Yep, he made another album. Let’s see what the damage is.
7.0 / 10.0
To recap (in case you haven’t, or are not willing to, read my column on the subject): Childish Gambino’s Camp was an awful, misogynistic hip-hop album disguised as a thoughtful masterpiece, and Donald Glover, the writer/actor who raps as Childish Gambino, has no idea how to make great, or even good, music but makes up for it by referencing stuff that came out when you were a kid and passes that off as a persona. Camp’s “strength”, as I’ve come to understand it, is that it represents Glover’s boring, unoriginal perspective, and that so many folks believe that “wordplay” is synonymous with “good wordplay” is unsettling. Camp inspires no confidence in Glover as a musician in any capacity, and when I asked the rest of the Earbuddy crew (jokingly, I should add) if I should review his upcoming mixtape, Royalty, I shuddered when they responded by telling me that I needed to do it.
So it comes as more than a little bit of a surprise that Royalty is actually pretty good. Glover truly has found his voice as both a producer and a lyricist, to the point that I think Glover is one of the best rappers going today, and it isn’t out of the question to think that his magnum opus is just around the corner. Just kidding—the mixtape is good because Glover paid his buddies to make good music around him and got rappers like Bun B and Ghostface Killah to find the heart in the beats so that Glover could copy their style and sound halfway decent. It works for the most part—“One Up” isn’t good because the beat is good, it’s because Steve G. Lover knows how to work the beat and Glover follows his lead. Also working in Glover’s favor is that Royalty is a party-rap album with no ambition, so I don’t have to force myself to care about Glover’s pain or put up with any of his introspective BS.
Unfortunately, Glover still feels the need to go solo, and these are easily the worst songs on Royalty. He’s still the kind of guy who thinks that “Screaming at me saying ‘I ain’t what you really want’/Christina’s parents, baby, all I make is Milians” is a great line. With guys like Beck, Boi-1da and Danny Brown pulling their weight, though, Royalty is probably the best extended piece of work that Glover could make without completely removing himself from his material. I hope it was worth it—these guest spots had to have cost a lot.