In 2009, we were formally introduced to Donald Glover via his character, Troy Barnes, on the late, great TV series Community. Although he had already received an Emmy for being a part of the 30 Rock writing team his work on Community catapulted him to stardom. Taking the pseudonym bequeathed to him by the online Wu Tang Clan name generator, Glover released several mixtapes before his major label debut, Camp, in 2011. The month of May has been full of wins for Glover as he was announced as a headliner for ACL on May 1, will be taking the helm of young Lando Calrisian in the new Han Solo movie on May 25, his series Atlanta is reaching its second season finale, and nearly a decade after premiering on prime time NBC, hosted and performed on SNL on May 5. To celebrate Glover and Childish Gambino, I wanted to make his infectious EP standout “Freaks and Geeks” today’s SOTD available on Spotify and Apple Music.
Much like his acting career, Donald Glover’s music career as Childish Gambino came up because of the Internet. If you went to college in the late aughts, you probably found posts of his old sketch comedy group Derrick Comedy via College Humor or Funny or Die. His mixtapes were just as ubiquitous, rapping over samples of indie songs like “Crown on the Ground” by Sleigh Bells or “Two Weeks” by Grizzly Bear, it was clear he had a way with words and could evoke several types of emotion through his lyrics. While endearing, the songs were playful and felt more like something he did as a hobby. “Freaks and Geeks” felt more like a foray into Glover wanting to evolve Childish Gambino into what it has become today.
While always emitting talent, the early mixtapes felt more niche, flirting with nerd rap tendencies – more of the Logic variety than the MC Chris variety. “Freaks and Geeks” still banks on clever pop culture references, but is dynamically broader. I’ve never heard of any other rapper referencing Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew and poet e.e. Cummings line after line followed by a sexual act out of the latter’s surname. The song feels like Childish Gambino finding his footing and ready to takeover the music world. If his tone and delivery wasn’t enough, he pretty much says it in one of the last bars
“I’m in it to win it ’cause havin’ an Emmy just wasn’t enough.”
“Freaks and Geeks” is the perfect transition into what Childish Gambino has become. On his Culdesac mixtape, he mentions people said him and rap were like MJ and baseball. After the release of Awaken, my Love, Childish Gambino has become more akin to Bo Jackson, the greatest two sport athlete ever. That doesn’t happen without “Freaks and Geeks.” Much like the eponymous TV show that led to great careers of Judd Apatow, James Franco, and Seth Rogen (to name a few), the Childish Gambino song led to where he is now.
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