Album of the Week: Childish Gambino, 'Awaken, My Love!'


Childish Gambino, 'Awaken, My Love!'
Childish Gambino, 'Awaken, My Love!' (Glassnote)
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In a recent interview with Billboard, Donald Glover (aka Childish Gambino), reflected on his childhood when he first heard Funkadelic and the way it made him feel. "I remember hearing a Funkadelic scream and being like, 'Wow, that's sexual and it's scary'," Glover recalled. "Not having a name for that, though; just having a feeling. That's what made it great." Awaken, My Love!, the third album from Childish Gambino, explores those feelings, the sexy and the scary — the fear of having a child (and a black child at that ) in the ever-changing world, and the relationship with the mother of his child.

I'll confess, I've been a fan of Donald Glover in his theatrical endeavors (loving his comedy writing on 30 Rock, his role as Troy Barnes on Community, and his latest project, Atlanta) and have tried to make myself love his musical outputs without success. Awaken, My Love! may not be perfect, but it's the most cohesive and engaging album that Childish Gambino has put out. Wearing his influences on his sleeve, Glover pulls in the funk and afro-futurism of the '70s, and he reflects on the world he's living and raising a child in.

Those hungry for the sounds of Prince, Sly Stone, and Funkadelic will be well-fed on the Moog synthesizers, organs and funky woodwinds laying the heaviest, funkiest grooves throughout the album. There's the inspirational and upbeat "Have Some Love," which features a chorus and the Hammond organ to pull in all the Funkadelic vibes and wishing people would "Have a word for your brother/Have some time for one another/Really love one another."

Longtime Childish Gambino collaborator Ludwig Goransson's production prowess is showcased to its full extent in "Stand Tall," a spacey, layered jam that underscores Glover's advice to his young son. Prince-style shrieks punctuate throughout, and even Gary Clark Jr. stops in to solo on an instrumental that musically portrays the night Glover met his child's mother (spoiler: it's a sexy-ass jam). There's a reason that Questlove woke D'Angelo up at 4 a.m. to tell him how much he was loving Awaken, My Love!.

This isn't an album that works great on the radio; half the songs are more than five minutes long and are, honestly, a little weird (my favorite track, "California," probably won't get too much radio love with its reggae beat and Glover sounding like he's singing after taking in a deep toke). But in a year where most musicians are trying to put out catchy singles, this is a fully thought-out album. It's a crazy trip to listen to, and it showcases the depth and breadth of Glover's interests and talents. If nothing else, Awaken, My Love! has me excited for where the next Childish Gambino project will venture.


Childish Gambino, 'Awaken, My Love!' (Amazon - CD)

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