Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Live Review - Childish Gambino - Because the Internet

I really hate Childish Gambino
I say this a lot... It's rare for me to actually dislike music, even a song or two, let alone an entire artist. But he always bugged me. I can't remember a time when I knew about Donald Glover's music and didn't dislike it. It's weird, 'cause I generally like Donald Glover... like, I like Community alright and he's my favorite character, etc. Maybe it started when I started reading Hipster Runoff's hilarious and scathing articles about him. Or maybe it was the amazingly brutal Pitchfork review that made me realize that, beyond just indifference, I really actually hated this music. I dunno.

Okay so yeah... I wasn't a fan of this guy, but a friend of mine said I should listen to Royalty... I think it had just come out or something. So we listened to it, and I dunno, I was like "eh"... some good production, Bun B has a good verse, as do Schoolboy Q and Ab Soul... and what the fuck, they got Kilo Kish? I didn't know anyone else had even heard of Kilo Kish... But whatever, it still had all the stuff I don't like about this music, namely:

-really cringeworthy puns in basically every line. Okay, I don't mind puns and wordplay in general, far from it. I even like it on sitcoms and stuff. But he seems to have the attitude of like "the cleverer, the funnier", which seems like it prolly came straight from his sitcom-writing career. And even the attitude of "the funnier, the better" is really problematic when you're trying to make music. It's evident that he's trying so, so, hard to come up with the most esoteric/obfuscated puns he can think of, and it really makes me cringe.

-really boring flow. Probably because he's trying to say all these ridiculous puns and wordplays. It concerns me how readily some people eat this shit up when I feel like he's hardly rapping a lot of the time.

-irritating emotional junk. I think it's a very amazing thing for rappers to be able to switch between grandiose bragging, hilarious wordplay, and heartfelt appeals to emotion, and make all three of them sound sincere. Most rappers just stick to one or two. Maybe they'll have the odd tearjerker song but on those you can see they keep the other two sides far away. Donald tries to do all three, all the time, and they all sound fake. Like, irritatingly pathetically so. I mean I know dismissing celebrities whining with "you've got it good, shut up" is a lame and invalid argument but holy Christ the stuff he complains about I straight up refuse to identify as issues. 99% of it seems to be "I want to be a real rapper, but no one treats me like a real rapper". Well, that's because you're a shitty rapper.

-stupid misappropriation of songs I really like. This asshole rapped over "My Girls" and did a shitty job. And then later he said something like "hipsters mad 'cause I'm taking all their songs" or something wrt people getting mad about that. Fuck that and fuck you. You don't win because you acknowledge that people are saying you suck.

Okay okay I gotta calm down. I really hate this guy though. He's like the Big Bang Theory of rap with his stupid obsession with references per minute combined with the worst acted soap opera... Like a less talented, makes it look hard instead of easy, whiny and self-righteous Wayne Brady.

Yeah but on your last.fm you sure seem to like him!
Alright so... after my friend showed me Royalty, and I kept complaining, it just kept escalating or whatever. I dunno. Soon after I went on vacation and said friend set my computer up to play his music on loop the whole time I was gone. I was watching it on vacation, watching him overtake artists I actually liked. It was pretty funny.

(I can't remember when he made this gif)
He would set it up to play every time he was alone in my room... it was pretty funny. Soon he became my number one artist. It became really memetic, my hatred for him. My friend would remix his verses into songs I did like. Funny shit would happen like... I was hanging out with this guy at the Lil B concert, and we were talking about music, and he told me he was a huge Childish Gambino fan, and I didn't know what to say. Stupid stuff like that.

You know you can delete those plays in like one click, right?
I know, and I probably should... but now the whole idea of me hating him so much has taken on a sort of fun of its own. He's basically abstracted from me as an actual musical artist now. He's become like, the bad option... like, just a sort of musical punishment. Which is fun, and sorta functional, but at the same time... kinda problematic.

Lately I've been attempting to really evaluate my life in the context of being an "actual human being" and not "a character" or something. I want to be able to catch behavior where I feel like I'm doing things automatically just because my doing them has become a joke or meme or whatever. Not even necessarily stopping or altering the behavior, but I wouldn't even have a chance to do those things if I don't first catch it and break down what exactly is driving it.

