New Childish Gambino Album’s Fatal Flaw: It’s Just Not Cool

Not even Donald Glover can get away with rapping about 'Friends'

  • Share
  • Read Later
Because the Internet
Glassnote Records


This post is in partnership with Consequence of Sound, an online music publication devoted to the ever growing and always thriving worldwide music scene.

Because of hipster backlash, authenticity has largely become a moot point in popular music, save for hip-hop. Whether this is valid and whether an artist’s past or how a project is funded is relevant to the actual text can continue to be debated ad nauseam. The truth is, with regards to Childish Gambino, most people have already made up their minds regarding Donald Glover, in the sense that they know whether their opinion of Glover and his over-arching celebrity matter when listening to Childish Gambino.

What is really being talked about in a conversation about authenticity is believability, trust, and honesty. Does the listener believe what they are hearing? Not necessarily did the action described really happen, but does the spirit of what is being conveyed come from an honest place? Does the artist have capital-T “Truth” to convey? Or is there deception at work? Is the artist trying to trick us? A listener doesn’t want to agree with a sentiment, find meaning in a story, or enjoy the progression of a narrative, and then find out they were being manipulated.

As Pusha T says on this year’s excellent “Nosetalgia”, “This is timeless simply cuz it’s honest.”

Because it’s honest. Camp, the debut LP from Gambino, received some notable acclaim, and some very visible ridicule, and the argument between the two hinged on the issue of honesty. So, it’s no surprise that Because the Internet arrives fists raised, ready for the challenge of rap purists who wouldn’t accept Gambino under any condition (his opinion). That attitude was also present on Camp, and it’s exhausting to listen to a rapper address strawman arguments, particularly for the 99% of people who aren’t rap purists, and some of whom might actually come into an album willing to accept it on its own terms. But, if you are coming into an album like this, Gambino gives you about as much benefit of the doubt as the rap world gives his music.

Listening without prejudice to the facts that Gambino is a moderately successful comedian, actor, and writer, most notably for 30 Rock and Community, is possible. However, the content of Because the Internet would eventually lead you right back to the same skepticism of the validity of Donald Glover’s rap. On “Worldstar”, Gambino pantomimes the cadences of both Mac Miller and Kanye West; the album never distinguishes a style that is his own, always sounding like one step removed from his contemporaries, something that is bound to be more common as rap’s history extends to future generations. Other non-lyrical red flags are waved by the lack of contributors he has been able to feature, with exceptions of Chance the Rapper (underutilized in his role) and Azealia Banks (possibly the worst person possible to have endorsing a resume). When your most worthwhile feature on a rap album is Thundercat, the listener ought to ask the question: Why?

(MOREA Conversation with Childish Gambino: Nostalgia, Bitcoins and Advice from Tina Fey)

Because of the Hollywood star in Glover, it’s now coming to light that Because the Internet is actually (probably) much more than just an album of loosely narrative songs with not enough insight and far too many overly clever non sequiturs. With the announcement that there is actually a script based on the songs of Because the Internet(or, more likely, vice versa) and the convincing theory that Glover has been living the plot over the course of the last year (creating a “concept world” rather than a mere concept album), Childish Gambino fans now have all the more reason to proclaim his genius. Likewise, his detractors now have all the more reason to question everything about him. When, as has been suggested, Glover is using interviews, social media, and every other public communication to actually create the multimedia concept art, there has to be a reason for it. But, how can we believe anything about someone who considers the world a concept art piece and makes the fans just part of the story, like extras in a movie?

Just because he’s a character, “The Boy,” it doesn’t mean there can’t still be honesty, truth, or something to get out of the Because the Internet world. But, for Gambino, there is only emptiness, and isolation, and really poor artistic decisions. We know Gambino can write decently; after all, people seem to like his episodes of 30 Rock. The script that accompanies this album is not half-baked, but it does oscillate between eye-roll inducing cliches and aggravating modern flares like using “smh” in a sentence that isn’t dialogue, or having Rick Ross play The Boy’s father, or even fucking naming a character “The Boy.” And, that’s only the first couple of pages. At the end of Camp, the album ends with this story about The Boy never growing up, remaining the child on the bus forever. Metaphorically. Here, in reality, Glover is acting like he never grew up as well, offering up some of the least mature writing choices imaginable, featuring tricks that only impress the easily impressed. Indeed, if Because the Internet was your introduction to rap music, it would probably be fascinating. So, this reveal, that everything has been in character, doesn’t make the immaturity of the music acceptable. It’s the artistic equivalent of throwing up a brick from the three-point line and goofily claiming, “I meant to miss.”

