Childish Gambino: Because the Internet

I sit still, gazing at my computer, astounded. It’s already 3:16 in the morning, yet I am simply mesmerized— this is unlike anything I have ever experienced. To advertise Donald Glover’s efforts as merely “another new rap album” would be a disservice to him and every person involved.

I slowly scroll down the 72-page screenplay that is to accompany Because the Internet, the newest creation produced by Mr. Glover, whose rap name, Childish Gambino, spawned from a rap-name-generator he found online. At first, the language of the document seems simple and unsophisticated – but I quickly realize the intent. This album is largely about the Internet, so it only makes sense that the text is short and sweet, with descriptions that actually incorporate emojis and smh’s.

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Gambino already had his album streaming on iTunes for the past week and finally released the script, videos and all, onto his website becausetheinter.net, days before the album’s planned release date. I was able to get some sense of the album by streaming it, and I knew that there was a direction to its organization; one does not simply place roman numerals in front of song titles for fun. Yet I couldn’t quite grasp the overarching idea until I finally got ahold of the last puzzle piece – the actual corresponding storyline.

“*******[PLAY SONG "CRAWL" AT THIS POINT]*******” is the quote that lies directly above a video that instantaneously plays upon scrolling through the script, a short clip that corresponds with the aforementioned track.

As I read through the screenplay, the story came together in my mind, and most of the gaps were filled in. The amount of thought and organization that went into this project is remarkably impressive. It is very much an intense and dramatic journey, with various philosophical reflections, making for a multi-layered reading that could easily be analyzed, should listeners have the time. Gambino makes references that any Internet-savvy artist would make in real life, such as having a character “Kanye-shrug” before walking away, and ending a conversation with having one character sing half of a 2 Chainz quote, and another finish it. The screenplay not only takes on a comedic aspect, but also makes the characters’ interactions strongly relatable, as many of those in our generation can probably think of a moment when they, too, made said references. For better or worse, we’ve all made someone -__- at one time or another.

Every song on the album is seemingly unique, and usually includes very experimental sounds and atmospheres, all of which makes sense when coupled with the mood of the screenplay. However, it must be taken into consideration that on it’s own, the album’s unconventional production will turn away some listeners. The lyrics are well thought out and usually correspond with the story attached to them. I now understand why he begins the track “Shadows” with a reflective “uh-oh,” and the combination of compelling story, bubbly instruments, and blissful lyricism circling around “Pink Toes” will have listeners wondering if they, too, are a part of Gambino’s budding relationship.

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In order to actually visualize the story, aside from watching various gifs and videos that appear in the screenplay, listeners must venture back to August 15th of this year, when Gambino uploaded a seemingly strange, yet thought-provoking, video called Clapping for the Wrong Reasons. Much of the story described in the new screenplay takes place in the mansion shown in the short film, and you won’t be able to achieve the full experience without its reference.

Every piece of the process leading up to this point has built not only one of the most interesting albums of the year, but also one of the best multi-sensory music experiences I have ever had the chance to enjoy. In contrast with the title of his first short film, Gambino’s new artistic creation will have listeners clapping for all the right reasons. A story that utilizes the Internet, is about the Internet, and is because of the Internet.

Images courtesy of Tumblr

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Jonathan Reed