Awaken, My Love! - Childish Gambino

After dominating television this fall with the show Atlanta, Childish Gambino (aka Donald Glover) has returned to the world of music with his third studio album Awaken, My Love!. This album steers away from the more traditional Childish Gambino that people are accustomed to, as he explores the genres of soul, funk and R&B.

Prior to the release of Awaken, My Love!, Gambino released a mixtape entitled S T N M T N and an EP titled K A U A I at the same time. The two were very different projects, as S T N M T N explored the genre of Southern Hip-Hop, similar to Gambino’s mixtape R O Y A L T Y back in 2012. Meanwhile, K A U A I focused on combining Gambino’s talent as a rapper and singer. It was obvious that Gambino was beginning to venture out of his comfort zone.

With Awaken, My Love!, Childish Gambino does just that, leaving any labels of a rapper behind. For this album, Glover mentions in an interview with BBC Radio that his biggest influence was Donny Hathaway. (Others included Shuggie Otis, The Brothers Johnson and Led Zeppelin.) While everything up to the release of this album was quiet, Glover had a weekend-long concert series at Joshua Tree in California during Labor Day weekend. It was at this event, Pharos, where these songs were first showcased.

"Me and Your Mama"
Glover originally performed this back in 2015 at Bonnaroo and people have been in love with this song since. The way Gambino matches his pitch and tone to the chorus behind him, makes this song incredibly addictive.

“S T A Y W O K E”

Riot sounds all too similar to some Jimi Hendrix. Perhaps it’s the guitar or how the synth and guitar are mixed to be louder than the vocals. Whatever it is, there are a lot of characteristics that make this track sound straight out of the 70s.

Next to "Me and Your Mama", this track is another big favorite. Gambino recently stated that he doesn’t edit his voice at all in this song, something that’s very hard to believe at first. Gambino focuses on his voice the most in this song, as he creeps along the top of his vocal range and belts out some incredible screams. This song is, hands down, the most Gambino has pushed himself in terms of his own vocal performance. One listen of this song will be enough to explain why. #STAYWOKE.

“There was a time before you, and there will be a time after you.”

"Baby Boy"
A lot of people really love this track, but honestly, it took a bit to get into it. The first minute is very falsetto-y. However, once more instrumentation is added to the song, things seem to move more coherently. As Gambino serenades his son, he gives words of advice and different remarks, one of which is “There was a time before you, and there will be a time after you.” Gambino is never afraid to touch on the topic of death, and it adds even more depth to an already personal track.

The album ends very abruptly, like a punch in the face. However, that's a common theme throughout this album. First, Gambino gave everyone a shockwave by releasing such an unexpected project. Yet with each track, he continues to grow more brave and daring, trying to knock us away with as many unexpected punches as possible. And in the end, Gambino does so successfully.