After nearly two years of silence from rapper Childish Gambino (a.k.a Donald Glover), his highly anticipated third studio album, Awaken, My Love! dropped today. To celebrate, here are Childish Gambino’s top 27 songs leading up to this release:
27. “Easy” – Sick Boi
In 2008, Childish Gambino released his debut mixtape dubbed, Sick Boi, due to Glover’s early style of rapping that sounded like he had a stuffy nose. Riddled with immature rhetoric and bad puns, Gambino’s rhymes were considered too wack for serious hip-hop fans. Despite this, Childish Gambino found a loyal audience in the Nerdcore fandom. For them, this first track to his first release delivers with its kickin’ drum line, dreamy synth, and hook that implores listeners to “Swag it out.”
Image Source: Huffington Post
26. “All the Shine” – Camp
After the release of five mixtapes and one EP, Childish Gambino faced his critics head on in his first studio album with “All the Shine.” An emotional string composition backs him as he raps with a newfound introspective prose. He acknowledges the nonsense of his previous work, but then asks the audience why everyone has a problem with “talking stupid,” when that’s exactly what he intended to do. “All the Shine” serves as a reminder to live and let live. Your life belongs to only yourself.
25. “?” – I AM JUST A RAPPER 2
This hidden song titled “?” on Childish Gambino’s fourth mixtape (second in its series) happens to be one of his best. Taking the instrumental from Jay Electronica’s “Exhibition C” produced by Just Blaze, Gambino breathes new life into this soulful track. This song marks a noticeable shift in Childish Gambino’s attitude towards his music, from messing around to making it a serious part of his life.
24. “Heartbeat” – Camp
Everyone remembers where they were when they first heard “Heartbeat.” The once nerdy and fringe rapper had suddenly become cool and legit. Previous haters were now fans and previous fans were now validated. Plus, you would be hard pressed to find a better simile in rap than, “I’m going straight to your thighs like the cake you ate.”
23. “Bonfire” – Camp
For anyone critical of Childish Gambino for being too soft, “Bonfire” put their argument to rest. This track is vulgar, angry, loud, and generally just hard to ignore. It was an unprecedented deviation for Gambino, but it paid off and has become a staple of his.
22. “Hold You Down” – Camp
Childish Gambino has a habit of getting more serious with every release. “Hold You Down” is a perfect example of his departure from the silly. Growing up black, Glover was racially profiled at every turn. Growing up educated and with more privilege than his peers, he was discriminated against in the black community too. This song tells of Glover’s struggle with being too black for white kids and too white for black kids. Ultimately, he disowns any and all stereotypes that may be in favor of his own personal identification.
21. “Freaks and Geeks” – EP
For a while, this was the staple song of Childish Gambino. If you knew of him prior to 2012, this song was probably why. The lyrics may be goofy, but don’t misunderstand, he still spits mad fire on this beat.
20. “Retro” – Kauai
Leave it to Childish Gambino to take one of his old productions and update it to match his upgraded lyrical skills. True fans will recognize the instrumental from his older song “Love is Crazy” which featured such lyrical gems as “Knock, knock. It’s me. I’ll take your fine ass out to Applebee’s.” Probably a good idea on his part to scrap those lyrics, but good on him for reusing the instrumental because it’s legitimately awesome.
19. “The Last” – Culdesac
Serving as the outro to Culdesac, Gambino shows that he isn’t beholden to any labels. He makes the kind of music that makes him happy and if an audience can relate, great! Any criticisms that draw comparisons to other rappers are invalid in his eyes, because his goal is to sound different from everyone. This is the anthem for every hip-hop hipster ever.
18. “Secret Track” – Kauai… sort of
Ok, so this song isn’t actually on the EP itself, but its more complicated than that. “3005 (Beach Picnic Version)” is an instrumental song off of Kauai and its lack of lyrics struck fans as odd. However, after Gambino dropped a few hints, Reddit user Peepsie112 discovered an a capella track hidden in the coding of Gambino’s website for his previous album, Because the Internet. The two tracks synced up to not only reveal one of the greatest Easter Eggs of all-time, but also one of CG’s strongest songs.
17. “Sober” – Kauai
Childish Gambino has proven himself to be a talented rapper, but he’s not too shabby a singer either. This smooth song reminiscent of 80’s pop is the definitive song for fans who prefer Gambino’s golden pipes over his wicked rhymes.
