Listening to an album is usually a one dimensional experience, not a puzzle. However, Childish Gambino’s sophomore effort, Because The Internet, is one of the most creative yet perplexing albums of the year. Childish Gambino is actor Donald Glover, who is known for playing Troy on Community.

The album is set up with a unique titling scheme that involves breaking the album into 19 tracks, 14 songs and 5 interludes with Roman numerals ordering each song in each section. The album plays out like a loose narrative of a boy going to a party and something happening after, but it is not clear what exactly is going on just from the music. This is confusing, but makes one want to listen to the album over and over trying too piece together what is happening.

Musically, the album is cohesive yet varied. It blends a mixture of sounds ranging from Kanye to Drake, but still maintains Gambino’s own distinct sound. Tracks like “II. Worldstar” and “IV. Sweatpants” use hard bass beats with a trap influence while “III. Telegraph Ave. (“Oakland” by Lloyd)”, “Flight of the Navigator” and “II. Shadows” feature Gambino harmonizing over melodic beats. Theses two unambiguous sounds are meshed on “V. 3005” and “Earth: The Oldest Computer”, and “The Worst Guys (feat. Chance The Rapper)” in a fresh way, not sounding to similar to any other songs, but still like they are apart of the same body of work.

The variety of tracks offer something for everyone. “V. 3005” is a clean-cut radio single with a catchy hook. “II. Worldstar” and “IV. Sweatpants” provide traditional rap tracks where ‘Bino shows he can still flex lyrically with a sharp flow. “I. The Worst Guys (feat. Chance The Rapper)” radiates an upbeat yet relaxed vibe for people more into harmony than rap, while “II. Shadows”, “I. Pink Toes” and “III. Telegraph Ave.” provide something for people who prefer singing over rap. The blend of all these tracks, each having a common element with another track, establishes a consistent sound across the entire album. Each track is something different and surprisingly, in an age where album’s are filled by lackluster music, one can listen to the album without skipping a song.

Because The Internet shows Gambino’s talent as a musician steadily improving from all previous mixtapes and his debut album, Camp . Gambino does not feel the need to rap over every track, which he does in CampWith this lack of pressure to prove himself as a rapper, he can finally create a mature, sonically advanced masterpiece. The album feels refined. It is able to draw from all these elements gracefully into creating a work that cannot be labeled a “rap” album and whatever that connotates. Gambino feels confident to show his inner feelings, like he has done in the past, but without the need to overcompensate with tracks that make him appear insecure or like he’s trying to be “hard.”

Gambino is able to create a diverse album with limited help from outside sources. The year’s best rap albums like Yeezus and Born Sinner are taking this approach, and it  also works for Gambino although not to discredit him as he has been doing this since his inception as a musician. Cameos from  Chance The Rapper on “I. The Worst Guys” and Problem on “IV. Sweatpants” show his ability to add touches to songs with the use of other rapper, but not falling prey to losing the song as his own. The only real features are Jhene Aiko on “I. Pink Toes” and Azelia Banks on “II. Earth: The Oldest Computer.”

 Because The Internet is part of Donald Glover’s growing world that include a short film, Clapping For the Wrong Reasons, screenplay, preceding album, Camp, the use of “Roscoe’s Wetsuit”, and Gambino living out the character of the album. Despite having multiple elements, the meaning behind his growing world is unclear. In an interview Glover says he is lonely and trying to find a connection in a world he feels is less connected than ever, the true message of this body of work and ideas is undiscovered. This adds appeal to the album, as it appears to be more than just an album but rather part of an ever-expanding creative, self-realization experience that Glover.

Because the Internet is not an album one can digest in a single, let alone handful of listens. Maybe because the album is just a soundtrack to the screenplay or because the screenplay is needed to put context into the album. It would not be an exaggeration to say it could be the album of the year, or at least rap album of the year. Compared to the polarizing and direct Yeezus, Because the Internet is it’s antithesis. As just an album, Because The Internet still succeeds without any other factor simply because the music is great. Glover does not feel trapped into the “Childish Gambino” moniker, and this lets him realize his creative vision because of the Internet.

The 411

Album Title: Because the Internet

Rating: 4.5 stars/5 stars

Label: Glassnote Record

Best songs

“III. Telegraph Ave.”

“II. Earth: The Oldest Computer (feat. Azelia Banks)

By Thomas McDonald

Web Editor in Chief

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