So up until Donald Glover’s third studio album under the moniker Childish Gambino (a name he apparently picked up from an online Wu Tang Clan Band-Name Generator), I had zero idea that my man from one of my favorite T.V. shows Community was getting to be a big name in the neo-RnB/Soul and rap circuit. And if you listen to his latest, it’s not tough to see why. The throw-back RnB elements immediately drew me in, and Donald’s falsetto singing on the album’s stand-out track ‘Redbone’ is almost a quirky homage to one of the great periods in African American music – so Motown, it’s stunning to know that his producer is a young, blonde, long-haired Swedish composer/producer named Ludwig Goransson (also stylized as Ludvig). There’s a tremendous influence of Funk here too, and Funkadelic is mentioned as being a primary inspiration on the album.
And though I’m probably flirting with a few racial stereotypes here, the point I want to make is that, just like with Melbourne’s Soul revival, we’re witnessing an exploding democratization of the Blues, RnB and Soul era music. Some may see it as the continuation of an act of cultural appropriation, but just like the British Invasion groups of the 50s and 60s, I see it as a universal re-valuation of the great sensitivity and resilience that drives the Blues and everything that has come from it. I’ve always had a soft spot for the Blues and her children, and it’s thrilling to think that somewhere in L.A. there’s a studio full of people from all sorts of backgrounds united by their shared love of a certain musical vocabulary. And did I mention the album is fun as hell? The songs have a fat juicy sound that is both vintage and modern at the same time, and if you check out Redbone’s making here, it’s clear that it’s because they used a ton of authentic old-school analog instruments on it.
You guys remember that Community episode where they have a huge mock-Battle Royale and Troy and Abed re-build ‘civilization’ in a giant ‘Blanket Fort for Men’ (you can watch a clip here). It was one of my favorite episodes (“You guys ought to check out our Civil Rights museum”), and “Awaken, My Love!” is full of that amazing infectious energy – seriously good music that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Thoroughly looking forward to more by Childish Gambino. Check out ‘Redbone’ below: