Donald Glover’s Childish Gambino persona has been dominated by playful and witty rap, but he added a layer of soul and narrative with his last album, Because The Internet. The next project, a mixtape and EP packaged in one called stn mtn/KAUAI, dove further down that road as he dreamed he ran Atlanta on one half and imagined a life of sun, bliss, water and pop on the other.
But with all the advancement in his song-making abilities, I don’t know if anyone expected this. Though looking back, we should have.
In September, Gambino unveiled his new album — …Awaken, My Love!, though we didn’t know its name at the time — at his weekend-long festival, PHAROS. There was no footage and barely any pictures released from the event, but take this description from The FADER‘s Tyler Mitchell on the concert:
At around 9pm, Glover took to the stage — a different version of the artist I’d seen three years before. He had a no-photo policy, so all eyes were fixed on him instead of being filtered through phone screens. He wore a yellow and pink skirt, and long braids down to his shins that were dotted with lights. His body was accented by glow in the dark body paint, and head-spinningly beautiful projections of animated figures accompanied him on stage for each song. The music was rooted in groove, soul, and funk sounds, and Glover was backed by a choir as well as a full band. At points, the crowd was a little confused about how to move to the music — but they eventually let go and just enjoyed the moment.
It’s hard to believe a guy who dropped a DJ Drama-hosted mixtape, where he used beats and features from nothing but Atlanta artists, would drop rapping and stick to singing with funk, soul and rock as the backdrop.
But here’s …Awaken, My Love!. It’s 11 songs with no credited features, though there are plenty of complimentary voices and choirs assisting Gambino along the way as he sings about love, his newborn child and togetherness.