So like a pattern where I unequivocally praise or hate an artist is this exact sort of behavior. Reducing all of Donald Glover to one sort of "hate" meme is really limiting and silly. There are aspects to his music that I like. The production is usually pretty solid, at least a few songs per album have a catchy beat. Sometimes his guest features go really far in. Okay okay... there's even a few lines of his I like. And lately, he's more compelling than ever (not saying much). I read some interview a bit ago where he seemed genuinely bleak, talked a lot about upping his drug use... he said he was reading Kierkegaard. Kierkegaard! I really can't reconcile these aspects that I find interesting/identifying with the one dimensional "bad rapper" label I give him.

I guess what I'm saying is that I'm really trying to go into this album with an open mind. I want to find some aspects of it I like, maybe a catchy track or two I can listen to occasionally. I fully expect to find some. I want to come to understand him as a rapper like Drake or Lil Wayne, where I'm not the hugest fan, but there's some stuff I really like and I'd never outright dismiss.

I'm sorry this preamble is so long... usually the artists I review fall into the "unequivocally like" side and I feel like that perspective doesn't really require any explanation... it isn't doing anyone any harm. Anyways, let's take a look. Woah, the album cover is a gif... okay whatever.

Childish Gambino - Because the Internet
Live Review

1. "The Library (Intro)"
5-seconds long... ok.

2. "Crawl"
Woah I like this beat. Genuinely dark. And these vocals are nice, really stark. So far this is great... how is he gonna handle my expectations now? "And still put it down like the family dog" okay that wasn't long before I heard a line I didn't like lol. His flow here is pretty solid, nice and fast. Most of the lines were like okay, and the thing he did with the booty line was whatever. I like how much focus is given to this beat cause I do like it. Seasons rap... okay this is sorta lame... Did he just drop a "meme" with the "ain't nobody got time for that"... is that how I'm supposed to take that? And now a violin? This feels like uhh... I dunno... does he really have to do this? It sounds pretty nice though I guess. Really I don't hate this song, like... he didn't ruin it for me. He kinda tried to though really lol I mean c'mon with that. A

I feel like Donald Glover has never been to Worldstar. Lol what is this flow? I don't think he can pull this flow off. Like, it's acceptable, but like uhh I dunno, at the same time it seems sorta parody... The beat is OK but not like anything I haven't heard before. lol sampling the worldstar chant... uh, why does he get to this? I'd say like 1 in 5 lines has something that makes me go like "ehh c'mon please". This structure/theme of him talking about videos that could be on Worldstar... I dunno, I don't hate it intrinsically, but like, when your song idea sounds like something you'd see on the thing you're mocking, uhhh, seems bad. Now there's this sorta jazzy outro, I mean... I don't hate it but is he gonna do something like this on every song? Is this not a rap album? It's pretty generic sounding stuff... not some BBNG or anything but just like "saxophone.wav"... B-

4. "Dial Up"
Little breather 40 second thing, prolly instrumental? Really driving home this whole "internet" theme, which I uh... hate. I hate things about the internet almost as much as I hate the internet. That was cute though.

5. "The Worst Guys"
I don't really like or hate Chance, he's OK. This beat is pretty nice and wavy. I think Donald is supposed to have been biting Chance's flow, or maybe vice-versa, I dunno. This is all pretty solid. Like that first verse was solid. This bridge in the middle, I dunno, kinda long... seems so eager to do non-rap things, why? "Uncle Ben in my hand make change nigga" okay I don't get it, and I'm sure when I do I'll groan, why does he want me to groan when I hear his albums? Okay I do like this beat switch around 2:40, that was pretty impressive. Again... feels sorta generic, but like... whatever, it's a good effect, I guess. A

6. "Shadows"
Okay I'm liking this. Wow he's singing and stuff... that's OK, that's alright if you want to do that. It isn't anything to write home about but I like it OK. Hmm yeah I like this flow. This verse is pretty solid so far. Nice solid lines without obsession over cleverness. The way he got more intense was pretty nice too. Singing the hook "I ain't got shit to do, but fall in love with you", wow I actually kinda like this. And wow that switchup around 2:00, that was nice. Again though... none of this is rapping lol. Which is... uh more than fine, really. I love that heavy drum. This whole song is pretty solid. Woah another change at 2:50, man, I can't say he's slacking at the very least. I like the sort of nauseating off-pitch feel. This was good. S-

