Atlanta’s Very Own: The Evolution of Childish Gambino


Donald Glover, aka Childish Gambino, has been reveling in the limelight on the doorsteps of two new major releases. He’s hit the media-sphere to discuss his new show “Atlanta,” his feelings about the young Lando casting rumor, as well as to outline September’s big-picture “Pharos” album release event. It’s kind of hard to decide which to be most excited about.

Donald Glover is a patron saint for multipotentialites. His impressive ability to master different mediums of art and expression has catapulted him to superstardom. Now a mainstream name, Donald’s unapologetic attitude about who he is and where he comes from has allowed him to grow with the cult-following he developed early-on in his career.

This isn’t to say, however, that all of this success came easy for Glover. Donald has transformed and creatively applied his craft across media more times in the past decade than other career creatives do in a lifetime. The success of his hip hop venture hasn’t come overnight. 10 years of serious work went into making Childish Gambino a household name, and the Gambino catalog is already as deep as is it enlightening.

As Donald Glover is preparing to stick his flag in 2016, let us dive into the evolution of the artist known as Childish Gambino. He’s a Sick Boi for life, and his catalog proves it. His cuts are as diverse and eccentric as his career has been thus far. Some songs are over the top, some songs are deeply emotive and in touch, all are Childish Gambino.

Tru Dudes feat. MC Chris (Sick Boi – 2008)

Wittiness and wordplay, funky and fun. This track will put you in party mode, dancing and laughter are imminent. Supported by nerdcore’s fan-favorite MC Chris, this Childish mixtape track can still compete for a spot on the Summer party mix you’ve been putting off since April.

Bitch, Look At Me Now (Two Weeks) (I Am Just A Rapper – 2010)

“Why you doing this, what’s your motivation? I am just a rapper, I don’t need the paper” Though Gambino may have still been identifying his musical voice and identity, “Bitch, Look at me Now” helps cement Glover’s genuine desire to create. Happy making music for the love in it, Childish Gambino won over fans by translating this passion into his free-music release strategy.

I Love Clothes (Deadbeat Summer) (I Am Just A Rapper 2 – 2010)

People love Gambino’s style. He’s unabashedly himself, outspoken with his style as much as his words. This fun little track explores fashion (a topic he’d revisit in future material,) adding another layer to Donald Glover’s wide world of interests.

I Be On That (Culdesac – 2010)

If Gambino landed on your radar like a bomb with harder-than-life tracks like “Freaks and Geeks” and “Bonfire” than you’ll love this cut from Culdesac. Gambino goes in on a banging beat, defiantly declaring “Y’all don’t want me to be different. What the fuck is y’all thinking?!” Not for nothing, Culdesac is also his third self-release in 2010, fifth since 2008.

Not Going Back (EP – 2011)

One of my all-time favorites. Giving fans a sneak peak of the emotive and orchestrated form to be found on his freshman album “Camp,” Donald digs deep down to find real meaning and motivation in his work. He knew that “these smart middle-class black kids need a role model”, championing a generation of mixed-background millennials living in a post-globalization world.

Sunrise (Camp – 2011)

Why does Gambino think he’s “more hip hop than you’ll ever be”? Because he’s not afraid to be himself. Authenticity is paramount in hip hop, and Glover is great a being himself. “Sunrise” is an energy filled track that stands out among some of the other more serious songs on Camp. His hook calls out the slowpokes wading in hip hop’s waters, swimming by them shouting “while they be sleeping I be on to that new shit.”

R.I.P. (feat. Bun B) (Royalty – 2012)

Royalty is a mixtape done right. With increased exposure and credibility from Camp, Gambino tapped powerhouse MC’s from different hip hop lanes to collaborate on a quality collection of tracks. Bun B and Gambino slay this song, spitting substance over Kavinsky’s famous “Nightcall” instrumental.

Do Or Die – Flux Pavilion (feat. Childish Gambino) (2013)

Glover is typically the star of the show, but serves as the perfect hype man MC for a banger of a track crafted by the one and only Flux Pavillion. Though I wish he rapped a bit more on the second half of the track, Gambino is cooler than cool on the verse and hot fire on the hook.

Telegraph Ave (“Oakland” By Lloyd) (Because The Internet – 2013)

The intro of “Telegraph Ave.” flexes the superior sound design that Gambino achieved with “Because the Internet.” His flow and lyrics are out of this world, perfectly complementing the ride-along type beat it floats over. Hands down one of the best cuts from Gambino’s Sophomore album.

Retro (Rough) (Kauai – 2014)

Donald comes full circle with “Retro”, breathing new life into a beat and hook found on Sick Boi track “Love Is Crazy.” The bass line is fresh, the hook is fresh, the feel is just right. One of Kauai’s best track, for sure.

Louis Pratt