What you are left with is an ice sculpture, intricate in its creation, taking more care than any of us would likely appreciate, but also fleeting in its ability to captivate, and ultimately about as useful as a puddle of water. There’s a line in closer “Life: The Biggest Troll (Andrew Auernheimer)” about “spending more on friends than TBS,” which, initially, is funny in a way that makes you think the words “that’s funny” in a timid, unsure voice. It’s also a rap line about Friends. No one should be rapping about Friends, even if you made some money writing for shows on Friends’ old network.

True story: I used to bartend, and on two occasions I can recall male customers asking me, “You ever watch Friends?” Both times I said no, because I did not want to have a conversation in public about Friends. But, really, who the fuck hasn’t seen Friends? It’s omnipresent in American culture. So, I would let the men recount whatever anecdote Friends had so impressed upon them that they needed to share it, and I’d probably fake laugh and say “that’s funny” at the end. I did that because I was nice and didn’t want to tell those guys that Friends is lame and they should be embarrassed for liking it so much that they ask their bartender to talk about it with them.

Because I was nice, this review skirts the same issue, the heart of why people won’t like this album. Because it is not cool. This probably stems from the lack of honesty (and indeed, can you think of a less honest show than Friends?). Certainly, you can find moments that are effective on the collection. “Crawl” keeps the head-shakers at a minimum with the legitimate hook setting the table for a hypothetical thematic feast, loneliness advertised as one of, if not the, main dish. But, rather than provide a solution, or even insight into the Internet reality, Gambino simply adds to the frustrations. The big reveal at the album’s conclusion is that he was (likely) trolling all the trolls, but what about the fans? What about those of us who don’t need our time wasted merely to make the point that someone was wasting our time? Because the Internet should read as Because I Can, as if the anonymity of the web gives us no culpability for our actions or our art. Because none of this excuses literally sounding like a jackass on “The Worst Guys” or that stomach-turning “squishy squishy” sound on “Worldstar” (or for that matter, lyrics like “got more likes than a white girl talking” that are just unnecessary and uninteresting commentaries on race).

Because the screenplay exists and Glover’s TV past won’t fade out of the discussion, it is worthwhile to note that in movies, twist endings or big reveals are common. But music isn’t a movie. We don’t watch a movie with the same expectations as we have when listening to music. And, yes, the dedication that Glover has seemingly displayed in the project is admirable. But he just doesn’t seem to get music on this album. Maybe it’s because of his taste, or because he is trying too hard to stand out, or because of his hubris, or because he has lost touch with reality, or maybe it is because of the internet. And, as the title may suggest who is to blame for this ordeal of an album from Glover’s perspective, for the listener, Because Childish Gambino would fit better.

Essential Tracks: “Crawl”, “Life: The Biggest Troll (Andrew Auernheimer)”

More from Consequence of Sound: Top 25 Music Videos of 2013
More from Consequence of Sound: Top 50 Songs of 2013

52 comments
UpsMosley
UpsMosley

"Flight of the Navigator" is the best on the album. "3005" is a better single than "Worldstar". Those are the essential tracks. Clearly you weren't listening. The downside to this album is the overambitious nature of it. It leaves it's cohesion to the listener to figure out as opposed to spelling it out. Thus people see it more as a loose collection of tracks. It's too honest would be my opinion. Hip Hop always requires a suspense of disbelief, similar to a movie, but Gambino doesn't allow that. He rarely talks about things not going on in his life, regardless of how abstract it sounds. America doesn't want to hear rap from black people that isn't predictable, and relatively degrading to the culture. Your review embodies that ideal. Your vague comparison to Pusha cements it.

