Play-acting with Childish Gambino

Childish Gambino is the rap persona of TV writer and performer Donald Glover.
Childish Gambino is the rap persona of TV writer and performer Donald Glover.
Posted: April 01, 2014

Despite Donald Glover's pedigree as a writer for 30 Rock and his starring role on Community, there's nothing funny about his rap alter ego, Childish Gambino, and albums like Camp. Caustically witty and weirdly metaphorical with an oddly jagged sound track, yes, but hardly the stuff of stand-up or sketch comedy. Then again, during Gambino's Electric Factory show Friday, you couldn't help sensing this was performance art, with its drawing-room set and e-speak projections in accordance with the backstory of his album Because the Internet of a tweet-happy socialite bugging out in his mansion.

"Get out of my house!" he hollered to his bandmates abruptly before the taunting rich-kid rap attack of "IV. Sweatpants," a petulant child character's screech at his house guests/co-stars. Dressed in a baggy black sweater and long khaki shorts, Gambino plinked his piano on "Playing Around Before the Party" before leaping about, mugging, arms and legs akimbo. "It's on the e-vite, you can't hold me," he rapped over skittering drum-n-bass before moving into the pulsating, phone-chattering "Worldstar."

Many Gambino tracks are numbered suites, each moment flowing into the next like a continuous conversation, with vocals shifting from a gorgeous falsetto to the snippiest rap. The heavenly jazzy, Fender-Rhodes-filled "II: shadow" with Gambino's "love me better, kiss me back" hook and Jay Z/Beyoncé comparison was sung with graceful Philly-soul melodicism before seguing into a prog-rock outro and a reverb-drenched cackle. The cold nights/warm hearts romanticism of "Urn" was crooned with heartfelt passion but a scorched-earth soundscape.

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