Donald Glover, Childish Gambino, you confuse us. In that you make us sit on the fence so hard we’re practically being penetrated by a picket. Because The Internet was a middling affair at best, but Telegraph Ave is a marvel. Guest spots on records like Ariana Grande‘s are serviceable, but when you sing it to us on Sober we’re melting.
Now we’ve got the world’s first ‘conceptual’ mixtape and EP combo: STN MTN (Stone Mountain, everyone) is the dream-based former, Kauai the post-slumber latter. The mixtape pretty much opens with Gambino and crew bragging about this fact from said mountain, as he packs three different tracks into one 5:01 package.
The rest of STN MTN is full of typically uneven Gambino flow. There’s an element of wanting to be taken exceptionally seriously on tracks like Fucks Given, but as always it sounds like Gambino can hardly convince himself, let alone his audience. Sexy takes a one-note form on the trap stylings of Money Baby, and AssShots is really just, well, rhyming toupée with Kool-Aid with brulée with touché (filling the words in between won’t really help matters here).
We’ve said it before, but we prefer Glover the lover, not the fighter. That’s what makes U Don’t Have To Call such a treat, with it’s high-as-a-kite falsetto backing a surprising baritone. It comes a few tracks before the segue into the magnificent Kauai EP, kicking off with the lush R&B of Sober.
This is where Gambino has always felt and sounded more comfortable. The sun-kissed vibes of Retro and The Palisades (feat. Christian Rich) are incredible, the latter in particular just a bloody brilliant showcase of Glover’s voice and unquestionable knack for melody. And even though Jaden Smith‘s turn on Late Night in Kauai is the same bloated nonsense from his Twitter, Gambino saves it with the most haunting falsetto this side of Michael Jackson.
On the same track, a monologue goes: “We don’t even know what we like any more, we just know what the most hype is.” In a way, that could apply to Childish Gambino, who seems to be flitting uncertainly between this ill-fitting rapper persona that might garner street cred, and the genuinely amazing R&B artiste he seems born to be. Four stars for Kauai, two for STN MTN, which once again leaves this man frustratingly in between.