Spring Weekend Artist Profile: Childish Gambino


Childish Gambino is better than you. This is not meant to alienate you as a reader — it’s just the cold, hard truth.

At age 22, Donald Glover was a comedy writer for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and a year later he was writing for 30 Rock. By 25, Glover had released two mixtapes as Childish Gambino, a name created with a Wu-Tang Clan name generator. Childish’s third album, “Culdesac,” included, among others, the undeniably swaggamatic “Freaks and Geaks” (see video above), which was eventually featured on a commercial for Adidas shoes and the computer screens of millions of drunk college kids trying to impress their friends. When Glover started a Twitter campaign to snag the part of Peter Parker in the new The Amazing Spiderman movie (#donald4spiderman), the tag got over 100 tweets per minute. Former president and chairman of Marvel Comics Stan Lee tweeted back his support. (Note: In the end the part did go to the guy with better hair.)

And when Gambino’s new album “Camp” got a pitiful 1.6 on Pitchfork? The internet exploded. Spring Weekend 2010 rapper Wale summed up the collective sentiment pretty nicely: “Pitchfork…we don’t believe u…u need more people …yall can’t talk bout this culture, cuz yall not part of it.” Word. Pitchfork is dumb. We all know they only gives perfect 10s to bands with cats in them.

Childish’s ingenious wordplay is particularly close to our hearts, and the ability to rap the entirety of “Freaks and Geeks” has become the de facto party trick of a our Barbour suite. Here are some of our favorite lyrics, broken down by Rap Genius. We admit, we may be biased towards television and movie references…

1. “You didn’t know?
Black rock like a fuckin’ LOST episode”
 — “Sunrise”

RapGenius explanation: “The Black Rock is ‘a fully-rigged 19th century British trading ship that was found shipwrecked on the Island’ in the ABC hit series LOST. People tend to think Black music is only rap or jazz. Rock music was originated by black musicians, but a lot of people don’t know this. So the true origins are ‘lost.’ ”

2. “I wrote on rape culture my junior year at Brown
So I’m allowed to say what all his raps are about” — “Backpackers”

RG explanation: “Gambino has gotten backlash for the use of lyrics about rape and/or sexual violence in his songs like Put It In My Video from certain music bloggers, and apparently one of them pinning all of their authority on a class they took (probably S/NC) in their Junior Year in the Gender and Sexuality Studies department at Brown. Possibly in the class, Theories and Politics of Sexual Consent?”

3. “I be steady gettin’ paper, call a nigga Dunder Mifflin” — “I Be On That”

RG explanation: “He’s constantly making more money (“paper”) Dunder-Mifflin is the paper company that The Office is set in.”

4. “Texting on my day off, ‘Hey babe what’s going on?’
‘Sorry I can’t make it out,’ sad face emoticon”
 — “The Longest Text Message”

RG explanation: “When you are working in show business you are working round the clock. Basically your day off is something you love to have. When you only have a few days off, you what to spend them with people who are important to you. Shows how much he cared about this chick.”

5. “Weird voice catch beef like a lasso
New Fresh Prince, you can chill in my castle
Spit real shit, so I must be an asshole”
 — “Got This Money”

RG explanation: “Critics make fun of his ‘rap’ voice, so it catches beef like a lasso catches cows (beef). Since he acts and raps he often compares himself to Will Smith, such as here, where he’s the new “Fresh Prince” like Fresh Prince of Bel Air… [and] a ‘real’ asshole literally spits real shit.”

6. “Can I live up to all this hype they have for me? It’s hard to tell
But these girls I’m kissin’ chase the blues away like Gargamel” — “
Break (AOTL)”

RG explanation: “Ever since CG dropped ‘Freaks and Geeks’ he’s gained a ton of popularity, not to mention new critics. He’s getting hyped up because of the obscure/nerdy references in his music and the way he uses indie music for his beats. Will he live up to all this hype? … Gargamel was the sorcerer/wizard on The Smurfs who chased and scared them away. Smurfs are blue, so he chases away the blue. CG means these girls chase away the sad times (the blues).”

7. “After this I hit the highway
I’m headin’ west like I’m fuckin’ blowin’ Kanye” — 
“Break (AOTL)”

RG explanation: “Childish Gambino lives in Los Angeles — ‘heading West’ (as in giving Kanye a blow job / slobbing on his knob by making an “All of the Lights” Remix remix) has two meanings for him. Also since he went on a tour, he literally traveled west.”

9. And, of course: “The beat is witches’ brew, but beware, this shit is potent
e.e. cummin’ on her face, now that’s poetry in motion” — 
“Freaks and Geeks”

RG explanation: “Witches brew is usually the basis for some type of potion or spell. CG’s verse is the equivalent of Ursula stealing Ariel’s voice. MEAN. Witches Brew is a brand of beer that is known for it’s ‘whopping’ 9.3 alcohol content…so that shit is potent. This could also be a reference to Miles Davis’ jazz classic Bitches Brew, which could easily be censored as Witches Brew (e.g. to avoid cursing in public). Davis was a master of keyboard percussion instruments (xylophone, glockenspiel) which are the most prominent sounds on the beat for this song. I doubt the preeminent voice of 20th century poetry, e.e. cummings, would appreciate such a crass pun, but maybe he would? ‘Poetry in Motion’ was also a ad campaign by the transit authority in NYC that basically plastered subways and buses with quotes from poets such as e. e. cummings.”

Above all, Childish Gambino is an incredible performer… and hilarious. It’s going to be a great show. We’ll leave you with a snippet of  Glover’s onstage banter from his “House of Blues” show last semester:

“That is terrifying. That’s a full-out cut-out picture of me. It’s not cool. And I don’t like seeing it.”

So now you know to leave the life-sized Gambino doll at home.

Community extra video:

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