He ain't no joke.
Childish Gambino has always been a somewhat enigmatic figure in rap circles. When the comic actor Donald Glover first announced that he'd embarked on a music career, many hip-hop heads wrote him off as some sort of elaborate troll scheme or worse yet, a part-time sucka. You can't blame them—his rap name was a bit unusual to say the least and he made no apparent attempt to act "trill." Although some critics dismissed his 2011 album Camp, (a Pitchfork reviewer rated it just 1.6 out of 10) his tour stops were invariably packed, and he won the respect of serious MCs like Danny Brown and Schoolboy Q who performed and collaborated with Gambino. Before the release of his latest album, Because The Internet, Glover announced that he would appear in few episodes of Community this year, signaling a shift toward music. (But he's hardly abandoned his acting career—in fact Because The Internet may be the first rap album ever released with a full script, one scene of which you can watch below.) The tipping point came when Gambino stopped by the "Sway in the Morning" show and dropped a hellacious freestyle over Drake's "Pound Cake" beat. Those bars he spit that day served notice that Gambino had stepped his lyrical game up to new levels. Those who chose to dismiss him would do so at their own peril.
It came as no surprise when Gambino's latest release turned out of be one of the best albums of 2013. To mark the ascension of this powerful new voice in rap, we collaborated with him on his first Complex cover story, presented here in fully tricked-out parallax-scrolling steez. Jacob Moore, the founder and editor-in-chief of Pigeons & Planes, jetted out to L.A. to kick it with Gambino and find out what makes this enigmatic artist tick, and photographer Marcus Hyde captured his restless pensiveness in a series of moody landscape images. Our February/March issue won't hit newsstands for a few weeks but you can read the Childish Gambino cover story right now.