Back With A Brand New Edition

Guys. I’m back.

I thought about posting a long explanation as to why I’ve been gone for so long, but that felt awfully sappy, and as you know, that is the antithesis to my being. In short, I was depressed, got on medication, got better, then tried to stop the medication and re-lapsed. Nothing major, and nothing to worry about, but I’m back on my meds, evening out, and feeling much better. So let’s blog.

Camp – Childish Gambino

Definitely not a camp for children

My love for Nicki Minaj aside, I’m really not a fan of rap. In general, I can’t handle the MASSIVE EGOS of most rappers, or in the case of Lil Wayne, the incoherent giggling. I like Nicki because I saw that she was able to skillfully navigate between bravado and soulful honesty, and because she’s a true performer, in every sense of the word. Childish Gambino is all that, and so much more.

Childish Gambino is actually Donald Glover. If that name sounds familiar, it should. If it doesn’t, it still should, but I get to tell you why. Donald Glover was part of the comedy group “Derrick Comedy” in college. As in the people behind Spelling Bee, Opposite Day, Keyboard Kid (my personal favorite), and the one most people are probably familiar with: Bro Rape. Ever watch The Daily Show? Yeah he wrote for that. What about 30 Rock? Yup. That too. And he’s on Community. And he’s a legit DJ. And a rapper. Did I mention that he’s under 30 years old? Yeah.

So anyway, Camp is his first studio album, a concept album about childhood and adult insecurity. The most common description of Glover’s rap style is that it’s “cartoonish.” I’m not exactly sure what that means, but I’m guessing it means that it’s really exaggerated. Which isn’t for everyone, I’ll be the first one to admit. I like it, though to be honest, I wasn’t sure if it was a parody of rap or not at first.

Regardless, the album just feels… epic. There’s heavy bass (duh), but you’ve also got lots of background strings, piano, and operatic chanting. It gives it a sense of legitimacy and importance. Obviously Gambino isn’t the first or only rapper to do that, but I think it works really well. Glover also manages to bring in a lot of his DJ experience, blending electronic influences with hip-hop. I’m a particular fan of this, since I’ve been a fan of electronica since I was thirteen.

Before I get to the main things I liked about the album, and why it resonates so deeply with me, I’ll go through the few things I’m not in love with, or that others might/do object to.

I’m trying to decide how delicate I want to be with this. Screw it. He talks about his dick ALL THE TIME. I mean, like ALL THE TIME. I get that rappers talk about sex a LOT, I do. And honestly I don’t feel like Gambino goes into as much detail and grossness as Lil Wayne or some others. But you’re going to hear about the size of his penis, so don’t be surprised.

The other thing is basically the exact same, just with female genitalia instead of male. You’re gonna hear about those a lot too.

OK, so what did I really like about this album? Basically two things.

1. This album is so honest. In fact, I would say that it’s the most authentic, personal album I’ve ever heard. Yes, 21 by Adele is a personal album, as is Battle Studies by John Mayer. But those are just sad breakup albums. Why can’t artists get personal about anything but breakups? OK, I guess Continuum by Mayer is pretty personal, with its pervasive fear of growing up, but Camp outstrips it. Donald Glover talks about all sorts of things, from growing up poor, to being rejected by whites for being black, to being rejected by blacks for being too white, to thoughts of suicide, to fears of being an alcoholic, to just having fun. I mean, wow. It’s not everyday you just tell thousands of people that you sometimes think about killing yourself.

This album really made me think, which is rare for modern in music in general, and rap in particular. I guess I never thought about what it was like to be a black man in America. I mean, maybe I did abstractly… but I never realized what kind of pressure there is to fit a certain mold. I never realized that black kids that speak well are ostracized from their culture for “talking white.” I never realized that black kids with dads are accused of not really being black. I never realized how important it is to dress a certain way, to talk a certain way, to only like certain things. In some ways that isn’t so different from white culture, but in some ways it’s totally different. Which kind of brings me to the second thing I love about this album.

2. I relate to it.

At this point, your mind may have exploded. I mean, what does a 24 year old suburban white kid from Texas know about being black – let alone about not being black ENOUGH? What do I know about sleeping around, or being afraid I’m becoming an alcoholic? I’ll admit – not much.

But I can relate to a kid who gets in trouble for talking despite being the smartest kid in class. I can relate to being called “faggot” just because I talk or dress a certain way. I can understand a guy who likes nice clothes and Sufjan, who disappoints his mother, and who never fit in growing up.

[Sidebar: If you say the word “faggot” around me, I might still twitch. And inside, I am livid. I might not fully understand what goes through a black person’s mind when they hear the N-word, but as someone who has been called a faggot his whole life, I think I get it more than most white people. It is a horrible, offensive, cruel slur, and I encourage you to never say it again. And the same goes for calling things you think are stupid, “gay.” It’s not alright. You don’t call stupid things “black” or “Asian,” so WHY is it OK to call it “gay”? Answer: IT’S NOT.]

Anyway. Camp is awesome. There’s some really great wordplay and one-liners. There’s some epic background music. There’s some legitimate singing. There’s electronic influences. There’s bravado. There’s serious introspection. There’s social commentary. It’s an impressive album, assuming you can get past an exaggerated style and some really foul language (which decreases as the album progresses). Here’s a truly fantastic – and creepy – single.

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2 Responses to Back With A Brand New Edition

  1. javaj240 says:

    I so enjoyed this post. What a great “voice” you have. Your review actually made me listen to a rap song on purpose. It was good. My head didn’t explode. That’s about as much enthusiasm as I can muster for rap — in spite of your fine review. Anyway, I cannot wait to read some more of your stuff!

    • The Main Nerd says:

      Thanks so much! It’s so encouraging to hear things like this! And I’m glad I could inspire you to try something outside your comfort zone!

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