…In Gambino Camp By: Eric Blair
Childish Gambino’s Camp is one of the best albums of 2011. Camp’s sound is a dark, rollercoaster of emotions with a wonderful upbeat composition to each song. The sound to Camp is a little different from Gambino’s earlier work, the production quality has improved. Camp’s sound is harmonious, not as rough as his previous work, it doesn’t sound rushed or overly sampled. For example, the drums on the track Do Ya Like, off the Culdesac album, over powers his vocals throughout the song, whereas Bonfire’s drums sound are very smooth with the perfect kick, and mend perfectly with the vocals. The composition of each song on Camp is perfection; there is a beginning, a chorus, a second verse, a chorus, a third verse, and then a wrap up. This typical song structure is contrary to Childish’s earlier work which was mostly him rapping with no pause or chorus, causing some of the earlier songs to seem unfinished.
All The Shine is one of my favorite songs on Camp, it’s such a beautiful growth from Yes. Yes’ production was good for the time, but the heavy drums and the sped-up vocals don’t hold a candle to All The Shine. Yes sounded like it was made quickly on a drum machine. In All The Shine you can hear the chords in the background with the drums, snare, clash leading in the foreground. That is a considerable improvement there, layering the beat to make one sound. All The Shine goes into Letter Home, this follow up is a refreshing break from Childish’s clever, rapid, and lyrically cutting flow, which I refer to as “machine gun flow.” Letter Home gives the listener an intimate change up to the album that leads into Heartbeat, a song that speaks of the hardships and sensual times in an intimate relationship.
Camp is lyrically impressive; the content is dark and personal. Gambino’s lyrical content ranges from childhood experiences, parents, relationships, how he’s perceived, to views of himself as an artist and a person. I do like the tunes that I can rock my head to but I also love the tunes that go deeper than the surface. The first song Outside gives insight into his childhood and his relationship with his family as the song ends with a choir-esque type of singing. You can feel the plight Childish experiences through his lyrics and choir style singing, such a meaningful beginning to Camp. Then there is a song called L.E.S. on the album that’s very sensual and intimate speaking of a woman that he wants sexually and their relationship, only to end the song with him talking down on himself. Another personal song on Camp is Hold You Down, it speaks of his “blackness,” stating:
“It’s funny how you smoke niggas then you start coffins/ All my people need throat lozenge/ My fear is dead/ Ambition drove the hearse/ But niggas got my feelin’ I ain’t black enough to go to church/ Culture shock at barber shops cause I ain’t hood enough/ We all look the same to the cops, ain’t that good enough?”
Gambino’s style, flow and lyrical content come together wonderfully, adding depth to the song and to Donald Glover as a person. Throughout this album the songs have excellent lyrical content, backed by great messages that are conveyed very well. Furthermore, his beats and the quality of production add dynamic and umph to his (already) enthusiastic rap style. Childish Gambino’s growth as an artist from I Am Just A Rapper is applaud worthy. He is clearly more comfortable with who he is and his capabilities instead of a guy that’s looking to rap just to get a few things off his chest. He has mastered his art of story telling in his songs, as evident in That Power, where he raps about his hardships as Donald Glover. That Power reveals maturity as Donald gives insight to his growing pains and becoming who he is. This song is also a story about the meaning of “Camp” as an album and its personal meaning to him. I was cheering by time the album ended, clapping hands and stomping feet.
This album also highlights his progress in terms of production. Earlier songs such as Lights Turned On are great, however, his most recent tracks such as, You See Me is a wonderfully vast improvement. You See Me incorporates so many elements: vocals, horns, and snare rhythms, there is so much going on, and it all comes together to create a tuneful melody. It’s all about the composition on this album, that’s the key to its success.
Overall this album gets an A+ for a few reasons, Gambino’s production sounds much cleaner, organized, and is one continuous sound throughout the album. The sound isn’t all over the place like past albums but more like a novel; there is one theme and he stuck with that sound from beginning to end. The Lyrical content on this album is clever, sharp, thoughtful, and simple. He’s not glorifying money, hoes, and clothes; he’s opening himself up. Camp is an impressive follow up to Gambino’s previous work. This album reminds me of Kanye’s My Beautiful Dark Fantasy with its dark sound to the production and the artist’s deep, intimate, somber lyrical content. Camp is a blast of fresh air from everyday commercial Hip-Hop/Rap because there is a great theme to this album and by the end of the album there is something we all can relate to. Camp is worth buying because it is an excellent, down to Earth album from a down to Earth rapper.
Hey, you don’t have to take my words for it; give Childish Gambino’s Camp a listen for yourself. You can be your own critic.