Gambino’s new album is anything but Childish

Tilly Friedlander

Childish Gambino revealed his talent for hip-hop, jazz and nuanced lyrics with the incorporation of various instrumentals and gospel choruses, creating an eerie tone in his new album “Awaken My Love.”

Released on Dec. 2, the album exemplifies Gambino’s diverse talents by veering farther away from the genre of rap than he’s ventured before.  

The new album integrates a new form of futuristic hip-hop with strangely captivating gospel voices, leaving listeners in a trance throughout multiple songs. 

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Beginning the fourth track on the album, “Zombies,” with a mysterious jazz-like beat, Gambino overlays the vocals with a female voice that whispers, “All I see is zombies feeding all around us/All they eat are people and you won’t survive.” The bizarre lyrics combined with a strange, but pleasing beat creates a captivating listening experience.

The fearful lyrics are carried throughout the album, most prominently in the song “Terrified,” in which Gambino utilizes phrases such as, “Haunt you to our grave” and “I’m going to eat you alive.” Although the tone was creepy, the song was engaging and mesmerizing, giving it a distinction from more traditional radio hip-hop tunes.

By singing creepy lyrics, incorporating slow jazz, and involving deep breaths in the beat, Gambino causes the listeners to actually feel somewhat terrified.

Last month, Gambino released the first song on the new album, titled “Me and Your Mama.” The song’s gospel chorus depicted the artist’s complicated love life as he sings, “Let me in your heart/Oh, this ain’t no bullshit/I really love you, girl.” This romantic addition to the album gave it even more complexity and helped to successfully engage the listener in the life of Gambino, putting a story behind his words.

“Me and Your Mama” is not the only song on the album in which Gambino displays his sensitive side. In one of the slower songs, “Baby Boy,” he sings about the lack of a father figure in his life starting from when he was just a baby. The lyrics in the song have more depth to them than Gambino’s lyrics in previous albums, helping the listener understand who Childish Gambino really is and adding to the character of the album.

With the help of Swedish producer Ludwig Göransson, who has produced all of Gambino’s albums, Gambino’s lyrics in “Awaken My Love” touch on what he believes are major societal issues. For example, in “Zombies,” Gambino shares his pessimistic view on money in society as he compares zombies to American people. He sings, “They can smell your money and they want to eat your soul.”

In a few songs in the album, including “California,” Gambino moves away from jazz and incorporates a 70’s funk-rock type of beat, detracting from the seriousness of the album and giving it more variation between upbeat and slower songs throughout.

In previous albums, Gambino sang mostly rap, whereas in “Awaken My Love” he revealed his talent in using bass riffs and gospel voices in his music.

“Awaken My Love” leaves the listener with the flexibility to interpret the album as they wish, a shift from Gambino’s previous work, which tended to overwhelm and was harder to process.

The album is a unique alternative to conventional radio music. “Awaken My Love” may not fall under any specific genre, but it’s new, different and something all music fans should be introduced to.