Donald Glover has his mind set on conquering the world and his latest effort as his rapper alter-ego Childish Gambino is another big step towards reaching that goal.
The new mixtape, titled Royalty, features a Childish Gambino that is much more confident behind the mic and in the production booth. ‘Bino delves further into his rap superstar persona with beats that are much more daring, with greater uptempo and tracks with themes largely steering away from the self-doubt and self-deprecation seen in his earlier mixtapes. Instead, Gambino sheds away some of those sentiments and adopts the bravado of an experienced veteran.
Perhaps the greatest triumph of the mixtape is the production and the featured artists. The first track of the mixtape, “We Ain’t Them,” (produced by himself and Ludwig) is classic Childish Gambino with a smooth keyboard groove and a minimalist drum beat that proves to be a great accompaniment to Gambino’s rhymes about his parent’s influences in his career moves, people thinking he’s soft and how he’s gone on to overcome all of that to live the life of a superstar. A dizzying synthesized beat produced by Gambino himself in “Shoulda Known” sounds like it could have been inspired by Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon. “R.I.P.” is another track produced by Childish. Here we can hear another use of the synthesizer (a sample of Kavinsky’s “Nightcall“) but with a production style that sounds much more like his DJ alter ego, MC DJ, with its use of beat-breaking which goes along excellently with Bun B’s (of UGK) verse.
The following track (yet another great ‘Bino production) has a man whose legendary Hip Hop group is indirectly responsible for the name “Childish Gambino,” RZA (of the infamous Wu-Tang Clan), on the mic as the Hypnotic Brass Orchestra provide a live band accompaniment for the first half of the track. Touring mate Danny Brown’s unique style of rapid fire rhymes fits in perfectly with skywlkr’s production for the track “Toxic” which derives its name and beat from the Britney Spears song of the same title.
Another massive highlight is Beck’s first showing on this mixtape (he also produced the track “Bronchitis”) as he raps the intro verse for “Silk Pillow” and in which he and D-stacks also share production duties. Producer skywlkr appears once more with a similar (winning) formula in the other track he has on this mixtape as he samples Dem Franchize Boyz’ “Oh, I Think They Like Me” for “They Don’t Like Me,” with Chance the Rapper. The mixtape’s final track, “Real Estate,” (another Childish Gambino production) has a distinctly southern feel to it and culminates with Tina Fey (yes, that one!) spitting some lines of her own.
Overall, this mixtape is definitely one to download immediately. To sum up what Childish Gambino did with this project, just take the man’s word on “We Ain’t Them”: “I’m a star, how can I not shine?”
Key Tracks: We Ain’t Them, Shoulda Known, R.I.P., American Royalty, Toxic, Silk Pillow, They Don’t Like Me, Real Estate