Months of excitement has been brewing for the release of Childish Gambino’s album Camp. Monday (14th Nov), it finally dropped. While talk of the artist has been considerably quiet in the UK in comparison to the US, I imagine it’s only a matter of time until word catches on! Donald Glover, the owner of the pseudonym Childish Gambino, has already made a huge name for himself in the realm of TV, writing episodes for the big hitter 30 Rock, and contributing to the main cast of Community, another TV comedy that grabbed a huge following. Now, Glover is claiming the stereo.
While Camp celebrates Gambino’s debut commercial release, the artist has been working the mic for 3 years now, previously releasing free demos and a full album. Through the single Freaks and Geeks, and an appearance on Adele’s Rolling in the Deep, Gambino’s name was tagged by millions across blogs and Youtube videos last year. The music video for Freaks and Geeks provided a simple yet effective portrait of the rapper, showcasing Glover’s impressive wordplay and flow, while hinting at the artist’s raw energy as he jumps around furiously in an empty warehouse backed by bright lights. Not long after, Adidas caught on to the catchy track, using it for their Dwight Howard commercial. Since then, there’s been remixes of various tracks ranging from Girls’ Lust for Life, and Kanye’s All of the Lights.
Most of the tracks that preceded Camp made it clear the Glover has talent, but the lyrical content didn’t promise anything new to the hip hop table. Lil Wayne has been releasing for what seems forever, hormone fuelled tracks about his overactive libido, and the mention of “haters” has become almost synonymous with the contemporary rap scene. Could Childish Gambino make a new meal out of old ingredients? Sure.
Camp delivered overwhelming results that I would have never expected to find on an album from this artist. The old stuff seemed fuel with rage, hate, and lust, but what we have in addition to that, within Camp, is a personal statement of insecurities, alienation, and a pursuit for an accepted identity.
The album kicks things off with Outside. Beginning with smooth harmonious chants and a synth sample reminiscent of Grizzly’s Two Weeks, handclaps and bassful beats lead the way for Glover to unleash his early memories of struggle and setbacks. Glover comments on family hardships and the alienating consequences: “I just wanna fit in but nobody was helping me out // They talkin’ hood shit and I don’t know what that was about”. The chorus of the track also highlights Glover’s pursuit of freedom from such dilemmas, while the production sets the album apart from the artist’s previous work, with choirs accompanied by a gentle piano that helps the personal depth resonate.
Camp soon switches the mood up an upbeat track Fire Fly, which captures the growing need and impulse for rap artists to conform to a mainstream style and image set for the genre. “All they want to do is make hits and I‘m like okay.” Glover also notes the responses towards him by his peers: “ “Nigga, you act too soft.” Fuck you, I’m from the project. My momma’s just work to give me options.// No live shows because I can’t find sponsors, for the only black kid at a Sufjan concert”.
Going back to his energetic and boastful style, loud klaxons alarm the listeners on the album’s debut track Bonfire. Produced by Glover himself (as with others on the album), the track doesn’t stop for one moment to breathe. The rapper employs his clever wordplay and raw delivery to bite back at the people who didn’t believe he had what it’d take to make it, with lines such as: “Told me I was awful, that shit did not phase me. Tell me how I suck again, my memory is hazy. You’re my favourite rapper now, yeah dude I better be… or you can fucking kiss my ass - Human Centipede.”
All the Shine merges a slow piano melody with a pounding beat. The track’s chorus sung by Glover’s smooth vocals will no doubt remind some of Drake at times, but niche indie references to Mumford and Sons and the revealing of Glover’s insecurities constantly provides a distinct perspective, while Letter Home raises attention to Glover’s versatility as an artist, with a brief interlude featuring heartfelt singing vocals. Production of the album also provides an eclectic range of sounds, with tracks such as Heartbeat being charged with Justice-esque electronic samples, Backpackers lead by an old school hi-hat, and other tracks such as LES backed by classical instruments.
Hold You Down finds Glover releasing his aggression against rejection he’s found in the community, shouting out to Jay Z and Kanye that it’s his time to “Steal the Roc back”, while using a beat that ironically sounds inspired by Late Registration. This track epitomizes Glover’s problems around identity, yet the artist never fails to lose balance between content and technical ability, with more witty punch lines and references to credited (and contrasting) works such as Radiohead’s OK Computer and Biggie’s Sky’s the Limit.
For a moment, Gambino’s attitude towards the opposite gender takes a different path on Kids, giving a retrospective view towards women and debating whether it’s all down to him. It’s not long until Gambino goes back to mentioning his Asian female “fetish” on You See Me, with a brutal beat that blows horns similar to the ones found on Monch’s club hit Simon Says. More confidence is unleashed on the album’s penultimate track Sunrise, where the chorus boasts that “While they be sleeping I’ll be onto that new shit”.
