Donald Glover was never good at staying in one place. By the early 30s, he had already reached the career he most dreamed of. First as an author on 30 Rock, followed by a leading role in the cult NBC comedy Community . During this stretch he jumped from mixtape maker to bankable rap polyglot and got a taste of the film's fame at the same time. Glover was an enviable everyone.
That was about 2016, the year he unleashed Atlanta his sometimes bizarre FX drama about the psychological consequences of Making It While Black. In addition to metacomedies such as Fleabag it quickly became a self-defined and self-driving television program. His art house realism was the juiciest feed. Neither topic was off limits: Glover juggled with the same grace and eye-catching absurdity with topics of economic need with which he had intellectual trauma, fame and domestic relationships. All these thorns, he suggested, grew from the same vine. It was hard not to get involved.
In the marrow of Atlanta was a major question, as in most of Glover's art: How do people get to know themselves? The show was wise never to agree on a particular means ̵
With every new record came a new skin. 2013 Since the Internet was incoherent and free-thinking, an occasionally bright R&B proposal ("3005"; the "Telegraph Ave" supported by Lloyd), which was ultimately filled with too many ideas. What this album lacked in that direction was made by the Astral Soul restart in 2016, Awaken, My Love! fairly well, with echoes by the radio stewards Bootsy Collins and Prince, who anchored it on topics like futurism, empathy and community.
Gambino's music is usually unpacked as a series of questions, dull forms without a concentrated form. It is art that does not like to settle down, art that is all the more lively in its vagueness. The form of the request is more enriching than the answer it offers. That is, there is consciousness in his question. That was exactly his haunting trap gospel from 2018, "This Is America". The song imagined a world full of weapons and flames (the video staged by Hiro Murai only increased the use of the song; it showed a horror show with no way out). It was both a question and a statement, a sentence and a mirror that offered another way forward. It was a version of Gambino that we hadn't met before and has not been complete since.
Gambino's music is usually unpacked as a series of questions, dull forms without a concentrated form. It is art that does not like to settle down, art that is all the more lively in its vagueness.
Gambino's new album 3.15.20 is less a release from previous selves than a puzzle box with every previous version of who he was. The songs – a total of 12 – have been recorded over the past three years with his collaborator, the Swedish composer Ludwig Goransson, and DJ Dahi, the Inglewood producer who has worked with Kendrick Lamar, Drake and Vampire Weekend. One of the most enticing features of the album is its movement – songs sneak, spur, walk, and gush at surprising intervals. "12:38" dissolves with a thread of pleasure – "Dark chocolate, sea salt / I took a bite / She said:" We will have a special night ", sings Gambino in an oily harmony – but culminates in audacity. Save 21 Savage's lyrics about the police before you return to a state of euphoria through Kadhja Bonet's locking hooks. The shifts are not just thematic. The back of "35:31" nods to country music, but changes shortly before closing into a fragmented, automatically tuned jambalaya. "Algorhytmn" sounds like Terminator meets Yeezus an AI choreopoem that draws its refrain from Zhanes R&B classic "Hey Mr. DJ" by 1993. The changes are not always sensible, but the charm of Glover's cultural project has always been the framework: his questions are not uniform, you are watching and listening because you are not quite sure where he will take you. It's like falling into a rabbit hole without end. His music has no reason. It's a pleasure not to let go of knowing.
As a Childish Gambino, much of Glover's work depends on dissonance. He is someone whose art deals with the loud colors he creates as well as the shadows he leaves. There are interpretations waiting to be deciphered everywhere. Created in this register, its end never focused entirely on the universal. Think about how he labeled the songs on the album. Ten of the 12 tracks have no official title and are instead identified by the time signatures they appear on the album. The album title 3.15.20 has the same logic – it is the date the stream first went online before disappearing a few hours later. ( Sanford Biggers, the black visual artist whose work, like Glover's, is said to be equally enchanting and deceiving, practices the same form of non-identification with his mixed media.) The decision seems particularly appropriate for this moment in now – self-isolated, alone, the hours were slowly dripping by. Time is all we have It is not that 3.15.20 is incomplete or scattering or a vague patchwork of black pathos. There is something beyond that. Glover wants us to fill the minutes with our imagination. He wants us to make the album our own.
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