(Photo: Glassnote Records)
Ever since hip hop first became commercially viable, MCs have diversified their brand by venturing into other forms of entertainment, but as a successful comedy writer, actor, stand-up comedian and singer, Childish Gambino can safely say he’s got everyone beat.
Gambino, also known by his given name, Donald Glover, surprised everyone when he dropped his mixtape STN MTN, a precursor to his EP Kauai, which came out later that day on iTunes.
STN MTN was more of what we’ve come to expect from the Georgia MC, which is intelligent flows over a vast sonic landscape that includes other people’s beats as well as his own material. DJ Drama, who hosted this latest effort, took on a more participatory role than in most of his Gangsta Grillz mixtapes. For his part, Gambino did an effective job of melding other people’s tracks into his own image, starting with Mannie Fresh’s “Go DJ,” which he updated with a 2014 flow and an unabashed bravado that came off a touch more serious than on past projects.
Bino took it to that trap sound on “Candler Road,” mixing that classic Southern flow with the more recent ATL flow as he boasted about injecting his idiosyncratic brand of lyricism into hip hop at just the right time.
“How it feel to be golden/Why was I chosen?/Mandalay Bay with my bae/What can I say? I did it, my timing was perfect/I’m coming they know it/Becoming the last great American/The flow Lindsay Lohan, tired n***a. Retire n***a/My word is art like a hieroglyphic/What island is this?/Cabernet, I can smell the talk/She wanna swim but can barely walk/She afraid of sharks, she’d hate my lawyer/Atlanta, Georgia, got something for ya,” rapped Gambino.
Glover highlighted his versatility with an a cappella flow for the first minute-and-a-half of “U Don’t Have to Call” before transitioning into a Cody Chestnutt-esque monologue deliberately disjointed from the track.
STN MTN had its fair share of turn up music, including the bounce heavy “A**Shots” remix, the trifecta mashup track “Move That Dope / Nextel Chirp / Let Your Hair Blow" and the standout ode to self confidence “F***s Given,” which featured Gambino the R&B star as well as the lyricist.”
On “No Small Talk,” the former 30 Rock writer teamed up with the song's principle Kari Faux for a basic yet catchy track about cutting to the chase. On “Dream / Southern Hospitality / Partna Dem” he made it clear that he’s not shy about going up against any rapper with lines like, “I seen what you make, yeah them shows sold out/But you doin’ clubs and I’m doing, like, all out things/Why the hell he rappin’ if he all out sings?/Royalty the movement, we all out kings/For real, we don’t want a mission/We are not friends, n***a this is business.”
With each new project, Childish Gambino shows growth, and while some of the subject matter on STN MTN remained somewhat vapid and repetitive, like “Money Baby,” his flow continues to progress. This mixtape is a thorough reminder that unlike most rappers out today, Gambino is the guy that almost anyone could get into. He’s never portrayed himself as a gangsta, but his rhymes are relatable and his beats are fresh (whether they’re truly his or not). In this day and age, that’s pretty impressive for a guy who doesn’t need to rap to make a living.
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