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Polaroids Of Androids

Record Reviews

5.2

Childish Gambino
Because The Internet

For all of the genre's continually creative and unpredictable output, for the most part, rap music still adheres to a fairly strict career trajectory. Whilst the obligatory requirement to do a solid stint as a weed-carrier, beats-for-dollars intern or half-a-bar cameo prince has been disassembled slightly in recent years by the Rap Dot Com Boom and the self-created notoriety of online superstars such as Chief Keef, Chance The Rapper and Odd Future, there still remains clear stepping stones on the path from reading filthy limericks to your mates on a stoop to throwing bottles of champagne into the air out the top of a rented Bugatti.

The rap career of Donald "Childish" Glover is largely defined and influenced by it's uniqueness. For one, he started out at least 12 steps ahead of most. Already in the limelight thanks to a successful career writing jokes for Tina Fey and delivering devilish one-liners in the direction of frequent vacationer, Cornelius Chase, Glover never had a chance to quietly hone his craft away from scrutiny. Without this television celebrity foundation, his rap career would have undoubtedly grown in a far more organic manner. His first EP would have been a rough demo, critiqued by his closest friends, not every @tom, @dick and @harry with social media logins. The follow-up might have gotten some minor underground attention — at least amongst the small cluster of rap-emo nerds who dwell in the dark bulletin board corners of the Deep Web (sup, MC Chris?). Then a mixtape, which might have gotten a few DatPiff downloads for the associated names on the guestlist, but without a recognisable shout-over DJ association would have fallen off the front page within a day or so.

And Because The Internet would have been considered his long-awaited debut.

But this is not a debut record. Therefore, the usual watered-down criticisms ("ambitious") attached to a first official effort aren't really applicable, no matter how fitting they may seem. The same leg-up that got him instant attention also saw him receive instant critique. His celebrity resume dictated that would occur regardless. But it also meant that his future work hindered largely on his reaction to that widespread attention. The result is a completely confused artist, who has attempted to evolve and adapt, not naturally, but under the influence of mainstream critical analysis.

Because The Internet displays a musician still attempting to find his fit, alter his style to find a niche or please all those who have previously been harsh to judge his initial endeavours. He's trying on every hat in the store, at times piling many of them on at once. But few of them suit. And only Pharrell can really pull off that wacky Malcolm McLaren oversized cowboy number.

This continual search for new creative angles will test the patience of even the most dedicated fans — myself included. As a single piece, Because The Internet is an extremely disjointed and sloppy record. The endless stylistic shifts and overt 'sounds-like' reference points creates a total lack of continuity. Frustratingly still, many of the actual, individual components aren't altogether bad. The 'non-rap' songs — such as the brilliantly constructed ballad, Flight Of The Navigator — are the most complete and advanced work by Glover to date. But putting these spacious compositions alongside misogynistic sex tales, #firstworldproblems and head-numbing electro-rap bass lines destroys any form of completeness. As a whole, this creates an incredibly dull loud/quiet sense of contrast, where one side sounds too weak and the other sound's too overtly aggressive. And nothing stands out.

On top of all this, there's the loosely-contrived concept of 'The Internet'. Or more precisely — using The Internet. But, and somewhat keeping with the record's own ADHD-level of focus, the theme is never really explored in much depth and, aside from the meta qualities of Life: The Biggest Troll, there's few new perspectives or personal angles offered.

Although there's a legitimate argument that Glover is merely a victim of his own stature — circumstances even — Because The Internet continually offers up little reason to believe that music is anything more than an attempt to add a third treat to his byline. The surrounding marketing plan, which included a 75-page screenplay and a short film, only strengthens this presumption, with both exhibiting substantially more depth and focus than the music that were created to promote. And whilst I myself was one of the biggest defenders of Glover's hip-hop side-career initially (I stick by my lust of the Freaks & Geeks EP) I now hold little hope that he'll create the kind of unique hip-hop music he once seemed capable of.

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Childish Gambino

 

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