I should start by saying that I dig both these cats. I’ve been a fan of Drake’s since he went by his real name and starred in the Canadian teen melodrama “Degrassi: The Next Generation.” He’s always had a ton of charisma and I think he’s turned out to be a much better rapper than anyone expected. Donald Glover, the man behind Childish Gambino, hasn’t been around quite as long. People started to take note when he was a writer for “30 Rock,” and then he landed the role of Troy on “Community” (I think Troy is one of the greatest characters on television). He’s been rapping all along, but people started taking him seriously after he dropped Cul-De-Sac last year.
Now Drake and Childish Gambino both have albums dropping, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to do a review in a different format. I don’t have much negative to say about either, but by the end you’ll see I definitely prefer one over the other.
Drake has become one of my favorite unconventional rappers. He doesn’t concentrate so much on flow or beats as he does on feeling. He’s a very emotional rapper, putting it all out there and not trying to hide his feelings like so many before him. That doesn’t stop on Take Care. If anything it’s amplified, and that’s both a pro and a con for the album. On Thank Me Later, Drake did a good job of balancing the confessional slow jams with some party music like “Fancy.” Take Care is lacking the more radio-friendly hits that we’re used to.
On the other hand, Childish Gambino doesn’t have the public history that Drake does, so he’s free to create that with Camp. What we find is a similar mix of nerdcore and revealing songs with a few songs perfect for driving around in a car with your friends. Unlike Drake, CG does seem to spend a bit more time thinking about the sound of a song rather than the feeling.
The subject matter is pretty different on these records. Drake seems to have a lot of songs about his problems grappling with his new found fame while Childish Gambino has a lot of lyrics about people questioning his “blackness.” They are both interesting topics, especially from two great storytellers. One pitfall of almost all rap albums hampers both artists on their new records, and that is the ridiculous number of times the word “nigger” is uttered. It’s part of the rapper’s lexicon, that’s fine, but the extent to which it gets used is a bit much. Gambino does reflect on racism with “Hold You Down.” It doesn’t hit as hard as something like ATCQ’s “Sucka Nigga,” or even Watch The Throne’s “Murder To Excellence,” but it’s good to hear him taking on the subject.
I find both of these guys interesting. They seem to share a disconnected view of a world in which they no longer fit in. There’s a good amount of talk, especially on Drake’s side, about not knowing who to trust. The constant paranoia that you can’t trust your oldest friends because of your success. It’s a problem I’ll never have, so I enjoy hearing thoughts from the people who have to live it every day. Childish Gambino is still a little under the radar, so he doesn’t rhyme about that aspect too much, but he does talk about his family’s inability to understand him. That’s another thing about becoming a huge success that I could never wrap my head around. All of a sudden everyone is your cousin and needs a loan or tickets to your show or whatever. It’s such a crazy concept.
Take Care and Camp are both good records for different reasons. Drake’s because it provides more insight into his mind. He has issues, just like everyone else. It’s nice to hear about something that some of us may be able to relate to as opposed to, say, L’il Wayne’s raps, which are harder for most people to really understand. For Childish Gambino, Camp plays as his introduction to the masses. As such, there’s a lot of material about growing up and not quite fitting in with his surroundings. There’s also a good deal of songs that are just fun dance tracks.
What it really comes down to, for me, is a very small part of each album that I do hate. On Take Care, Drake brings in a lot of guest rappers. For the most part they’re terrible, but there is one guest that stands out like a sore thumb, and that is the ubiquitous Nicki Minaj. How this woman continues to be popular is beyond me. Childish Gambino mentions Nicki and her song “Super Bass” on “Backpackers.” A strike against both albums. Her verse on “Make Me Proud” almost made me turn the song off and throw my iPod on the ground.
The last thing I’ll mention has to do with the final track on Camp. The past couple years Drake has been the king of the heart-on-your-sleeve raps about love. That might come crashing down with Gambino’s “Camp.” It’s a story about telling someone you love them and being betrayed. There’s no rapping, just Donald Glover telling this story about the bus ride home from camp, telling a girl that he likes that he thinks it’s their destiny, and not getting a great result. It’s a surprisingly effective track, and it’s one of my favorites on either of these records.