Well done, everyone. We now have an album that’s called ‘Because the Internet’. And of course it’s from internet darling Donald Glover (who you might know as Troy from Community), official purveyor of a genre we’re now going to call meme-wave, hipster-hop or, at worst, Buzzfeed rap. Glover/Gambino recently previewed a cut from this new album, which showed tremendous potential, and full of the same hooks and catchy production as his debut, Camp.
Does it continue through the rest of the album? Sadly not. The trouble with Glover is that – ironically, given his album title – we know too much about him. While on Telegraph Ave he manages to separate that persona brilliantly, it’s not so successful elsewhere. Sure, he’s not your average rapper, throwing in references to Aunt May and Mary Jane, but there’s also something disconcerting about him talking about ‘banging’ and ‘fuck boys like Socrates’. It’s middle-class hip-hop, but it’s not the intelligence that’s off-putting; at times it feels like the slacker persona takes over a bit, the rhymes lacking fire or conviction.
What also made Camp so enjoyable was Gambino’s ability to deliver a solid hook or crossover chorus. Perhaps his audience is different now, but 3005 seems lackadaisical, Flight of the Navigator certainly doesn’t bring the nostalgia you’d hope, and even Jhene Aiko is wasted on Pink Toes. Strangely, after Telegraph Ave, one of the standouts is a short interlude called Urn, where Glover starts channelling his inner soul artist and creates something quite moving on a Maxwell level. That being said, the internet has spoken: maybe it’s time for Gambino to reassess his strengths, stop being the Garden State of hip-hop, and try something a little less childish.