The final track of the album is perhaps the one which has caught fire around time of release across most blogging sites, and this explosion is justified. That Power clocks over 7 minutes, starting with an impressive production that reunites many of the live instruments of the album. Glover sings the chorus with heartfelt effort, following up with admissions of both his weaknesses and strengths. The first verse strips the themes of Camp to a core, eventually breaking down to a slow classical/soul instrumentation. Glover then begins telling a touching and personal story, revealing a particular experience which he had after a camp trip, which results in the beginning of the unguarded intimacy that this album delivers, making it truly a fresh addition to contemporary hip hop.
Album rating: 9/10!
It only takes a skim read of my news feed to know that the majority of us are hungover today, and seeing as much of the British also believe in “hair of the dog” cure (drinking more when hungover), I thought, why not listen to more music to get you going on the way?
Caleb Cornett aka Amtrac is a 23 year old from Kentucky, the home of bluegrass. I’d only come across him earlier this week, and presumed he was still in the early stages of establishing a name for himself - how wrong, I was! The young American producer has already shared the stage with some big names (Diplo, Wolfgang Gartner, Mr. Oizo) and has now built a reputation as one of the most exciting electronic/house producers to rise from that corner of the map this year. On 27th September,Amtrac released his debut LP Came Along, and for those of you that are fans of reworkings the house sound, you’re in for a treat here!
The following title track from the album alone will give you a clue to why so many critics and new fans have fallen for Amtrac. With a range of elective electronic samples, constant percussion changes, and Cornett himself singing on top of all this, Came Along refreshes the ear drums from start to finish.
For more Amtrac, head over to the artist’s Soundcloud page, where you’ll find an overwhelming number of remixes by the rising star, as well as some original tracks.
Let’s hope you’ll be saying farewell to that hangover soon!
20:20 Listen has decided to pour you a glass of upbeat juice this morning, bringing you a track from Dominant Leg’s new album Invitation, due to be landing on the shelves in the UK this Monday (Nov 14th).
The San Fran based band, formed by vocalist/guitarist Ryan Lynch (of buzz creating Girls) and keyboardist/vocalist Hannah Hunt, previously dropped an EP Young at Love and Life (August 2010), tickling ear buds with indie-pop tracks laced with Americana percussion riffs, ringing bells with the beats of Paul Simon. Since Dominant Leg’s EP, not only has the busy bee Lynch worked on the recently released Girls album, the band now graces the ears of previous listeners with consistency in the form of more catchy tracks such as Hoop of Love - delivering subtle yet pleasing male:female harmonies from the duo, along with serotonin filled synth and guitar riffs that will stay with you until you realise you’ve burnt a hole into your favourite shirt with the iron!
If you like the new track and can’t wait for more of the new album, head over to the band’s myspace page, where you can here some of the older tracks in the mean time!
Enjoy that juice!
Firstly, I must thank my close friend Keith for giving me the heads up a few months ago about this guy. Alex Clare - no need to note the name down, as I’m sure we’ll be hearing a lot more of him in the very near future!
The London born singer-songwriter is the owner of a husky voice, full to the brim with soul. It’s no wonder why Island Record tagged him earlier this year after he released just a few demos, later releasing his debut album The Lateness of the Hour (March 2011) under the epic label. Big shot producers Switch and Diplo (both producer of MIA’s Paper Planes!) also fancied a slice around the same time, joining the singer and player of many instruments to produce a few tracks in New Orleans.
Clare added 'Caroline' to his Soundcloud profile a few days ago. It’s not a song from his album, so could this mean he’s already working on a new release? We hope so! A steady but loud heart beats throughout the track, accompanied by a foreboding piano melody, resulting in what sounds like Clare placing a former love under a dark spell. Listen with caution: I’ve not been able to switch this off for a while.
The first ever post of 20:20 Listen brings with pleasure the beautiful and elegant music of Yuna, a young female singer-songwriter from Malaysia. Yuna was brought up in a Muslim household, and started out writing songs at the age of 14, when being inspired by the sounds of Fiona Apple, The Cranberries, and No Doubt. Later while studying a law degree, she somehow found time to take up the guitar.
In 2008, the artist released her self-titled EP, featuring singles ‘Deeper Conversation’ and ‘Dan Sebenarnya’, for which she won various awards in her home country. She later released an independent album containing more songs sang in her native language, and to top it all off with the wider attention she deserves, the New York based label Fader (Saul Williams, Matt & Kim) signed her up earlier this year. In March she released her US debut EP‘Decorate’ .
The following EP track titled Someone Out Of Town became an instant love of mine. While reminding me of other female artists such as Corrine Bailey Rae, Feist, and even a little bit of Regina Spektor, Yuna’s slow instrumentation and soft angelic vocals delivers a song that is perfect for this season in which we search for warm beverages and cosy blankets.
If you like this, check out more of her music on her Myspace page:
Happy listening, folks!
20:20 Listen is a new music blog that shall aspire from this day forward to bring you the latest track releases, news on upcoming artists, and some short but sweet reviews of new albums.
Stay tuned! We hope to be servicing your ears for a long time coming!