evanlaurencepillowakaelp
evanlaurencepillowakaelp

This review is like someone going to The Movies, closing their eyes, and then writing a review of it based on the speaking and sound of it. "Watching Movies With The Sound Off" Mac Miller haha

evanlaurencepillowakaelp
evanlaurencepillowakaelp

The reason TIME MAGAZINE is QUESTIONING CHILDISH GAMBINO'S HONESTY is because he is not rapping as himself, but as a character ( The Boy) from the screenplay. The screenplay goes right along with the album, so not only do the songs go with the screenplay, they go along so much that Bino wrote it so that people would read and listen at the same time. All of the songs are in the perspective of the character, not Bino. THIS IS TIME MAGAZINE. Don't write an article about an album if you have no clue about it.Childish Gambino is the most genius rapper of all time, and only people that actually go on Rap Genius and try to understand it deserve to listen to it and review it. The people that just listen to the album have no idea what's going on, and that's why they QUESTION CHILDISH GAMBINO. It's just sad.

Somostrada
Somostrada

I couldn't agree with this review any more. Cheers! Danny Browns Old, best rap album of last year

RobWerner
RobWerner

You would think for a legit website such as this one the review would be a little more legitimate this sounded like a upset ex girlfriend critique of her ex boyfriend.

imranski
imranski

I'm honestly wondering if this dude even gave this album a listen. It reads like a book report written without actually reading the book. 



ac-130
ac-130

This is the most stupid review I've ever read

_zacharys
_zacharys

What a loser. "Both times I said no, because I did not want to have a conversation in public about Friends." You can't even talk about things in public because you find it "not cool". Pathetic person who wants to criticize others for speaking their mind. 


And yes, I loved the album. I found it very easy to relate to, and he can rap with the best of them.



jackaloise
jackaloise

I enjoyed "because of the internet ". However i was hoping gambino would continue the style and sound portrayed with in his "royalty" mixtape. 


-thoughts?


(and for any gambino fans that have not heard royalty http://foreverchildish.com/royalty  check it out you will not regret or forget it)

joseph.easy.riley
joseph.easy.riley

Ok. I'm black. All my friends who support, NOT LIKE BUT SUPPORT, gambino are black and this album wasn't an instant classic but it is still audible crack. We couldn't get enough of it. How dare this guy claim any of it is fake, unoriginal or uncool.

If anything gambino is an inivator in the industry

Why you say?

I'm delighted you asked. Because he's not making trap music (gucci man, cheif keif, young jeezy, asap rocky sort of, waka flaka flame, tyga, you name em, etc) the list goes on.

Gambinos music is childish yes but its good. I could care less if he raps about rainbows and sunshine (allusion to pink toes on the album)

Just as long as he's rapping what he wants and it doesn't follow the crowd. He's not promoting killing, excesive disrespect to women, drug dealing or any other stereotypical rap content. His music is fun and speaks to the black kids with both parents and relationship issues.

The only problem with him is that he isn't famous enough.

Can't wait till the third album

TTDt
TTDt

HAHAHA This was a horrible attempt of a review. I'm not saying you have to like the album, but your analysis is horrible.

flamtam1112
flamtam1112

This guy's review is a joke. Please listen to the album for yourself. I'm so new to Childish Gambino. I WAS one of the people wondering who is this guy? Well I have to thank Rhapsody for introducing me to him on Tuesday. This is a truly fascinating complete album and this is coming from someone who listens to different genres from e40 to ti to now Childish Gambino. I absolutely love it it's all I've been listening to since Tuesday besides E40's new double album. His is nice too. I love it 5 stars out of 5

1Love_Music
1Love_Music

Who died and made Philip Cosores maker of the rules of what you can and can't rap about? "Oh it's music, it's not a movie...." dude, just shut up....it's storytelling. ..forget you and your rules....go talk to KW about rules, he'll bite your head off.

JayCarter
JayCarter

LMFAO!!! The real emcee is the writer of this very article! This had me LOLing in my bedroom listening to the album, i was a fan of the music, but after i read this now everything he says sounds pathetic lol. omgosh, kudos to the writer man of this. I'm so gonna read everything they review now. They have crazy humor man. You should do like comedy or something, or rap yourself. LMAO!! Last paragraph had my DIEIN!!! bwahahahahah

IskanderBenAmor
IskanderBenAmor

Wait wait wait. TIME is saying something isn't cool? Does that mean it is? Like if my mom says I shouldn't listen to Wu-Tang?

duncan.exposed
duncan.exposed

I'm not surprised almost all of Gambino's fans are hip, white kids. It's the only demographic this garbage could ever be cool or interesting to.

