“Man, why does every black actor have to rap some? / I don’t know – all I know is I’m the best one…”
That’s not just a line from “Bonfire,” the leadoff single from Childish Gambino's new Glassnote album, CAMP – it’s a mission statement. Childish Gambino is the rapper persona of Donald Glover, who doesn’t exactly have the stereotypical hip-hop backstory. Before he became known on the mic, he was a successful, college-educated writer, actor, and comedian who grew up in the suburbs.
Indeed, as Childish Gambino – a name created randomly via an online Wu-Tang name generator – Glover has previously released four full albums (2002’s The Younger I Get, 2004’s Sick Boi, 2008’s Poindexter, and 2010’s Culdesac), two mixtapes (2010’s I Am Just A Rapperseries), and a 2011 EP featuring the Web phenomenon 'Freaks And Geeks.'
CAMP is a true rap album, but one that defies easy categorisation – and revels in the resulting confusion. For one, Glover made a conscious choice to skip the usual parade of big name hip-hop producers: he and frequent collaborator Ludwig Göransson – acclaimed soundtrack composer for Community and films like 30 Minutes Or Less– wrote and recorded all the music on CAMP: yes, those are real violins on 'All The Shine.' “I arranged those strings!” Glover exclaims. “I make my own beats and I rap.” Other than Questlove providing drums on 'That Power,' 'Camp' also remains intentionally free of rap-celeb features. “Questlove is technically my co-sign, but maybe rap has grown past the co-sign,” Glover says. “I thought, ‘You know what? No one else but me should be on this album.’ That move just seemed so anti-hip-hop, I had to do it!”