Childish Gambino’s fourth project, because the internet, might be his best. The artist formally known as Troy continues to grow as an emcee, offering the most mature, heartfelt content that we’ve heard from him in his short but noteworthy career. It’s not perfect–it feels long and bloated in certain corners, and a bit too uniform at others–but because the internet has to be considered a success, one of the better projects to surface in 2013.
Unrequited love is the driving force behind much of the content here. Between Gambino’s constant pursuit of the ghosts of girlfriends past (“Be still now, broken bones/As I travel on just hold me close my darling” he croons with the vigor of a banshee in “Flight Of The Navigator”) and his nagging insecurities about anything related to his “friends,” (as he raps “man, I hate y’all/You only come around when you want to play pool in my hot tub” in “The Worst Guys”) the celebrity life is providing some incredible fodder.
All of these themes offer for some compelling subject matter, but they wouldn’t be worth a damn if the album wasn’t such a joy to listen to. Gambino freely floats between A1 lyricism (“I’m something so immaculate/Instead of asking what’s happenin’ rather blastin’/Jackson 5 in the back of an Acura, acting blacker/Than a Bernie Mac, some Charlie Murphys and Akon” with the kind of quick, confident flow that really needs to be heard) and a genuine set of pipes. There’s a nice balance of hubris and humility here, and thanks to some great overall production, the transition between thoughts and moods is incredibly smooth.
Not without its faults, because the internet definitely feels a bit long. Nineteen tracks separated into five chapters (or acts, whichever you’d like to call them) would be a tough task for any emcee to turn into gold, and ‘Bino is no exception.
If we’re judging this based on back-to-back-to-back tracks where nothing is skipped, the first two and the last acts are great. But with one or two tracks that really need to be filtered in, that middle-album fat definitely should have been trimmed. It won’t stop listeners from looking back on the album fondly, however it is the difference between a good album and a potentially great one.
Length aside, because the internet is Gambino’s best work to date. If Drake is out there telling “new friends” to f*ck themselves, ‘Bino is taking the opposite route, letting fame and fortune dictate his personal life…before getting burned. The scrapes and bruises are apparent, with because the internet playing the Neosporin and Band-Aid and creating an attempt to air everything out. Not that this feeling would be universal, but were anyone to attain this kind of fame, there’s a good chance he/she would take Gambino’s same path.
Not because it’s a wise path to take–it clearly isn’t–but because it’s the route that most normal people would stumble down. It’s a story worth telling.