JesseKing
JesseKing

The only reason I made an account is to thank everyone who has posted a comment before me. Your individual comments in aggregate are much more insightful than the article above. I couldn't make it through the article, but I did read all of your comments. So again, thank you all.


I also suggest anyone else reading this to do the same.

AndrewDickerson
AndrewDickerson

I Was Forced To Create An Account Just So I Could SayThat This Has To Be The Dumbest Review I Have Ever Read. You Can't Admit You've Watched Friends Because It WoulD Make You Look Uncool??? Don't Waste Your Time Because Everyone Knows You Aren't Cool. The Definition Of Uncool Is Always Worrying About What Makes You Look Cool. Are You Still In High School? You Criticize This Guy For Not Being Honest And You Can't Even Admit That You've Watched A Sitcom? It Boggles The Mind. This Is My First Listen, But The Fact That You Think It's Not Cool Makes Me Think It's Probably Excellent. I Give It 5 Out Of 5.

thekidflames
thekidflames

Not a real great review. You need to sit and listen again, a few times - as you very obviously missed the entire point of the album.

LaluJohn
LaluJohn

NOW this is a terrible review. You don't understand that this isn't even a rapper we're talking about!

ReeseJones
ReeseJones

Def not a music expert. It's deeper than it being rap

WarpedVlad
WarpedVlad

a review is just someone's opinion. He's paid to write, not a music expert.

sharmag21
sharmag21

Philip Cosores is the real world Jebidiah Atkinson...

alexjan96
alexjan96

album was dope! hes gotta be crazy or hood man

MatthewDiFrancesco
MatthewDiFrancesco

Trash, overly biased review without true insight or knowledge of the album or of Gambino himself. It sounds like the guy has not even listened to it all the way though, let alone a few times - so unprofessional its PAINFUL!! Who hired this clown??? 


look else where for a "Review".

ANYWHERE honestly. This "Review" is a joke, as is it's author


Now as for the album, its amazing. It may take a few listens to really grasp, and really read over the screen play - http://becausetheinter.net 

aclemens
aclemens

This clown doesn't get it. This album name mixed with blatantly obvious lines like "Ain't no body got time for that" is a commentary/play on the internet. Hence the utilizing social media to publicize the script, twitter feed, album etc...The author used to be a bartender so that gives him cred on "good music". Get it right though, I don't want to belittle someone based off of their previous occupations, but how does that make him viable. Maybe that's why his bases his music on what is cool? Why else throw that little tidbit in. The author seems so content on being that guy that goes against the grain that he doesn't realize he is knocking a album that is going against the grain and trying to set a new precedent. I can't say that Gambino's new album is an instant classic, but I know I will be listening to certain tracks for a long time. The comparison to Mac Miller's and Kayne's cadence is blasphemy. Just wanted to add to the growing list of negativity towards this "critic". I get people with a bias are the only ones posting, but that bias goes both ways and no one who feels the same as the "critic" is currently posting.  He couldn't be farther off with his review.

BrandonHawi
BrandonHawi

So..... this man is getting paid to say that he did not want to talk about Friends, since it is lame  and men should be embarrassed about liking it. Just a tip, also, when you do a music critique, listen to it more than once. Congratulations, Mr. Critique, you have exactly 19 comments all criticizing you. Funny how life is ironic. You know what really is stupid, Mr. Critique gets paid for these comments. Don't want to spam, but I actually have this website on blogger called Rapalyze  rapalyze.blogspot.com where I actually write the reviews after I LISTEN to the songs. Really sorry to spam, but I'm sure you're all looking for a better review than this on Gambino, which I have written.

ScottHaven
ScottHaven

If this guy is only "moderately successful", what exactly are you?

It's amazingly easy to sit back and critique the work of others, but it's a whole different thing to have the confidence to create. I'm sure you are already well aware of that fact.

KaiRansome
KaiRansome

this reminds me why i tend to not read pieces by music critics. who's paying this guy to give anecdotes about his condescending and irrelevant life in an album review? mentions hipsters while writing like an irate wannabe himself and denigrating what 'isn't cool.' 


how are you going to babble about 'honesty' as a supposed music critic when you don't seem to understand multidimensional art? dude can't even get meta. 


smh. 

