An Album that Shifted My High School Life: Childish Gambino — Because the Internet
Donald Glover aka Childish Gambino changed my life. I know it’s crazy to say that, but it’s the truth. He gave me the confidence and motivation to not only be myself but to be the creative/writer I am today. He’s my favorite rapper/artist ever. He’s not the greatest because that crown goes to Jay-Z. However, Childish Gambino was the first rapper I ever could relate to when it came to his talents. He was a multifaceted person just like myself and it was rare to see someone doing the things you envisioned yourself doing. I understand he’s a polarizing figure. I understand why people critique him the way they do. I first discovered him when I was 15 so I didn’t understand the criticism until I got a bit older and more aware. Anyway, when I was a sophomore in high school, my classmate received Camp by the Stone Mountain native as a Secret Santa gift. I asked him who he was, and upon being told I went to do my research.
I saw that K1ng Eljay did a review on the album and gave it a good rating so I thought it had to be good. I downloaded the album, pressed play, and the first song that played was “Outside.” From there, Gambino took me to a place I’ve never been before. I’m not going to lie, I was amazed by the album. Can I say the same thing now at 24? Absolutely not. I can honestly say that the album did not age well. I don’t even think I go back to many of the songs here. There are too many cringe-worthy lyrics on here and there’s no way I can listen to “Camp” in this world. I outgrew it, which is funny because I feel like Donald did too. As soon as I finished listening to Camp I had to see what else he’s been a part of. I checked out his older music, saw his Derrick Comedy videos (yikes), and caught up on every episode of Community. Yes, I was a big fan of his that quickly. He was the blueprint for what I wanted to do with my life which is to go into multiple fields and showcase my creativity. Around this time of my life, I was a rapper. I had been writing rhymes ever since I was seven years old. However, I never had a rap name. That all changed in high school when I put in the Wu-Tang Clan rap name generator (like Gambino did) and got the name Dependable Skeleton. It was a perfect fit for me at the time. The influence was there 100%.
A couple of months after Camp dropped, Gambino released his Royalty mixtape on July 4th. This to me was the beginning of a new transition for Donald. Both his music and brand were different. He had just linked up with Fam Udeorji who later became his manager. He also got his brother Stephen Glover, Ibra Ake, Jamal “Swank” Olori, and Chad Taylor to form the group ROYALTY; a creative collective making uniquely artistic ideas to become an industry in and of themselves. Shortly after the mixtape was released, he disappeared from social media for months. No one had heard from him, but there was a feeling that something was coming. I just didn’t know what. Then, on a random day in July, Gambino dropped the song “Centipede.” It wasn’t like anything I’d heard at that point. It felt refreshing and I wanted to know more about the sound he was going for. Also during that time, he signed a deal with FX for his new show Atlanta and he was going to leave the NBC show Community in the middle of the fifth season. It was crazy at the time and people felt like he wasn’t making the right decision. However, I feel like Donald wanted to bet on himself. He wanted to build something of his own.
A month later, Gambino released his short film Clapping for the Wrong Reasons which featured Chance The Rapper, Trinidad James, Danielle Fisher, and more. It was created as a prelude to Glover’s second album and didn’t have a plot. Instead, it focuses on a day in the life of Childish Gambino as he wanders through his mansion filled with friends he seems to casually acknowledge as being among his residential companions. I didn’t understand it at the time it came out, but I remember playing this film a hundred times that day. I could be lying about the number too. Two months later, he dropped “Yaphet Kotto” and I can honestly say I had this on repeat for a week. It’s one of my favorite Childish Gambino songs ever and he’s just talking that shit. I remember going to school the next day and telling everyone I know that they were sleeping on him. I remember telling everyone he was going to be big no matter what he does. I can honestly say that only a few people believed me, but I knew that those few would be the ones I could go to for anything that Donald released. A couple of days later, he announced his new album would be called Because the Internet.
In an interview with MTV, his explanation for the album title was “Because the internet I’m here, because of the internet we’re all here. It’s the language of earth. Everyone keeps saying by this or that year, Mandarin or Spanish will be the most dominant language, but the internet is already a language we are all connected to; even my dad can understand the meme format. But the thing is, there are no rules, which is also an awesome thing.” Months leading into the album, people found out Gambino recorded the album in Chris Bosh’s mansion in Los Angeles, which Gambino called “The Temple”. There, he kept strict rules, which included “no tweeting or instagramming”, “no shoes”, and “work begins at 10 am.” In my eyes, this was some of the craziest promotion I’d ever seen and it was only going to get crazier.
