Until approximately twelve hours ago, I was utterly unaware that Donald Glover (better known as Troy from Community and an aspiring Spiderman) had a hip-hop alter-ego. In retrospect, it makes sense. Glover has always been a clever, witty comedian, and being an ill lyricist is in that same neighborhood. So with absolutely no preconceived notions of Glover’s past work under the pseudonym Childish Gambino (which he apparently got from a Wu Tang Clan name generator online), I dove head first into his latest track, “Bonfire”.
The beat itself is passable (save the obnoxious air raid horn that kicks things off; can we collectively agree that effect is over-used?), with a nice bass-snare-bass cadence and some catchy layered vocals in the background. Nothing to write home about, but it gets the job done. But as with any good hip-hop song, the lyrics are king, and Glover/Gambino’s wordsmanship really impressed me. His references are all over the place, dropping lines about everything from the stock market (“drop it like the Nasdaq”) to obscure Sega Genesis games (“looking for Earl like Toe Jam”) to cartoons (“Invader Zim”) to Human Centipede. His wordplay caught me off guard a few times as well (the line “This Asian dude I stole his girl and now he’s got that kobe beef” had be in stitches).
Those who only know Glover as the family friendly Troy from Community, though, are in for a surprise, as he drops rhymes like “made the beat that murdered it/ Casey Anthony” and “eating Oreos like these white girls that blow me”. If you like your hip-hop on the squeaky clean side (and if so, maybe you need a new genre), you are, I can say with assurance, not going to enjoy “Bonfire”. And if you’re not a fan of hip-hop, especially of the more hardcore variety, Gambino is sure as hell not going to convert you.
But if you like your rhymes clever and more than a little dirty, and if you like Glover’s affable nerd persona (and he even gives a shoutout to his “blerds” on the track), you’ll definitely want to check out his latest. I, meanwhile, am going to go check out the rest of his tracks, and silently hope Abed is next in line from the Community cast for a hip-hop forray.
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