Whether you know him from Derrick Comedy or Community, you won’t recognize the Donald Glover you knew. Don’t worry though, this isn’t a bad thing at all. Because the Internet is the second studio album from Childish Gambino, over two years after his last album Camp and over one year from his last mixtape, R O Y A L T Y. This album is riddled with references from internet-based pop-culture, the name of the album was apparently suggested by legendary musician and past contributor, Beck. Because the Internet isn’t just a bunch of inane references though; It’s a very well constructed social commentary on alienation and connection in the modern age, buried under mounds of subtext. Gambino has said that this album is his most honest work ever, and he’s not wrong.
What you might not know about this album is that it was released alongside a 76 page screenplay which even had a prelude short film entitled Clapping for the Wrong Reasons. This is more than just an album, it’s a multi-media production. The screenplay requires the reader to listen to each song from the album when prompted by some filmed scenes. This makes for some really beautiful moments, especially for the song, ‘Dial Up’. Gambino gets surreal, self aware and almost hauntingly genuine. The script might require a lot of time to absorb, but it’s definitely worth at least a flick through on the rapgenius page.
Gambino has created quite the album here, something not just for hip hop fans to enjoy but even a little soul and electronic. Of course some songs stand out more than others but even then, the weaker songs are still great. The only odd thing about this album would be the way in which the songs are ordered; five sets of roman numerals with transitional songs between the first four. Unless you have a very specific kind of OCD, this won’t affect you. The album starts off great with ‘I.Crawl’, which has an interesting chord sequence which is pretty much built around it’s various vocal loops which sound great when put together. ‘Ain’t nobody got time for that’ was not as overused when Gambino incorporated it into this song, but to give him credit, it works pretty well with mixing up the flow a little bit. ‘II. Worldstar’ and ‘IV. Sweatpants’ are both pretty similar in that both songs are more rap-oriented. They both definitely work and this gives Gambino a chance to show off his mic skills. The ending of ‘II. Worldstar’ gets really chilled out and transitions to a beautiful sax solo [spoiler alert].
‘I.The Worst Guys’ features Chance the Rapper . It’s a great song, and has something that you will definitely not find often in rap songs, a guitar solo. His use of instrumentation really helps Gambino stand out from most rappers. ‘V.3005’ is the single that was released with this album, which has a really infectious hook “No matter what you say or what you do/When I’m alone, I’d rather be with you/ Fuck those other niggas / I’ll be right by your side, ‘til 3005”. Definitely something you should sing in private. This wouldn’t be a Gambino single if it didn’t have a few brilliant puns “Girl, I got no patience/Cos I’m not a doctor”. Classic. The use of electronic music in this album works really well, especially with this song, showing that Gambino can create a really chilled out atmosphere. Following this is a quick piano break, cleverly titled ‘Playing around Before the Party Starts’. I can dig it.
There are some brilliant tracks on this album, the first being ‘II.Shadows’. Fingerpicked bass guitar (thanks to Thundercat) and brilliantly constructed hook and vocal harmonies over simple chord sequence really shows the kind of stuff he can do. Gambino raps confidently over these chords, maintaining a good pace. The breakdown however is where this song really shines, the chord sequence is explored in more detail with more instruments. The strongest song on the album would definitely have to be ‘I.Flight of the Navigator’, with a beautiful fingerpicked acoustic guitar accompaniment, the first half is a somber introduction. This leaves ‘III.Urn’ as the second strongest. The soul feel definitely helps transition to ‘I.Pink Toes’, which not only has a couple of Star Wars references (if you don’t get them, just watch Episode 5 again) and features the haunting voice of Jhene Aiko, who very much steals the show. This album’s finale is ‘III:Life, The Biggest Troll’. This is where Gambino really performs. Expect a brilliant chord sequence, spacey guitar riffs and honest lyrics. Damn, Gambino.