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Camp — Childish Gambino

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

Three and a half years after releasing his first album, Sick
, Childish Gambino has released his first official album, Camp.
The alter ego of actor/writer/comedian Donald Glover, Gambino has been making
mixtapes, EPs, and full-length albums on his own and posting them for free on
the Internet since 2008.

Now, despite lyrics in several songs about “keeping [his]
shit free ‘til the last possible second,” Gambino has signed with indie label
Glassnote Records. Camp will be his first album available on iTunes, or
for legal purchase at all. And this album is definitely one worth buying.

Full to the brim with his signature clever rhymes that a
person of below-average intelligence wouldn’t understand, Camp is
expected to launch Gambino into hip-hop stardom.

The single, “Bonfire,” is perhaps a bit more energetic than
the rest of the album, punching you right in the ears in the beginning with
alarms and tribal-like chanting. Gambino’s raps are boastful and almost angry;
it’s as if he’s announcing himself to the world of hip-hop and insulting
anybody who didn’t already know of his presence. It’s certainly the best song
to introduce Gambino into mainstream music as it encompasses both his ability
to make beats that could blow speakers out and rap circles around anybody
currently on the radio.

“Outside,” the first track on the album, is one of the
slower and deeper songs. It starts off upbeat but slows down dramatically just
before the first chorus, in which an actual chorus sings. The song is a lot
like many of Gambino’s more recent songs where he raps/sings about personal
issues. “Outside” is about his experiences growing up and his older cousin, who
has been mentioned in other songs. He raps, “It feels weird that you’re the
person I took sink baths with/Street took you over/I want my cousin back.”
Tracks like this one show Gambino’s serious side, and make it apparent that he
really does use music as an outlet for emotions that he can’t express in his

Most of the tracks on Camp are slow and emotional,
including “Letter Home,” “All the Shine,” and “Kids (Keep Up).” Faster, harder
songs are “Backpackers,” “You See Me,” and “Sunrise.”

Another thing that makes this album more personal is the
lack of featured artists. None of the tracks have any other artists listed, which
is very different from Gambino’s past albums. Although there are various female
singers in various songs, the lack of identification shows that Gambino intends
for this album to serve as an introduction.

As a whole Camp is a great lyrical introduction for
Gambino, but for one to know exactly what he’s capable of musically they would
have to listen to his underground work. Lyric-wise, he’s certainly come a long
way since Sick Boi, which he’s described as gimmicky. Camp
contrasts with his I Am Just a Rapper mixtapes musically; most of the
tracks on those are much more hard-hitting than any on this album.

While Camp is certainly a quality album, it rides the
middle ground of Gambino’s musical talents. Perhaps this is so that it’s more
acceptable into the mainstream, and if so then it worked; the album debuted at
#2 on iTunes. This may just be exactly what Gambino needed to get his foot in
the door before he unleashes the beats and use of indie songs in his tracks
that he’s become known for. If that’s the case, then Camp is the perfect
album to do just that.