Childish Gambino is awesome. Many know him as Troy, the lovable jock from Community. Some recognize him as Jason, the nerdy detective from the soon-to-be cult classic, The Mystery Team (a Derrick Comedy Production). Or assuming you enjoy comedy, since you’re on Nerdist reading this now, you probably know him as Donald Glover – Stand up comic / former 30 Rock writer. Whichever version of this man you’re familiar with, today I prefer the musician.
This summer, Glover pulled a Radiohead and generously released his album Culdesac for free on his website, but this wasn’t where the musician first caught my attention. A while back I heard a recording of Childish Gambino rap over Grizzly Bear’s single, “Two Weeks”. Showin’ the love for the Indie Rock scene was all I needed to be convinced of his musical sensibility and refreshing stray from typical hip-hop stereotypes. Although he draws noticeable influences from artists like Lil Wayne and Drake, what I found most appealing was his unique voice, quirkiness and honesty- not to mention a lot of it is just plain clever.
So naturally, after listening to Culdesac a few times and falling in love the fantastic instrumentation, diverse melodies mixed with dirty jokes and general badassery, there was no questioning my attendance at the Los Angeles concert this past weekend.
Rap concerts can be a notch past disappointing and generally fall in the realm of embarrassing. Childish Gambino and his band shattered that notion after the first bar of the first song. He effervesced with confidence and coolness, even though it was clear that he came straight from the set of Community. His guitarist as well as Community composer Ludwig Goransson was extatic: “We were very happy about the show. A lot of people are surprised when there’s a big, 6 person, live band instead of just a rapper and a DJ.” And it really showed. The music was well-rounded. The crowd swooned when he poured his heart into “So Fly” a song comprised of just sensual falsettos. Some bits even resonated better live than recorded. In the string-heavy, new single “Untouchable”, the sound just struck better in front of you than through headphones. Seeing and hearing those extremely personal lyrics Childish is famous for made the listening experience that much better.
Glover and his band were the opening act for Mayer Hawthorne (another favorite of mine) -if Hawthorne has slipped past your musical radar, he’s the complete opposite of rap music. Picture a hipstery white boy who sings like he came straight out of Pleasantville. To put it simply, the music makes you want to swing dance in a park next to your packed picnic lunch. Rapping usually doesn’t have that same effect, so the pairing of the two, at first, seemed random. But it wasn’t. It was obvious they were both there for the same reasons, to party, to dance, and to jam.
Childish Gambino, congratulations, from what it looked, everyone seemed to want to “Put it in your video”. You can catch him on his I Am Donald tour where he will perform both stand up and music. Dates are set for SLIM’S in San Francisco on December 11th, and on the 12th at the El Rey Theater in Los Angeles.
Tickets are available HERE.