Childish Gambino’s Comprehensive Artistry In STN MTN/Kauai

Ethan O’Neal ’15

Rapper. Singer. Actor. Writer. Comedian. Fans of Donald Glover, better known as Childish Gambino, are quick to point to the 31 year-old’s multiple endeavors into almost all areas of entertainment, and rightly so. Glover’s success with television shows such as 30 Rock and Community, his stand-up special Weirdo, and, of course, his music career build an impressive resumé.

Glover’s varied past projects highlight his creativity, defining him, in an appropriately general way, as an artist. Glover began rapping under the name “Childish Gambino” in 2008, and built a sizable following through the release of numerous, unique-sounding mixtapes, which were met with varying responses from critics and fans. In 2011, Glover released Camp, his first studio album. The album displayed Glover’s prowess as a rapper while also incorporating the humor and the (arguably weak) social criticisms seen in his television and stand-up careers. Last year, Childish Gambino released his second album, Because the Internet, to even more critical and commercial success. Promoted with a short film and a series of cryptic social media posts, Because the Internet marked a huge artistic development for Glover. Musically, Glover explored a range of genres, refraining from rapping on many tracks and choosing to sing instead. Because the Internet was a far more ambitious project as well. The album follows the story of a character named “The Boy,” whose journey is fully detailed in the screenplay released in conjunction with BTI on Glover’s website. Over the past year, Because the Internet, impressive radio performances, and memorable festival appearances have brought in a slew of new fans for Gambino.

Gambino’s latest release, STN MTN/Kauai is pretty similar to Because the Internet in many ways, and by and large functions as a continuation of the project. The musical duality is clearer here, with the “STN MTN” side of the release focusing on Gambino as a rapper, and the “Kauai” side bringing out a more mellow side of Gambino’s music. STN MTN is a far more traditional mixtape, heavily focusing on Gambino’s lyrical aptitude as he raps over famous instrumentals from artists such as Ludacris, Future, Lil’ Wayne, and Timbaland. STN MTN has Gambino piggy-backing on the popularity of well-known beats and adding his own twist to them, without seeming bland or uninspired. Even so, the few original songs that appear on this side are ultimately pretty relieving, offering a change of pace in the mixtape that lets Gambino assert his own talent without risking falling under the shadow of someone else. The “Kauai” half of this release is a large departure musically. Gambino raps less, sings more, and all over smoother.

All in all, STN MTN/Kauai offers a comprehensive view of Childish Gambino’s talents, and, as a free download, is more than worthy of checking out.