7. "Telegraph Ave ('Oakland by Lloyd')"
Huh, what is with this diegesis? How do I spell that? Whatever. This is like... his "Objects in the Mirror" or something, with this sort of flow. I like the samples, pretty solid production in general. Lol... it just occurred to me I'm really not processing what he's saying when he's doing this autotuned sort of sound... probably for the best. Okay finally rapping. "Rich kid but he act like a gentlemen"... "O face on your Exes" :\ His flow is pretty good here though. What sort of relationship shit is he on about? I don't really care it sounds kinda boring... B

8. "Sweatpants"
Ok ok, this beat is pretty curious. His flow is pretty okay here... "are you eatin' though?"... hmmm I dunno. "Y'all fuccbois like Socrates"... don't even know what to make of that one. There's a lot of lines that I feel like I have a problem with but not a big one. Lots of little jokes and stuff, some of them actually kinda funny, but it's this sorta scattershot... okay now he's doing fast rap, man I dunno... seems kinda inauthentic still, just like, so try hard. "Don't be mad 'cause I'm doing me better than you doing you"... I'm not mad actually. B+

9. "3005"
This beat is kinda cool, okay singing again. "Girl why is you lion, why is you Mufasa" >______>;; ugh okay moving on. The flow is kinda cool though. And then he drops stuff like "I'm just scared of the future", uhhh man I dunno. Right by my side until 3005... nah I dunno if I could stand that long. "I used to care what people thought/Now I care more" or something... he's like the anti-Tyler. Just gives a fuck with every line. This all sounds pretty nice, though, like this is a pretty sonically appealing album. I like this sort of production. This outro is cute. B+

10. "Playing Around Before The Party Starts"
Another short dealie... piano stuff. It's like... whatever... Not really the sort of stuff I care about on a hip hop album by a long shot.

11. "The Party"
Oh haha... Weird bleep bloop musics... "We gon have a party, all my friends will be there", okay sure. I prolly won't come. I really don't get this song, like, I'm not sure what the point is, I guess. Fast percussive rap, and then he "doubles up", okay, not bad. Lol that was pretty good actually. B+

12. "No Exit"
Hmmm I think I'm liking this sort of singing flow less time. OOoh I do like this sort of grimey dark flow though. "Brown recluse, so appropriate", not bad. Doing the demonic layering... he pulls it off ok. I like these drums and stuff. Loads of vocal effects here, I'm OK with it. I like these cuts into nighttime ambient type samples... but I just generally really like nighttime ambient samples too lol. This ending is pretty interesting, manages to be a bit creepy, which is always compelling. B+

13. "Death by Numbers"
This one I like quite a bit, really vibey, doesn't overextend itself.

14. "Flight of the Navigator"
Hmmm... I'm curious. The vocal effects are kinda nice, the guitar, whatever. Is it just gonna go on like this? 
Cause this is a pretty long song... Yeah I dunno... what is happening? This trippy ass dream, okay, whatever, like, sure, but... I'm kinda losing my interest, it just seems so generic? Maybe I don't understand. I like this change around 1:30... Beat getting pretty interesting and I like his vocals. Can't really process the lyrics super well, but that's fine, whatever... I'm trying really hard not to think "shut up" because I know that's coming from a place of unjustified memetic hatred... but at a certain level this is just really not the sort of thing I'm into... like, a song like this, could be good, but... it has to have a certain compelling element that I'm just not getting here. "Hold me close my darling"? well I mean... it's obvious he's not trying to be clever, at least... but maybe just slightly original would be OK. Gotta be some compromise there. B-

15. "Zealots Of Stockholm (Free Information)"
Lol what is with this title? I like the feel of this so far. Like this little pattern here. Ok yeah... this sort of flow is really falling flat for me now. There's just not enough movement to it. If you compare it to the sort of thing that Kanye would do or get someone to do for the same effect... there's just a level of dynamism that isn't here. "You're a good son"? And then this weird scattery noisey thing at like 1:20... you have my interest. Yes okay I love drones. This is an acceptable one. This flow here with this static modulation is OK, he seems to be really solid with it. Then it gets really crazy again, I like this female vocalist oooooh the way they stutter the beat at like 2:50ish is solid as hell. I dunno where all these samples are coming from but whatever. The structure of this song in general is pretty interesting. new sorta flow here. "We can kick it like it's FIFA, homie", okay yeah see, that's acceptable. Same-sex monotonous-sex joke... "walking in with a gun they 3D printed", umm. I dunno. I gotta think about this stuff a bit more. I don't hate it immediately, though. B

16. "Urn"
I dunno what's going on here at all. I don't like it a hell of a lot but it's like whatever. I think I know what he's going for... I like the vocals here around :40ish, like, the layering, I like that.