16. “Zealots of Stockholm” – Free Information
“Zealots of Stockholm” might be Childish Gambino’s most personal song to date. Following in true Because the Internet fashion, he spills his guts to the world because just as there is no privacy online, there isn’t any in his music either. Raised a Jehovah’s Witness, Glover denounced his faith in his early adulthood. The trials and tribulations his relationship with his parents faced afterward is likened to the unstable and often volatile nature of the salutary neglected World Wide Web. He acknowledges the free information that the Internet and religion both offer, and reminds the listener that not everything online is real. They can make their own connections to religion from there.
15. “Crawl” – Because the Internet
“Crawl” is arguably Childish Gambino’s most hype song. It was such a stylistic change for him, but fans didn’t seem to mind. They were too busy raging to such a banger.
14. “Fire Fly” – Camp
As blasé as the term “Swag” has become, there’s no denying that this track is rife with it. This upbeat, breezy song is essential listening for anyone chasing their dreams.
13. “Wonderful” – Royalty
Childish Gambino’s appeal to emotion is often his strongest suit. “Wonderful” features smooth vocals from Josh Osho and a passionate Gambino reflecting about his life and everything leading up to it. You may be smiling, crying, or both by the end, but one thing is guaranteed: you’ll want to listen to this one over and over again.
12. “L.E.S.” – Camp
It’s impossible to not be emotionally charged while listening to this song. It’s so smooth and sexy. The track’s string melody underscored by deep electro-synth provides an almost addictive amorous atmosphere that will make you want to have this song on repeat for a while.
11. “Won’t Stop” – Royalty
Danielle Haim of HAIM lends her voice to this track where Gambino both revels in and laments his fortune. It’s haunting and baller all rolled in to one mystifying track. As seems to be the theme of Royalty, Childish Gambino proves to his audience that his talent is not to be taken lightly or in jest.
10. “Telegraph Ave.” – Because the Internet
“Telegraph Ave.” is the sleeper hit of Because the Internet. Lloyd makes an impressive appearance singing alongside Gambino. Gambino’s flow in this song is also a spectacle that he makes look easy and brushes off as no big deal. Bonus point: the accompanying music video contains a twist ending that M. Night Shyamalan would be proud of.
9. “Yaphet Kotto”
While this song was used as promotional material for Because the Internet, it never actually made it onto any of CG’s albums. However, just because this track never left SoundCloud doesn’t mean it’s bad. In fact, it’s quite the opposite, as this may be Gambino’s most grown song to date.
8. “3005” – Because the Internet
Ah yes, “3005.” The song that promoted Childish Gambino to the mainstream. The song that sold Because the Internet. The song that every white girl ever loves. But let’s be honest – it’s the song that everyone loves.
7. “Shadows” – Because the Internet
“Shadows” is one of those songs that should have been a single from the album, but wasn’t for reasons unknown. I designate this song the official summer jam for laying by the pool and feeling good.
6. “We Ain’t Them” – Royalty
Childish Gambino has always been open about his struggle to fit in with the black community while growing up. In this track, he sets his struggles aside in this impactful song by embracing the black power movement and inspiring others through the breaking down of barriers within his own life.
5. “Silk Pillow” – Royalty
Beck x Childish Gambino? Yes. Beck’s edgy vocals and production lend credibility to a post-Camp Gambino. The track has gritty electro synth to complement the heavy piano serving up a musical entrée of epic proportions.
4. “That Power” – Camp
Dedicated Camp fans will spend hours talking to you about “That Power.” It’s definitely the standout of the album and the most poignant. The song itself is hard as hell, but the real icing on the cake that everyone raves about is the anecdotal story that follows where Gambino originated his “boy on the bus” motif.
3. “Life: The Biggest Troll” – Because the Internet
Are we living in the Matrix? Would it matter if we did? Life is ironic and often cruel, but that in itself is kind of hilarious if you’re into that kind of thing. Whatever, it made material for the third greatest Childish Gambino song.
“Centipede” is another SoundCloud exclusive song. It’s the song that makes you ask, “Who’s this by?” before having your mind blown to learn that it’s Childish Gambino. The “Centipede” melody was a song Glover would sing in his childhood, and it becomes a force of immense magnitude in this jingling track. It’s cool in every sense of the word.
1. “Flight of the Navigator” – Because the Internet
This may be controversial, but the number one spot goes to a song where Gambino doesn’t even rap. Nonetheless, “Flight of the Navigator” deserves the title for 3 reasons:
1. The instrumentation is arguably CG’s best production.
2. The chipmunk-voiced narration is heart-rending
3. This track features Glover’s vocals and lyrics at their very best.
“Flight of the Navigator” for all intents and purposes, completely captures Childish Gambino as an artist.