Last Friday, Donald Glover, who is having the best.year.ever. under his nom de plume (the cool kids all have them, get you one), Childish Gambino, dropped a project titled, Awaken, My Love! There’s a better than fifty percent chance that you’re aware of this because I skimmed the social medias and it was littered with talk of this new album by me and you, your mama and your cousin, too. I have thoughts about it; here are my thoughts about it.
1. Let’s just put this out there upfront, I’m not really a Childish Gambino fan. I LOVED “Freaks ‘n Geeks” because I didn’t see it coming. Make no mistake, I know and recognize that he can spit. I just feel like after listening to much of his music (early on, at least) I didn’t find myself enjoying it much. Which made me less enthused for most of his projects, mixtape or album. Which is fine, everybody can’t love everything and everybody hates Chris. So I have given half-assed listens to most of his work since the beginning. I’m almost never going to say, “oh shit, Childish Gambino” and rush to check out a project. So, it was with a disinterested interest that I decided to listen to Awaken, My Love! since Facebook would not shut up about it.
2. With that being said, holy shit! I’ve been listening to this album literally non-stop since Friday. I’ve listened to it in the car, in the house, at the job, eating corn on the cob. I could listen to it here or there. I’ve listened to it everywhere. After my first listen, I was “eh” about the entire project. In fact, (and this is no comparison of the artists, but of my reactions to them) I felt the same way about Frank Ocean’s Blonde album at first. Then I started to listen from a musical end and even now, months later, Blonde is my “I can’t think of nothing else to listen to” fallback album. On my second (!!!) listen to “Me And Your Mama” I had a *mind*blown* moment and was like, “holy shit, where have you been my whole life?” It’s been a while since I’ve enjoyed an album as much as I’m enjoying this. It’s tickling my fancy.
3. I also realize this album isn’t for everybody. There are going to be people who absolutely hate it for its expansiveness (could be viewed as aimlessness) and random musings and breaks from convention. For me his channeling of so many obvious influences into what (to me) feels like a cohesive project is impressive. You hear that, Nutso? You impressed me. Me and Tupac? We care.
4. My first thoughts upon listening once I realized how much I liked it: How many drugs, what kind of drugs, and how frequently was he using said drugs during the creation of said body of work? Seriously, from the odd voices, to the musical instrument choices to the movement and change-ups, you just don’t make some of these decisions sober. Shit, I’m not sure if you can. For instance, the voice and accent he uses on “California” while grating to many entertains me greatly, but I’m pretty sure he was smoking some of the finest quality herb and drinking the brown liquors when he decided to fiddle with that voice and he and his similarly high engineer were like, “fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck, that’s awesome! You sound like the love child of the Dalai Lama and a black squirrel named Jesus who pronounces his name as Hay-seus because sacrilege” and the rest is history.
5. This album is funky as fuck. Funky as some chicken; it’s good to the bone and finger licking. Though, (and not to be rude), Childish Gambino does not eat fast food. That’s the immediate takeaway some two minutes into the intro song, “Me And Your Mama” which abruptly changes into some straight Funkadelic-style-and-feel music that made me do the gas face. It’s dirty. It’s clean. It’s polished and gritty. It’s sound effected. It’s effective. If you’re a music lover, even if you don’t love the sound of it, it’s probably difficult to not appreciate the depth involved here.
6. This is definitely a Black album too, following in the vein of Black ass albums released lately (dating back to Kendrick Lamar’s Black ass To Pimp A Butterfly, which I wouldn’t be surprised to find was an inspiration). However, this is 70s Black, which means it has that Sly & The Family Stone resonance which means it will be enjoyed vigorously by the white people which means headbands, dirty locs while playing the bongo and reciting slam poetry. Basically every white person in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, will love this album and alternate between this and A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie on the Sunday walk to brunch.
7. My favorite tracks are “Me And Your Mama”, “Have Some Love”, “Boogieman”, “Zombies”, “Riot”, “Redbone”, “California”, “Terrified”, “Baby Boy”, “The Night Me And Your Mother Met”, and “Stand Tall”. Yeah, those.
8. You know what else came to mind when listening to this album? Organized Noize. In fact, if Outkast’s “Funky Ride” and “Stanklove” were expanded into a 48-minute long ONP helmed-jam session where Sleepy Brown, Joi, and André vocally riffed the entire time, I feel like this album would be a definite possibility.
9. There are very few albums that I actually want to see performed live; this is one album I’d REALLY like to see performed live. It seems like it would be a great time. Here’s the caveat: I would not like to go to a Childish Gambino show where he’s performing this amidst his other songs. I only want to see this and only this live.
10. Ultimately, I think it’s a worthy listen and one I recommend with all five of the pimpslaps I’ve been allotted by Willie Dynamite. No matter what, if you like that funk, this is an album you’ll enjoy. You will be imbued with the spirts of Funkadelic past and that’s almost never a good thing. Don’t be terrified. I’m spinnin’. I’m spinnin’ I’m spinnin’ you up.