DavidEgan
DavidEgan

not worth feeding a troll (which I assume this review must be as it lacks honesty, and truth) But how in the hell can this crap end up on Time?! I need to start writing i guess

djdavidjay
djdavidjay

I don't care whether the album is cool, I care if it's good.

verlynda.pinckney
verlynda.pinckney

This album is amazing ! It has seriously been the only thing I have listened to since I got it last night. How cares what the world considers "cool" this CD was great! 

The script for Because of the Internet: who cares that he used SMH and etc. thats how we talk now and you could tell that he wasn't finished with the script yet. 

dms1702621
dms1702621

Something about this screams "petty man who loves the sound of his own voice" ... oh and everyone knows the guy lecturing you about why someone else sucks pretty much sucks himself.

Pun intended.

KnownUnKnown
KnownUnKnown

Its possible to make a review in one day, clearly however the author is incapable of that, although I am in awe of your coolness

trillchristina98
trillchristina98

theres no way you can make a review in one day the album has to grown on you first play it through several times then give a review 

james44445
james44445

You do realize that the last song doesn't actually cut off, right? The way you wrote about it "trolling" seems to imply that you think it cuts off.

Which it doesn't.

OVOVSVPXO
OVOVSVPXO

Gambino tweeted this yesterday, he was warning us the likes of you.


Childish Gambino ‏@DonaldGlover


"enjoy the album, don't fight the critics. they make too much money off me already"\



your gonna tell someone what they can and cant rap about? you just ruined rap for everyone then. musics about individuality. you probably wrote this review trying to troll all of us readers. ROYALTY had a amazing features yet turned out to be one of his least popular releases to many gambino fans.



Hugh_Manatee
Hugh_Manatee

I had to stop reading after this line: "Other non-lyrical red flags are waved by the lack of contributors he has been able to feature, with exceptions of Chance the Rapper (underutilized in his role) and Azealia Banks (possibly the worst person possible to have endorsing a resume). When your most worthwhile feature on a rap album is Thundercat, the listener ought to ask the question: Why?"

It's not like he COULDN'T get other features.  Look at his mixtape "Royalty": Ghostface, RZA, Schoolboy Q, Ab-Soul, Danny Brown, Chance the Rapper, Bun B, and more. He could have easily gotten other features if he wanted, but that wasn't the direction he was going with on this album.  If you're grading an album by what features they can land, you're not really grading the album.

Again, I had to stop reading at that point, so I don't know - nor do I care - what the rest of the review says.

StikBraxton
StikBraxton

You're mad about a line about Friends? 

You like yeezus didn't you?

maxxing
maxxing

This reviewer really knows what "cool" is, so I'm glad he's making it so Donald Glover can't sit at the popular kid table. Also glad you spent half the review talking about the show 'Friends'. 

RobWerner
RobWerner

@jackaloise im sure he will he was just stepping out of his box a little and experimenting with some trappy more mainstream style beats I feel to show his own versatility within the rap game

joseph.easy.riley
joseph.easy.riley

I made an account for the same reason you did and I couldn't agree more.

This guy needs to go back to bartending

DanielNash
DanielNash

@james44445 Yeah, after I saw this on Consequence of Sound, I had the feeling he wrote his review from the leak. Or he wildly misinterpreted the line "The joke's you showed up."

aclemens
aclemens

This was my exact reaction. Who grades an album on features? Isn't the album supposed to be focused on the title artist and whether or not he can carry the album? I think this critic finds DJ KaySlay's or Funk Master Flex's (back in the day) mixtapes amazing.

AliNaaseh
AliNaaseh

I was about to mention ROYALTY too -- this album isn't about his crew, it's about his struggle to find who he is when he's on his own.

Nailed it, Hugh_Manatee

tburiani
tburiani

@Hugh_Manatee i did the same thing. who cares who he features. It'd be great if he did thi album alone

djdavidjay
djdavidjay

@AliNaaseh Pretty funny you stopped at the same point, and I was going to mention the same exact thing in the comments. I'm happy I don't have to hear a hundred guests when I want to hear this CD.