Album Review: ‘Camp’ by Childish Gambino

logan j. fowler drops the beat on Donald Glover’s debut album …

“Why does every black actor gotta rap some?/
I don’t know, all I know is that I’m the best one!”

With those simple lyrics, Donald Glover — aka the “Childish Gambino” — demands recognition and respect as the music industry’s newest hip hop renegade in a sea of established artists in the genre, including such entertainers as Eminem and Jay-Z. 

What Glover brings to the table is some insane lyrics, dripping with comedic timing at some points, along with some powerful words you weren’t expecting at others. Right from the start, it just hits you; opening up Camp (the title of the album) is a story of Glover’s severely rough home life, put together with a choir singing the chorus (“Outside”), it just instantly makes you think, “Whoa, is this the same guy from Community?”

For those unaware, Glover plays Troy Barnes on NBC’S recently shelved (cue sad face) sitcom Community, making fans of the program laugh at his character’s ridiculous antics along side his friend Abed (Danny Pudi). Around the middle of the second season, I was introduced to Glover’s alter ego (the Childish Gambino) by my friend JP. Glover had dropped a single titled “Freaks And Geeks,” and the song was the initial thought I had to anyone listening to camp for the first time; is this the same guy from that TV show I love so much? Glover strings words together like nobody’s business, and “Freaks And Geeks,” while a great Gambino track (you can download it for free if you buy the album), is not as strong as some of the tunes on Camp.

On that note, there’s a ton of great tracks on the album. “Bonfire” is like “Freaks And Geeks” in style, but way darker, grittier, and more raw. The lyrics listed in the top of this write up come from that song, and listening to it for the first time, I actually broke out in laughter — not at the fact that I think what he was saying will never be true, but more at the fact that he said what he said, like a “ohhhh snap” kind of reaction. 

Donald Glover covers similar bases with his lyrics on these songs-exes (the amazing “Heartbeat”), interests in some girls (“Letter Home”), his past (“Outside”), and his future (an optimistic track titled “That Power”). Scattered among the words is how people perceived Glover as a “white black guy,” which he is an image he’s destroying with these tunes, proving to be an insanely talented black rapper. There’s a total of 13 tunes on the album (and four free for download), but it’s a testament to the album’s staying power that each track is edited perfectly in length, not overstaying it’s welcome, even including the brief “Letter Home” which clocks in at 1:44, the shortest track on the album. The beats and music are glorious, but my favorite rhythm on the whole album has to belong to “Sunrise,” with Glover talking up his ego, backed by a club-esque track. Definitely worth a listen if you want to sample a track to make up your mind. Also recommend “Bonfire” for the same reasoning. 

My biggest problems with Camp are that Mr. Gambino does reference Facebook a little too much (one time each in the first two tracks was already enough for me). The other? Glover’s constant talking about his reproductive organ. It’s funny at moments, don’t get me wrong, but I clearly can’t call it childish if he’s the “Childish Gambino.” However, it became a problem as I would consider this albums genius in other albums, and the frequent mention of his manhood can be borderline annoying. Hopefully the reference will lessen in future albums. 

Which I hope there is plenty more of. I’m picky when it comes to music, even by my favorite artists. However, with Camp (minor gripes aside), it was a full listen, beginning to end. Not one song was untouched, not one song not given the full run through. At the end of the album, Glover recollects a story regarding a bus trip home from summer camp, and how he told a girl about how he felt about her. While listening to the story, I hung on every word. The same goes for the whole album — Camp is definitely worth the enrollment if this type of music appeals to you.