17. "Pink Toes"
I dunno who Jhene Aiko is, does that make me lame? "Rainbows, sunshine" umm... I dunno man, this is a bit saccharine for me. Me, who watches PreCure. This beat is pretty solid I guess. "She on my back about it/C3PO" D: lame. What's he rapping about here? Drugs or love? Nah I dunno if I care. I like when they go back to the hook but add stuff, and his doing so here makes me overlook how lame the hook is. There's gotta be some other layer to this I'm missing. Okay here's Jhene... wow I really like her voice. Wow yeah I really do, dang. I dunno how to describe that feature that's almost like a lisp and also sorta like patois. "She's dressed up in gold/C3PO", does connecting two lame lines make them better or worse? Jury still out. B+

18. "Earth: The Oldest Computer (The Last Night)"
I hate this title. Azealia Banks I have heard of. He just wants to live forever... man you're losing me, reread Kierkegaard pls. He's doing some really broad spanning reference connections... that's only OK sometimes and this was one of them actually maybe I think. I like this dancy beat, I like his flow around 1:40, very excited and bouncy. And the lyrics are solid too! "3005/The year that we fear only god will survive/To be alone is to be alive" ???????? Solid is the wrong word... interesting and unoffensive, that's fine. I really do like the synth lines around 2:30, not the most creative thing but solid, same with this addition around 2:50. Catchy. The structure of this one is pretty neat too, lots of stuff going on in this song. I like this staticky modulation around 3:20... what does GPOI mean? At any rate masking his old sorta flow with staticky stuff... the progression... and then we get a beat that actually does seem pretty futuristic. Not bad, man. I see you on that. This whole outro is pretty cool, dense and intense. A

19. "Life: The Biggest Troll (Andrew Auernheimer)"
I hate this title even more. I dunno who this Andrew guy is. I like this intro... Wow his voice here, it actually sounds like... wait wait no no please move on from this subject matter. Are you trolling me right now? Are you being a ruser? I like the beat quite a bit, especially that sort of "space synth". Some lyrics here are genuinely interesting but some I'm like ehhh. May-mays... please stop. Again though some of these lyrics are legitimately interesting. "I don't know who I am anymore"... kinda believe this maybe. And the reference density seems thematically appropriate even if the theme seems like, uh, lame. "H2O plus my D, that's my hood, and I'm livin in it" wrt a girl's vagina... um... Yeah I dunno man. "You have to help me", ehhh, I dunno. Is this the most literal cry for help on a hip hop album? A-

Okay I actually liked that alright
It wasn't really what I expected... I was hoping there'd be a few really straightforward well-produced many-featured bangers I could extract. Probably if you had told me there would be none of those I wouldn't have wanted to listen to it, but I'm glad I did. Instead this is a pretty varied and yet pretty cohesive album experience. Good job! The production was really nice, I can't find full production credits yet but looks like FlyLo, Thundercat, Christian Rich all did some stuff... good lineup...

The main thing I expected to hate but didn't really mind was the sort of reference-base of his lyrics. He seemed to really tone down the obnoxious peppering of every single line with some stupid pun or reference. I mean, there was still occasionally groaners, but he could get through some verses without shooting himself in the foot.

He's rapping mainly about just being bleak in general... lots of lonely stuff, whatever. Nowhere near as compelling as someone like Earl but way way better than just rapping about not being respected as a rapper, crap like that. The internet references, every one a bullet to my brain, where thankfully few and far between.

His rapping is way, way improved. He really seems to be writing to fit a sort of interesting flow instead of just doing whatever will work to push his references. Where it still falls a bit flat is that he still seems really focused on writing to that flow, instead of it just coming naturally. Like, he seems really self-conscious, and seems to really prioritize making sure that every verse he does has some fast section, or some triplet section, or something. Just trying to prove he's a good rapper, still... well, it's admirable, and, like "natural" good rappers it's fun to listen to. It's just like, a bit forced. But that'll get better and better. This also goes for a lot of the other elements he included - sung hooks, jazz breakdowns, various production elements, etc - it's like he made a big checklist of things he liked in other hip hop songs and just tried to cram them all in. That's not the worst way to make music, no, and most of the elements turn out pretty well, albeit sometimes generic, but it just doesn't seem natural yet.

So yeah overall I actually liked this. Probably won't have it on the iPod or anything yet but I'll probably replay it once or twice in the next few weeks.

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