Donald Glover might never get the credit he deserves. His short-lived TV/comedian work will cause internet type-casters (sorry bloggers) to forever box him in as the Black buddy of the autistic Indian kid on Community, a show too smart for its own good. Ironically, his efforts as rapper/musician Childish Gambino dwarfs that of Donald the TV star.
Gambino’s latest effort is the sprawling 19 track mixtape and EP STN MTN/Kauai. The concept allows for two distinctly different records to be played back to back, ultimately coming together in all its awkward glory. STN MTN is Gambino’s dream; one where DJ Drama hosts and he’s hailed as a king of Atlanta. The radio stations love him, his name is gold on the street, and he plays the most iconic venues in the city. The tape opens with a clearly agitated Gambino spilling dizzy bars all over a platinum Ludacris instrumental. No fucks given.
The record’s relaxed second half is the sound of Gambino fading back to reality on the shores of Kauai. The EP experiments with the pop and electric sounds he tinkered with on last year’s terrific Because the Internet with influences ranging from the mature(ish) rhythm and blues of Mike Jackson to the funk fun of Timberlake and Pharrell without compromising an ounce of integrity. This shit only works because it’s the product of an artist balancing his jittery insecurities. Gambino is conflicted in his own skin and altogether dialed in, dropping him into that space where the best art is squeezed to the surface.
Even during its most trying moments Kauai is wholeheartedly more hit than miss. Force feeding us Jaden Smith’s stream of conscious babbling is useless, but then again it’s Gambino’s world. If that means we’re subject to a small dose of Smith’s lunacy, so be it. Play it all the way through and take the ride.