Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Childish Gambino

  • EP [free download EP, 2011] B+
  • Culdesac [free download, 2011] A-
  • Camp [Glassnote, 2011] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

EP [free download EP, 2011]
"Set the game ablaze I'm an arcade fire," Cheezy boasts, but because he "don't wanna be alone," he joins a clique of "freaks and geeks" where he's "down with the black girls of every single culture/Filipino, Armenian girls on my sofa," only they're not thick enough, so he'll "make music for wack blacks to blast back" until he finds "a small chick with a fat ass" ready to "make out with a Gap ad" who's "not a thug a/k/a what they pretend to be." Of course, the Gap ad in question isn't exactly a geek anymore. He's a stand-up comedian bringing intelligent rap to the masses, one one-liner at a time. B+

Culdesac [free download, 2011]
Community regular, 30 Rock writer, and stand-up phenom Donald Glover brings more skills to the rap game than any pretender in years, fellow actor Drake included. His rhymes startle and amuse, his flow bubbles and snaps, his beats always get him where he's going, and on the expert pop song "Got This Money" he hits the high notes on his own. One reason hip-hop has no use for him is that high notes are his thing--delivering his rent-a-hook, Lil Jon sounds gangsta on comparative timbre alone. Another is that he didn't buy his $10,000 jacket by dealing rock or fronting about it over beats he bought too. "Welcome to the culdesac this is where the street ends," he taunts, and out of the great goodness of his heart he spent years giving records away and then touring behind them. Right, he's too keen on proving something even if all the success and sexcess stories are true. That's why I like him best when I'm surest he's lying, which is on that pop song: "I wanna feel you for real." A-

Camp [Glassnote, 2011]
His seventh hip-hop longform--including the 2011 EP and two mixtapes where he rhymes inconclusively over indie-rock loops--is his most official, on quality bizzer Daniel Glass's indie label. Unified by choral and orchestral movie music for "the only black kid at a Sufjan concert," it's less surefire than Culdesac. But it's more satisfying emotionally, because the autobiography reaches deep: "My dad works nights, puttin' on a stone face/He's savin' up so we can get our own place/In the projects, man, that sound fancy to me/They call me fat-nose my mom say, 'You handsome to me'." Nevertheless, this black kid who got called "faggot" plenty--only "spell it right/I got way more than two G's"--still wants to make sure you know how much he gets laid. Fact is, in a textbook case of nerd-gets-famous syndrome, he almost certainly gets laid too much. But later for that. Master of the alphabet though he long has been, his big message is that work comes before women. A-