Where did this Donald Glover come from?
After he hosted and musical guested on Saturday Night Live an enormous new audience checked into Childish Gambino for the first time unaware of the journey his music has gone on since 2008. Lots of people have heard the name Childish Gambino (aside from Glover and his acting career) and may associate it with music that sucks. “Is that the guy with all the references and the jokes and the self-pity?” Yes and no.
If you are one of the thirty seven million people that hit youtube and marveled at This Is America you may be wondering where this iteration of Childish Gambino came from. Having listened to Gambino since Culdesac I can answer.
In 2014 Gambino went about resolving his central problem: rapping v. singing. He had the technical ability to do well at both but the path to mixing the two wasn’t as clear as it was for Drake or others whose singing style synced up with their flow naturally. The idea was to give both talents an audition. Datpiff would get a mixtape of straight rap with the best beats (you can still find it on datpiff.com) & his follow up would be an R & B ep called Kauai. STN MTN is a fun mixtape with a lot of downloads/streams on datpiff but it ain’t Kauai.
The secret weapon for Glover has been Ludwig Goransson who has produced all of his work (alongside Glover). Their partnership has grown over the years (recently Ludwig did the Black Panther soundtrack) and Kauai was THE turning point.
The seven song ep did not light the charts on fire but confirmed that if Glover was to make music it needed to be grounded in something. He wasn’t going to be able to do what Future or Gucci Mane do and pump out the jams. All the songs on Kauai exist in a place and a moment that Glover uses as the setting. It’s specific to the Hawaiian environment. All throughout the drum sounds and synth have a uniquely tropical bend, and if you are wondering if I am projecting this onto the music just listen to the ocean break and the seagulls sing background on the Beach Picnic Version of V. 3005. In order to get himself in a place where he could create a radio friendly world beating song like Sober he has to have that setting and paint the foreground once it is there. Ludwig understood after Kauai that the setting was his work. That is why Awaken, My Love turned out so well and Camp is still not good.
Please listen to Kauai below:
The strange addendum to this is I’m not sure why after learning how different his creative process needed to be in order to succeed he decided he had to retire after this next album. He’s just cracked the code and now has the pull post-Atlanta post-SNL to do exactly whatever he wants. Why stop now?
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Tagged Awaken My Love, Black Panther, Camp, Childish Gambino, Donald Glover, Kauai, Ludwig Goransson, Saturday Night Live, singing v. rapping, STN MTN, This is America
Mixtape Review-Spiritual Conversations by Mozzy
Mozzy is amazing and proof that we are living in amazing times. My favorite part of Black Panther is when we flash back to 1992 and pan slowly across the basketball court, his voice surfs over the beat and a smile wears my face. The moment blew my mind because Mozzy is of the tradition of E-40 & Too Short a California beat busting hardcore oddball who floods the market until you can’t get away. His music is everywhere. If you look up Mozzy’s discography in google you will be flooded with projects solo and collaborative. He works and spits his truth all over the place and that truth changes. He doesn’t just flood the market he sharpens his sword with each project. 2017’s 1 Up Top Ahk was easily a step up from the already awesome Mandatory Check. In the 90’s he would have just sharpened that sword off to the left while the main stage propped up slick pop rap. The TDE come up changes everything, Kendrick grew up on E-40 & Too Short so he loves Mozzy. He catches the wisdom in the verses while others hear Gangsta Rap for its own sake.
I deeply admire people who can do their best work right as the spotlight finds them for the first time. As the whole world hears Mozzy narrate Oakland in Black Panther he dropped a six song ep that is absolutely the best gateway drug to get into Mozzy.
You can hear the influence of Kendrick’s secret weapon Sounwave in the production style of Spiritual Conversations. The bay used to be all slapping speaker rattling anthems now a new lane is open with rich tones and warm piano textures to better articulate yourself over. Sorry Jaynari, Dave-O, Daniel Cruz, AK-47, Vontae Thomas and Terrace Martin(when you hear the horns on Interlude you’ll know its Terrace Martin) all contribute to a very unified sound.
I’m struck by how reflective and boldly insightful Spiritual Conversations is. Mozzy has always been both of those things but underneath thick armor. 1 Up Top Ahk was a teeth out conversation about violence. This project gives Mozzy wisdom the full floor. In the first verse of No Choice he says “When you told me you loved me, I ain’t believe it/But when you show me you love, you’ll receive it.” It’s a great example of his glaring emotional intelligence but not even the only one in the song (“Bruh told on blood ’cause he ain’t wanna do life/I send my condolences in a kite/You know them people gon hang him and that ain’t right/Stare at my daughters to see the light/Went and got him a M, I promise to see it twice.”
I love hearing Mozzy swap bruising verses with the criminally underrated Jay Rock but my favorite song is Who I Am. The crackly casual tone he delivers that chorus in and the insomnia flavored paranoia in bars like ” Bad karma got me lookin’ over both shoulders/Singin’ bout the shit I did, I pray he ain’t told on us.” SOB x RBE got the most burn from Black Panther soundtrack and they sound great. I’m happy they have the TDE machine behind them and sound energized but I know the most important name on that soundtrack… the one that shocked me and delivered and it’s Mozzy.
Stream or download Spiritual Conversations below:
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Tagged 1 Up Top Ahk, 1992, AK-47, bay area hip hop, Black Panther, Black Panther Soundtrack, California, Daniel Cruz, Mozzy, Sorry Jaynari, Spiritual Conversations, Terrace Martin, Vontae Thomas