorite Songs: No Exit, Worldstar, The Worst Guys
Weakest Song: Crawl