No one should be surprised that an album titled Because the Internet leaks a week early. Due out December, the new Childish Gambino album is now available for listening. Here are some first impressions:
1) Amidst the controversy of his by-all-accounts very real battle with depression and loneliness, the album plays like a manic internal monologue. Despite the self-doubt it expresses in its lyrics, Because the Internet is, artistically, an infinitely more confident album than hits predecessor, Camp, which came out two years ago.
2) It explores its "concept" thoroughly, in a few dimensions. Like surfing the web (or, before that, channel surfing on TV) can give you a flickering, kaleidiscopic view of the world, the album presents a variety of styles from song to song. Drake’s half-n-half croon-rap influence is audible in “Telegraph Avenue,” Kendrick’s devil-on-the-shoulder voice affectation for much of “Flight of the Navigator,” a hint of southern flow, Soulja Boy's perhaps, in “Worldstar.”
3) There are a bunch of shorter, instrumental interludes. “Death By Numbers" might best be described as someone going Beethoven on an intergalactic space organ. “Playing Around Until the Party Starts” includes the brilliant detail of scattered, recorded conversation rising in volume—sort of a claustrophobic nightmare of a party scene.
4) The album sounds like the album cover looks: A snapshot of a man the morning after the party is over, surveying his big house littered in bottles and turned over trashcans. “The Party,” though one of the shortest songs on the album is one of the best. It offers what seems like a very truthful essence of Gambino’s current mindstate. His obsession with the idea of being alone as he see-saws between bottle-popping highs, “Got a new girl and she look Mila Kunis/Infinity Pool, and a statue that’s Buddhist/Got bottles and bottles and bottles of Grino/Saw I was rich, now they fuckin’ with Bino...” and the inevitable, paranoiac crash: “High as a kite, lime in the light/Y’all niggas might whine every night/I didn’t invite all these people to my motherfuckin’ house/Ya’ll get the fuck out of my house!”
5) "Life: the Biggest Troll" ruminates on regret. (The Internet, as so many of us have found out, doesn’t forget.) “High on my own, it took time to realize/Because the internet, mistakes are forever” which links quite well to another recurring fear: disappointing one's parents. In “Zealots of Stockholm," Gambino rhymes, “Too much power ain’t enough power/Brain splattered like I’ve fallen off a Watchtower...” in reference to how far he's strayed from his straight-laced upbringing as a Jehovah's Witness. (This is a theme he’s been exploring since his Cul-de-Sac mixtape from three years ago).
6) His very public and loving relationship with songstress Jhene Aiko results in a terrific duet, “Pink Toes,” in which he plays a coke dealer on the move with Aiko riding shotgun. And, surprisingly, Azealia Banks shows up on “Earth: The Oldest Computer.” (That song title is hilarious.)
7) The album cuts off right in the middle of "Life: the Biggest Troll," just as Gambino rhymes, "eventually, all my followers realiz—" (A cliffhanger!)
Overall, this sounds good. Impressively ambitious. Cueing it up again...
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