A few hours before mesmerizing crowds as his alias, Childish Gambino, the multi-talented Donald Glover sat down with City Guide reporter Lauren Otis to talk fine dining, dirty lyrics, and destinations to throw on your bucket list.
At risk of sounding like a bit of a creeper, we’ve kind of unofficially met before.
Donald Glover: Have we?
You were on my flight from L.A. to New York last week…and you sort of stepped on my foot outside the bathroom!
Donald Glover: Oh my god! I’m so sorry! Did I at least say I’m sorry?
You did. You were very apologetic. I wasn’t entirely sure it was you at the time, though, and I didn’t want to start Google stalking since you were a row or two behind me. That would’ve been weird if you’d gotten up to pee.
Donald Glover: Yes! I was heading to my sister’s college graduation. She went to Lehman, which is up in the Bronx, and now she’s done.
So is it fair to assume you jetset a lot between New York and L.A.?
Donald Glover: Yeah, definitely. Those are the two biggies.
You have some pretty great food porn on your blog, and you call out a lot of good places around those particular cities. Which would you say, between the two, is the top food city?
Donald Glover: Wow, that’s really hard. I feel like there’s more variety in New York, but the food in L.A. is a little…fresher. There’s no In-N-Out Burger in New York because there’s no way you can get that beef that fresh there. That aside, though, I’ve got to go with NY.
On a sourer note, where would you say you’ve ultimately had the wackest night out?
Donald Glover: [Whistles] Can I be honest? San Diego. I went to this place called Jimmy Love’s [672 5th Avenue] and it was the worst food I’ve ever had. I wanted to treat my whole band and family to dinner—and I was like, “Meal’s on me! Let’s go somewhere nice,” and we got there, and it just destroyed the night. It sucked so bad. Fuck that place.
You grew up in Atlanta, so let's turn the conversation to some of your favorite haunts. What are some places you think newbies to the South absolutely need to put on their bucket lists?
Donald Glover: Stone Mountain [Map]. It’s a large mountain in the middle of nowhere—like a big pimple on the ass of the earth. It shouldn’t be there, but it is. They call it the confederate Mount Rushmore. During the summer they have laser light shows on it, so it’s definitely a sight to see. And you’ve got to try to eat at the Flying Biscuit [various locations]—or the Laughing Skull [878 Peachtree Street, Atlanta]. And Athens, Georgia is pretty tight.
You’re going to be performing on multiple days at the festival here in Tennessee. Are you going to be roughing it with the rest of us, or is there a supersexy suite waiting for you off-site somewhere?
Donald Glover: I’m at the Best Western with my boys. There’s no sexy hotel room. We rough it and we like it. Shady hotel room…semen stains—we keep it gully around here.
Will you guys be catching some of the other shows on your day off?
Donald Glover: We really want to. It’s our bassist’s birthday tomorrow, so we’re going to get crazy wasted and fuck shit up. It’s been really fun at the Best Western, but walking around Shelbyville, everybody honks at you. It’s like it’s fucking illegal to walk down the street or something. And everywhere has fucking flies in it. It’s pretty weird when you’re at restaurants.
So where have you been wining and dining?
Donald Glover: McDonalds and Wendy’s.
Did you do the spicy chicken sandwich?
Donald Glover: Yes! Are we soulmates? What’s going on here?
You’ve got to do the #6 when you’re on the road. So, who are some of the artists you’re excited to catch while you’re “fucking shit up” around the grounds?
Donald Glover: There’s J. Cole, Sleigh Bells—but we won’t catch them because they’re up right before us. Weezy, who I’ve never seen live, and Big Boi, Arcade Fire, and Black Keys. I saw Best Coast already.
What’s in your Bonnaroo survival kit?
Donald Glover: My guitarist gave me a bunch of these. [Pulls a Sir Richard’s Pleasure Dot condom from pocket and slaps it on the table.] They’re tiny, though! I’m not, like, talking shit about my dick, like “Oh, my dick is so big!” But seriously, I feel like these are tiny for anyone, right? Look at how small they are.
Yeah, they are a bit on the small side.
Donald Glover: So probably those, some bug spray, water, and something to keep hippies away from you. Something that turns them off. Steaks?
Maybe some processed food?
Donald Glover: Yes, and some processed food. …Is it weird that I’m playing with this condom?
Nope, doesn’t bother me at all.
Donald Glover: Lauren, I’m so glad we’re on the same page.
Click to the next page to find out what canceled television show Donald would bring back.
On a different note, the name of your debut video was “Freaks and Geeks.” What are some other prematurely cancelled programs you might resurrect from the dead if you could?
Donald Glover: Rugrats. I’d bring that back in a heartbeat.
Rocko’s Modern Life, maybe?
Donald Glover: I was watching that yesterday! I watched the episode where Mr. Bighead was sleepwalking and thinks he’s a pirate. I love that one. I was thinking, “This is such a funny fucking show.” And Dinosaurs. For some reason I really had a soft spot for it, even though it ended really dark.
What do you watch when you aren’t writing/performing/rapping?
Donald Glover: The First 48. It’s a show about actual murders that comes on A&E, and I also probably watch everything on Cartoon Network.
Which would you say comes most naturally to you between writing scripts, stand-up, and rhymes?
Donald Glover: Probably stand-up, because I like talking about random stuff a lot. But they’ve all kind of started to come pretty naturally to me. I do all those things because I really like them.
Is there one of your multiple personas that you feel you identify more closely with than the others?
Donald Glover: They’ve all kind of become the same to me, honestly.
Have you ever played any of your Childish Gambino stuff for Tina Fey? What’s the first thing she said?
Donald Glover: I’m sure she’s heard it, but I don’t know what she thinks. I’m sure she thinks—I hope she thinks it’s awesome! I don’t see why she would think it’s bad. She’s probably not going to play it at her party, but I think she probably would like it. Knowing her, she probably does.
Some of your lyrics are pretty racy. Do a fair amount of them stem from actual experiences with women, or do you have an exceptionally dirty mind?
Donald Glover: Both. It is both. I try to tell true shit because I think that’s the most interesting, but also, I have a weird mind. And I think that’s kind of the fun of the rap persona. I get to say stuff that’s titillating, but I also try to tell the truth because that’s intriguing to people. [Pauses] Is it that racy though? I feel like there are so many other rappers who are way racier than me!
Sure, but you also talk about “keeping your dick wetter than the bottom of a steamboat.”
Donald Glover: Cruise ship! But if Lil Wayne said that, would that be that crazy? I feel like I get unfairly judged because it’s me. I do! I feel like Lil Wayne says way worse shit than me, and people are like, “Oh that’s just Lil Wayne being Lil Wayne.”
Speaking of dirty lyrics, what is your favorite x-rated song of all time and why?
Donald Glover: “Kim” by Eminem. When I was a kid, it really scared me. Like, when I first heard it, I couldn’t sleep. I was so fucked up from it—but that’s what stories are. All he did was say it and I was like, “Did he really do that? That’s so fucked up!” Obviously I don’t condone the things he—that’s the thing, I think people think I’m cool with that shit…but in a way I am. He’s a storyteller and that’s the point of it. At the end of the day, I just want to tell interesting stories.