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Childish Gambino – aka Donald Glover – just dropped a new mixtape on the Fourth of July entitled Royalty. I thought I would put together a little review of said tape as I have been known to adulate the prodigy, and for the fact that it’s all I have been listening to for the last 72 hrs … I have never reviewed an album though, let alone a mixtape, so bear with me, bro.
For the kids late to the party, Glover is a former comedy writer/actor, and a hilarious one at that. In his free time he made beats, and in wanting someone to rap over them, he gave it a try himself. Turned out he was pretty damn good at it. He came up with the alter ego Childish Gambino – from a Wu Tang name generator – in order to not confuse his raps with his jokes. And now a number of mixtapes and albums later he dropped this diddy. The thing that I have always enjoyed about him is how articulate he is and how deep his lexicon runs. It’s obvious he went to college for writing. That mixed with his pop culture references make for unique and exciting raps you don’t find – in my opinion – much elsewhere. All of which I can appreciate.
As far as Royalty, to start, I gotta say, I didn’t like the title at all. When we got the freakin’ Brits still wasting time and money with that whole moronic and dated process of queens and princes and what not, just didn’t seem like a name that appealed to me. That and Mr. Glover has never been one to focus on that sort of haughtiness in his rhymes. I suppose you are saying, “Whatever Box, it’s an eff ing title, you don’t know his reasoning” and you are absolutely right. There may be a decent thought behind it, but people tend to judge books by their cover, or at least I do, and Royalty to me is a lame ass name.
As far as the music however, my thought from We Ain’t Them and onward was remove the childish from kids name, cause this dude is all growns up! It has been 8 months since CG released his debut studio album Camp, and the youthful and raw sound from that and his previous work is gone. His self conscious and defensive lyrics seem to be missing as well. You get the sense that Gambino is maturing, coming into his own and getting comfortable with what he is doing. Up until this point you almost wondered if he should have stuck to comedy, something he himself almost projected in his lyrics. From his voice, to the overall sound in Royalty, CG feels more developed and confident. In his decision to rap, and in his flow. It’s hella fun to hear!
As was the key with any of Gambino’s previous solid mixtapes, the bastard again picked some unusual tracks to sample. Indie, rock, and such, and in this case a little Ms. Britney Spears. They work though, somehow, and it gives his sound that heartbeat that most hip hop lacks. The overarching heartbeat of Royalty in my opinion is somewhat ominous and dark, a deviation from his past work as well. On top of that, he also has a guest rapper on nearly every track, something he doesn’t usually do, which too portrays progress and his desire to collaborate with his fellow rappers. I enjoy most of the guest spots, though I would rather hear more of just CG, after all that’s what I downloaded the tape for.
My favorite track is the up tempo R.I.P., which leads off with a great verse from the always fresh Bun B and samples a song from the most interesting movie of 2011, Drive. The record is well mixed and produced, so it has a dance flavor to it and yet doesn’t lose the aggregate dark edge of the tape. This track actually feels a lot like the movie Drive, a movie CG has stated he is a fan of, which then makes sense. The lyrics are more or less Gambino saying an eff you to all the haters – damn those haters – and that they can rest in peace now since he has made it.
Something I can relate to.
In the past ‘bino – as the kids call him – has always made it clear he wasn’t going to do comedy albums, a la Lonely Island. Yet on this mixtape he has his idol Tina Fey close the final track Real Estate with a joke rap. A hilarious one at that, and her mentioning of spending racks at Nordstrom Rack is genius; I love that store. Anyway, allowing this to happen, seems to be additional proof that CG has grown more comfortable in his line of work and his style. You never would of heard something like that on I Am Not a Rapper since he was to focused on being taken seriously. Also of note in this track, is the solid financial advice he dishes out, by telling y’all to invest in real estate. He has never been a showy or iced out rapper persay, so this is some thoughtful advice to pass along to the impressionable kids who are listening. Well played.
Overall I’m quite impressed with Royalty. A great release for the summer and something to keep me busy for weeks. I think most people like to get invested in an artist, and then grow along with them. Growth has definitely taken place for Childish Gambino in this mixtape, and I feel like we as fans are a part of that, as well as witness to it. Ultimately Royalty is a tasty treat, an edgy and fresh sound that has the all the CG we have previously adored but again with that sense of added maturity. And being a free digital download never hurts. Word.
5 Stars out of the Sky
∞ out of 10
Mike ‘Box’ Elder is tone deaf and a terrible rapper, neither of which stops him from trying. Follow his rhymes on Twitter @mikeboxelder.
Category - Pop Culture