A couple of weeks later, he released a series of notes on Instagram detailing how people felt about his career choices as of late. He talked about his issues with Glassnote Records and how they didn’t want him to release his album in December. The posts stated, “The label doesn’t want me to release in December because it’s not a holiday record and I’m not a big artist. I started the record last Christmas. Christmas always made me feel lonely, but it helped me restart the new year. I want people to listen to this album when everything’s closed. When everything slows down and quiet. So you can start over.” However, even with all that, Gambino announced the album would drop on December 10th. He released “3005” shortly after the announcement. I instantly fell in love with the song. It’s one of those songs where I can pinpoint exactly where I was when I heard it. Although it’s a very sad song, it just made me feel good. I remember when he said that he was going to have a screenplay for the album along with short clips. I thought this guy was insane for it, but I was so intrigued by the rollout of the album. A month later he dropped “Sweatpants” with Problem which was dope as hell. I just loved how he was so braggadocious on it. Another moment that made me hype about the album is when he performed “Shadows” on The Arsenio Hall Show. The song just blew me away especially with how the beat switches in the second half. That performance made me love the live version better than the original song. The anticipation was building every single day for me. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the full project. I just needed to experience this in full. Finally, a week before the album dropped, it leaked. You’re damn right I listened to that leak.
“Crawl” was just a vicious way to start the album from the production, Mystikal’s voice in the background, and the internet references throughout the song. It felt grand and it helped me prepare for what the album had in store for me. “WORLDSTAR” was just a fan favorite because of the name alone. Worldstar ran so that The Shade Room could fly. If you wanted to see anything messy, crazy, or simply entertaining, Worldstar was the place to go to. The fact that he was rapping over a metronome was crazy to me. “The Worst Guys” is just another example of why I wanted a Chance and Gambino collaborative project so bad. They blended so well together and I wished we had more songs from them. It’s crazy how many people don’t credit Gambino as being the first big artist to put Chance on. If you go back to when Chance’s first mixtape, 10 Day, dropped then you would know that he was on Gambino’s mixtape ROYALTY a couple of months later. It was just great to see them side by side making great music.
“Telegraph Ave.” is one of my favorite songs on the album. The Power 105 intro and Lloyd singing “Oakland” while Gambino sings it in the background as he’s driving always gets me. It’s one of those songs that I love to drive to at night and I wished it was a bigger song. “Zealots of Stockholm” was nuts. The way he talks about life and death in the song was very vivid. A line that sticks out to me is when he says, “Kinison said if you gon’ miss Heaven, why do it by two inches?” The transition from that song to “Urn” is just- whew. “Urn” might honestly be my favorite song on the album and it’s so damn short. It’s one of my favorite songs from him singing-wise and he continues to explore themes of loneliness and death. If there’s any song I recommend listening to, it’s that one. Gambino and Jhene Aiko did their thing on “Pink Toes” and “Earth: The Oldest Computer” with Azealia Banks is just as great. Thank God he decided to do it with her and not Macklemore. I love the takeaway of this song as it presents Donald reaching the point of an existential crisis. He feels that human life is far too short for genuine gratification. The song touches on all the themes of the album, from love to revolution to the ramifications of technology before suddenly deciding that none of this matters. It ties into the conclusion that nothing in this world is forever except the concept of progress itself, which is why he references the Earth as a computer. Everything that has transpired on Earth isn’t necessarily important, just like how all the data in a computer isn’t significant. The unfortunate short existence of life is nothing but a “code” that Earth will keep a record of once it is extinct.
The final track is “Life: The Biggest Troll” and it’s just funny how the song ends on the leaked version of the album. On the leaked version, the song cuts off abruptly which follows the theme of the song. He trolled us. Although the ending was strange to me at the time, I still looked at this album as a work of art. Besides, the full version of the song is on the official album.
Childish Gambino’s Because the Internet changed my whole life. It’s one of my favorite albums of all time. The way he talks about how the internet has changed the way we interact as a society was ahead of its time. The concept of this album is based on the internet. The internet is known for its arrogant, uncompromising users, and trolls. Internet trolls can be terrible for the sake of a joke. However, in reality, the terrible things we experience and the toughest things we go through aren’t on the internet at all; the most unrelenting thing we go through is life itself, and in a sense, the joke is on us. Because the Internet was the first album I ever bought when I was 17. I had two copies of the album because a friend of mine gave me that as a gift for Christmas. I ended up giving the other copy to my friend from high school because I was perfectly fine with the one I bought. You can tell Donald put his all into this album just based on the GIF cover alone. I just loved how it was presented. Childish Gambino was also the first person I ever saw in concert and it was an experience I will never forget. I don’t think any other artist has grown exponentially the way that Gambino has. His journey from beginning to now is nothing to look over. He tapped into a different kind of creativity with this album that has helped him transition to doing things such as “Atlanta,” “Redbone,” and even “This is America.” The internet helped me find Donald Glover and the internet transcended him to superstar status. It’s all because of this album.