MATTHIAS AISEDU YEBOA
Now Kauai – the EP part of Gambino's release - is named after an island, and like an island it has lovely and lonely vibes.
For lovely, see tracks ‘Sober’ which features Gambino’s effortlessly beautiful singing atop an off-kilter, synth-pop influenced beat. You can almost take in a swim in it. Plus, you don’t want to miss the beautifully nasty drop, pitch changes and wailing guitar in the second half.
For lonely, see tracks like ‘Pop Thieves’. Continuing the overall left-field R&B vibe of ‘Kauai’, the track proves that there is really is something for everyone on this EP, but that this is just as much about Gambino as everyone else. It is never more evident than when he disrupts the song with story from Jaden Smith about what happened at the beach at night. Cringey? Yes. Likeable? Yes.
The song ‘Retro’ is perhaps the most telling track: it’s a remake of a pre-hip-hop-fame (remember he’s an actor and writer too) track of his, and he’s letting us in on the unfinished product (it’s labelled ‘Rough’). It’s like he’s juxtaposing who he was before with who he is now, putting his campy, self-effacing lyrics in a newer, ‘I’m actually popular’ context. The song is dynamic and it’s fun, switching from smooth falsetto singing to deep rapping, Rappers don’t usually do it this raw, not publicly. Again, Gambino’s not trying to be different: he just is. Most rappers have to choose between pleasing their audience and pleasing themselves, between good beats and good lyrics, between an 'ignorant’ audience and an ‘educated’ audience. In all cases, Gambino does both. You just can’t pin this guy down.
If you follow Gambino well, you know that his Because the Internet was a concept album that told the story of a ‘rich kid asshole’ internet troll called ‘The Boy’ that suffers from disaffection towards well, everything, loses his father and pushes drugs with his girlfriend. This mixtape appears to continue the story, further blurring the dividing line between Gambino telling the story of his artistic vision, and the story of the Boy, whom Jaden ‘stars’ as. You’re gonna want to listen to this thing if you want to here what happens next.
To close things off is a ‘Beach Picnic Version’ of his hit ‘3005’. Despite featuring only the chorus of the song as lyrics, the song really drives home the island feel: it’s for ‘getting away’ and enjoying yourself, but it’s also a place to think. Note that it follows a discourse on futurism by Gambino’s friend and affiliate, family, from the previous track ‘Late Night in Kauai’. If you don’t know what futurism is, all the more incentive to listen. Plus, for those interested in the aforementioned story, this just might be what its moral is.
Bones on this side: perhaps a loss of momentum on ‘Late Night in Kauai’ and a bit of indulgence. But isn’t that what you go to an island for?
Overall Childish Gambino shows that he’s about the past, the present or the future: he’s about all three. He’s about nostalgia, but not romanticism. He’s about life.