Let’s get one thing straight: Because The Internet is not a hip-hop album. Because The Internet is a story written by Childish Gambino and the audible release is merely the soundtrack. If you were to look at his latest album as a separate entity and neglected the accompanying aspects, not only would you be a fool, but you would be missing out on the entire experience. If we look at the man’s past, you begin to see that through his efforts as an actor, screenwriter, and comedian, his roots begin in storytelling, so why should an album be any different?
If lyrics are anything to go by, Gambino is on the money. The album sees the Californian take a somewhat darker approach to things. Fitting, seeing as the story is one of a moderately depressed teenager, just returned home from a melancholic camp (documented in the album’s precursor, 2011’s Camp). The jovial Gambino we once knew is gone, replaced by a more mature and withdrawn individual. “I used to care what people thought / But now I care more / Man nobody out here’s got it figured out / So therefore, I’ve lost all hope of a happy ending”, he confesses.
3005 stands out as an easygoing, radio-friendly track that illustrates why Gambino is above the rest of the game. Accompanied by an addictive hook and chorus, the songwriting skills which Gambino possesses are the driving force behind its success as both a single and soundtrack feature. Meanwhile, Gambino raises a defiant middle-finger to the haters on standout track Sweatpants, rapping, “I’m Winnin’ / Rich kid, asshole, paint me as a villain”. It resonates as another chapter in The Boy‘s life as he battles with the surrounds presented to him.
Watch: Childish Gambino – 3005
Yet Gambino the comedian remains, with his witty remarks flowing throughout the album, acting as a respite from the consistently dark overtones. One-liners such as “I got more tail than that PetCo” and “More Green than my Whole Foods” demonstrate Gambino’s unique comic ability and introduce another dynamic element to the album. However the displays of comedic prowess seem overly restricted and leave the listener wanting more of those quips and remarks that are so unique to Gambino.
The attention to detail in the production realm is phenomenal. Once again, Gambino teams up with Ludwigh Goransson and as always it has paid off. The variety of beats, vocal effects, and musical flourishes used act like a badge of honour bestowed upon the rapper, most potently manifested in the incredible guitar solo at the end of The Worst Guys. Because The Internet is a truly cinematic record, encompassing the story of a young man dealing with the mundane world that surrounds him.
Of course you can listen to Because The Internet without contemplating its narrative scope, but it would be like listening to a Hans Zimmer soundtrack without the film itself. Both artists are fantastic in regards to music, but without the original medium for which the tracks were created, there will always be something missing.
The approach which Gambino has taken may be slightly ahead of its time and makes it difficult to listen to his music, but it’s a creation which is a step above the rest. It has been a long time since an album has had the depth and intrigue that Because The Internet commands. Gambino has been an innovator for years and with the release of his second album he continues to prove it.
Childish Gambino’s Because The Internet is out now.