Friday, December 2, 2011

Review: "Camp" by Childish Gambino

At this point in his career, Donald Glover is probably known in this order: as an actor on NBC's Community first; as a comedian second; and as rapper Childish Gambino third.  With the advent of the full-length album Camp, though, Gambino might be well on his way to stealing some of the limelight from Glover.

Camp walks a fine line between arrogance and a more subdued presence.  Gambino's wit is sharp, harsh, and perfectly placed in every line.  Word play, puns, and pop culture mentions abound.  But beneath the vulgarity and self-references lies someone vulnerable and real who isn't afraid to not only dwell on the hardships of growing up and his current status but also the positives, his likes and dreams and goals.  Both his heartache and ambition are obvious in every word and every beat.

There's a wider variety of musical stylings on Camp than are found in Gambino's previous mixtapes and EPs.  A staple of Childish Gambino's work has been the live music that backs the lyrics.  Beats, strings, piano, and more are the perfect canvas upon which Gambino paints his alternatively face-paced and touching lyrics.  "Bonfire" and "Sunrise" pick up the speed but Gambino also knows how to slow things down with songs like "L.E.S" and "Kids".  The album finishes with a full several minute long monologue that sums up Glover as well as any of the previous songs do.

With the variety present in the songs it would be easy to think getting a bead on Camp would be difficult.  However, when looking at the album as a whole it's easy to recognize that, really, each track is a different part to one larger story.  The lyrics and music keep the album cohesive throughout and are a testament to to the craftsmanship and creativity on both fronts.  Overall, Camp is an album that's rare despite the genre: one that's refreshingly, brutally honest.

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