Childish Gambino, the stage name of rapper-actor-writer Donald Glover, has been in the music world for about 5 years now, long enough for him to have released multiple mixtapes, EPs, and albums, each of which display different talents and abilities he harnesses. A great artist is partially determined by whether or not they can evolve while retaining their stylistic principles because, after all, artists cannot recreate the same products and expect no one to take notice. Childish Gambino understands this, delivering new tracks to listeners which blend familiar elements with creative experiments. Whether an early example of his unbeatable wit or a polished, southern-style peer into his past, Childish Gambino demonstrates that he is capable of this evolution. The following list highlights some of his best tracks for song-specific reasons that catapult him into another level of the rap game.
“Do Ya Like” from Culdesac (2010): Ever since the fateful night in 2010 when I first heard this song, I’ve been hooked. It will appear consistently on every mix CD I make for friends as well as every ‘Best songs in the world!!!!’ playlist. Sampling Adele’s “Melt My Heart To Stone”, Childish Gambino demonstrates his incisive wit, a skill for which he is best appreciated. With this catchy beat and his undeniably smooth flow, Childish Gambino shines, laying the foundation for himself as an artist.
“Freaks and Geeks” from EP (2010): I should mention that I’m a sucker for instrumental intros, so that probably plays into why I love this one. “Freaks and Geeks” stands out for the countless references and double meanings Gambino hurls at listeners. As a longtime fan, I also appreciate the nod to his 2009 mixtape I Am Just a Rapper, in which the line “I do not talk / I am just a rapper” acts as a theme. Also, after putting “Do Ya Like” on a pedestal, I appreciate that he does it as well with his lines “N***a can’t you tell that my sample of Adele / Was so hot I got these hood n***as blowin’ up my cell?”There’s nothing I love more than a song that makes you stop and rewind only to be sure that, yes, that really just happened.
“3005” from Because the Internet (2013): Considering this is his first single to have hit airwaves, it’s debatably the song that gained him the most prestige, as it should have- “3005” was everywhere this summer. It stands out from the others as his most commercial venture yet, showcasing his singing as well as an incredibly well-produced beat to back up his vocals. While it doesn’t necessarily include his signature wordplay displayed in aforementioned tracks, I still commend the song for its ability to captivate millions of listeners and launch a new era of fans who think they’ve “been with ‘bino from the beginning”.
“Dream / Southern Hospitality / Partna Dem” from STN MTN (2014): Words can’t express how thrilled I was that this mixtape was dedicated to Atlanta. Anyone who’s familiar with southern rap can see that Childish Gambino avidly attempts to emulate its style, employing straightforward lyrics and well-selected words to make images and sentiments come to life. He even acknowledges this style with the line “This on some old Atlanta s- but I like it cause it’s not about what / You know but who you know. Know what I’m saying?” Of the trifecta, “Partna Dem” stands out both lyrically and musically. Boosting an already gripping beat from Rich Kidz’s “My Partna Dem”, Gambino continues to plant familiar references such as my favorite Atlanta-specific “I’m Dopaliscious like Spottie Ottie”- a shoutout to Outkast’s SpottieOttieDopaliscious. As far as opening tracks go, Gambino couldn’t have produced a better one.
“Money Baby” from STN MTN (2014): Childish Gambino samples K CAMP’s “Money Baby” and adds to the catchy instrumentals with his own vocals in the track most reminiscent of his earliest work, in that it’s chock full of wordplay and double entendres. A cover should not be attempted unless the artist is positive that their version will do justice to the original and Gambino’s exceeds that qualification. He personalizes “Money Baby” and gives K CAMP a run for his own money(, baby).