by Luke Ebora
Over two years after releasing his combined mixtape/EP STN MTN/Kauai, Donald Glover, known musically as Childish Gambino, released the soul and funk-influenced “Awaken My Love” on Dec. 2, 2016. Departing sharply from his previous work in hip hop and rap, Gambino took heavy influence from funk legends Funkadelics, the Isley Brothers, and Sly & the Family Stone en route to his most ambitious project yet.
Released to relatively positive critical reviews, “Awaken, My Love!” divided loyal fans, with some appreciating Gambino’s leap of faith and others feeling betrayed by his sonic departure. Not rapping once on the soul-infused album, Gambino sings in a multitude of vocal styles ranging from soft crooning to sharp falsettos, showcasing his skill as an artist. Gambino also evokes the sound of 70’s funk and psychedelic rock groups, orchestrating an album complete with a variety of instruments and sounds which culminate in a rhythmic symphony of beats and melodies.
Though the album was not released until earlier this December, Gambino previewed many of the project’s songs at his summer event “The Pharos Experience,” a concert which doubled as a camping trip held in Joshua Tree. Gambino dropped singles “Me and Your Mama” and “Redbone” in mid-November.
In “California,” the album’s most debated and raved track, Gambino mumbles and whines his way through the feel-good beat perfect for his rap-like delivery. Referencing nearby Koreatown, Gambino sings of the numerous aspiring entertainers who move to Los Angeles in hopes of achieving fame.
My favorite track, “Terrified,” which features the impressive nine-year-old singer JD McCrary, features soulful vocals layered over hypnotizing synthesizers. Pondering over the fear of falling in love, Gambino croons his way into hearts and ears as if placing them under a spell.
Bold and innovative, Gambino impresses on his latest album as an innovative and rising artist while adding a new dimension to his plethora of talents.