Hot indie bands, one hilarious comedic-actor and a hip-hop mixtape. Great combination, right?
Well, almost. Childish Gambino’s new mixtape, I Am Just A Rapper, has so much potential. Yet, the results are a little mixed.
Childish Gambino, otherwise known as Donald Glover, is someone to watch out for. When it comes to rhymes, Glover’s got plenty of fresh material to flesh out on I Am Just A Rapper. There’s plenty of whip-smart references to cultural ephemera like Jersey Shore and slightly-innovative ways at describing the same-ole, same-ole of hip-hop (women, fame, etc) on the mixtape. Glover’s also got plenty going for him outside of hip-hop: He’s a pivotal member of the Derrick Comedy team, he’s been part of the writing team for a number of 30 Rock episodes and he’s one of the many shining stars on NBC’s newest comedy, Community.
Perhaps that is why I Am Just A Rapper is slightly underwhelming. Whether it’s been in his role as Troy on Community or his other comedy work, Glover has shown himself to be someone who understands the finer points at deftly-delivered communication. So it’s a little perturbing to hear Glover get hindered by some of the usual pitfalls that befall lesser-than MCs by covering some of the same worn-down elements in terms of posturing. Fortunately, those moments are fleeting, and sometimes even help to display the introspective layers hiding underneath some of the “cash, money, hoes” scenario.
Although Glover’s flow and lyrical skillz are impressive, what really drags down I Am Just A Rapper is the shoddy production. Rather than strip popular tunes by Sleigh Bells, Grizzly Bear, Animal Collective of their vocals, Glover merely slaps his rhymes right on top, often creating a muddled and distracting sound. Though the feedback-flavored track “New Prince” benefits from the use of Sleigh Bells’ abrasive sound to create one bombastic tune, the use of Grizzly Bear’s “Two Weeks” sounds completely drowned out, un-equalized and a bit washed out in combination with Glover’s vocals.
Still, at the price of a few minutes of downloading, I Am Just A Rapper is definitely worth a listen. Download it here. And if you live in Portland, Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis or Los Angeles, look out for local screenings of Derrick Comedy’s movie, Mystery Team.
Mystery Team trailer (Red Band Trailer – NSFW):