Free the Music is a guide to new albums, EPs and songs that are available for free online. Today’s drop is: Childish Gambino – Culdesac.
Donald Glover lives a charmed life. At 26, he’s been a YouTube sensation with Derrick Comedy, wrote for the critically-acclaimed comedy “30 Rock,” and stars in another hit NBC comedy, “Community.”
Then there’s his hip-hop side-project, Childish Gambino. Glover showed promise on his first mixtape, I’m Just A Rapper, juggling odd, multi-syllabic rhymes while matching his flow to popular indie tunes. I’m Just A Rapper 2 felt like a re-run you’ve seen too many times: The rhymes sounded slathered together on short notice, the choice of instrumentals less-focused.
Now, Glover’s released his “official” release, Culdesac. Though the high quality piano introduction on “Difference” should inform a defiant and all together vibrant album, it doesn’t. In fact, the overwhelmingly overproduced nature of the album’s first two tracks sound gaudy and out of place, and highlight Glover’s oft-off beat rhyme schemes.
With I’m Just A Rapper, Glover leaned on a handful of stereotypical rap crutches (money, women, power), but created a unique lyrical narrative different than the over-the-top gangsterisms that pervades many overplayed hip-hop tropes. Yet, with Culdesac, Glover sounds stuck on repeat even when the beats below his vocals have a fresh-out-of-the-studio sheen.
On Culdesac, Glover leans harder on hip-hop thematic crutches, and uses them as a gateway to inform listeners of his charmed life. Yes, it’s important to talk about what you know. But with Culdesac, listeners could play a drinking game called “Tina Fey,” wherein you drink every time Fey’s name is mentioned. Chances are you’ll be drunk halfway through the album. Glover spends a lot of the album talking about how great he is, but it comes off as more insecure than truthful.
It’s not all bad. “Do Ya Like” has a fantastic electro-rap flow with one brilliant sample-based hook. And Glover even gets to deliver his best line of the record: “NBC is not the only thing I’m coming on tonight.” Yes, it’s juvenile, and Glover is up front about it in the song, but it’s a rare spot of lyrical brilliance in an underwhelming album. When things align, Glover seems to have all the talent in the world. But, for better or worse, Culdesac is merely a document that shows just how fallible an ambitious, creative person can be.
You can download Culdesac for free here.