Having left his full-time role on the hit comedy Community to concentrate on music, rapper Donald Glover aka Childish Gambino gets broader and bolder on his 2013 effort Because the Internet, an indulgent kaleidoscope of studio tricks and celebrity problems that's still wildly attractive thanks to its smarts and ability to swing. That latter bit ...
Having left his full-time role on the hit comedy Community to concentrate on music, rapper Donald Glover aka Childish Gambino gets broader and bolder on his 2013 effort Because the Internet, an indulgent kaleidoscope of studio tricks and celebrity problems that's still wildly attractive thanks to its smarts and ability to swing. That latter bit comes courtesy of primary producers Glover and Ludwig Goransson, who mix the edgy sounds of indie rap and indie pop with the best the mainstream world of R&B has to offer. Cool, radio-friendly crooner Lloyd shows up on the creamy West Coast dream called "Telegraph Ave.," while "3005" comes with a chorus so uplifting and bright, it makes the nerdy stay-at-home wallflower at its center sound epic and sexy. The booming influence of the A$AP Mob is felt on numerous cloudy cuts like the grand "Worldstar," where popping pills at Coachella, a Martin Scorsese reference, and a twisted sax solo all congeal into a dank glop of hip-hop hash oil. Then there are all the instrumental interludes that divide the album into chapters or suites, because this one reaches for art with some interruptions for getting flashy on "The Worst Guys" (where Chance the Rapper is merely Chance the Hypeman) and crashing on the couch for either a spliff, or maybe spliff and a sweet snuggle, with Jhené Aiko's "Pink Toes." All of it flows splendidly and Gambino's wit, hipness, and lyrical dexterity are all still strong points, with "I got more tail than Petco," "More green than my Whole Foods/And I'm too Fly, Jeff Goldblum," plus a reference to the "Ain't Nobody Got Time for That" meme being some examples. Still, even with all these strong points, Gambino often frames his angst and anger with the burden of being born rich (something he mentions quite often on the album), providing plenty of "we should all have such problems" bait or "hierarchy of needs" ammunition, depending on the listener's viewpoint/bank account. Even the short "The Party" finds him inviting friends over and then yelling at them to get the "F" out, but there's long been a wide gap between the life experience of rappers and their fans, something supported by the growling background vocals on "Crawl" provided by Mystikal, an MC who did plenty of hard time when most of his fans have not. Connecting with the album is nearly impossible, understanding it is difficult, and often enough, its inflated ego is irksome, but Because the Internet is too free and fascinating to be dragged down by these complaints, so if a Yeezus with more flash and fun is what's required, Gambino's got the good stuff. ~ David Jeffries, Rovi