Evolution is necessary for any artist to sustain longevity and keep the creative process fresh. When the unexpected becomes reality, that's when the art becomes interesting. Childish Gambino delivers the unexpected in the 49-minute LP "Awaken, My Love!"
Packed with rich, old-school soul and funk, "Awaken, My Love!" plays like the soundtrack to a sleek and sexy 70's blaxploitation film. Whether it's the dynamic "Have Some Love" or the ethereal instrumental "The Night Me and Your Mama Met," there is always an inherent feeling of getting up and moving your feet. From the album opener "Me and Your Mama" to the closer "Stand Tall," there are organic transitions within each song that show off both Gambino's vocal range and his backing band's technical proficiency.
Longtime Gambino producer Ludwig Göransson handles the bulk of production duties here (9 of the 11 tracks). Nestled within Göransson's ambitious vision on "Awaken, My Love!" are loose autobiographical tropes of Gambino's personal life. "Terrified" and "Baby Boy" exemplify this sentiment with each discussing different fears of parenthood. It's an emotional album with spare lyricism, which may leave some rap fans disappointed.
The multi-talented artist, writer, comedian, and actor also known as Donald Glover spoke about his early influences in an interview with Billboard:
I remember listening to songs my dad would play — albums by the Isleys or Funkadelic — and not understanding the feeling I was feeling... I remember hearing a Funkadelic scream and being like, ‘Wow, that’s sexual and it’s scary.’ Not having a name for that, though; just having a feeling. That’s what made it great.
In addition to those Isley Brothers and P-Funk references in the music, you can also hear shades of Curtis Mayfield, Sly & The Family Stone, Stevie Wonder, and Shuggie Otis. Influences aside, Gambino and the team behind this record succeed in delivering an album that isn't just unexpected but a good listen all the way through with creative songwriting and important stories to tell.
If you don't got soul and can't feel the funk, then this is most definitely not for you. Glover takes a big gamble, opting to forgo his refined hip hop for something completely different. In the end, all he did was create the best album in his discography.
Purchase "Awaken, My Love!" now on Amazon.
For more music, news, and tour dates, check out Childish Gambino's Zumic artist page.