Childish Gambino - Because The Internet (REVIEW) by James Childs

RnB/Hip Hop | Tuesday 24th December 2013 | James

‘Because The Internet’ is one of the most ambitious pieces of work put together in 2013 by an artist. An album, screenplay, short film and numerous online codes make up the musical experience of ‘Because The Internet’. Orchestrated by Donal Glover, to some better known as Childish Gambino, this eagerly anticipated album shows Gambino continuing from ‘Camp’ in to an internet-driven world told through the main protagonists ‘The Boy’. To fully understand ‘BTI’ listening to the album is one part of the process, as the track listing suggest ‘BTI’ is split in five separate parts all relating to the screenplay and short film ‘Clapping for the Wrong Reasons’ Gambino provides to give understanding.

The eerie flickering of book pages starts off the album on the 5 second ‘The Library (Intro). The album kicks off with ‘Crawl’ a blend of slow and haunting chords complemented by the growly vocals of Mystikal. The content on the song does not directly relate to ‘The Boy’ story but Gambino manages to pull out some clever wordplay such as “I double dare you, I'm Marc Summers I scorch winters, I burn autumns” and not straying away from his internet based theme with lyrics like “Blue dream by the bouquet 'til I'm blue faced on a Tuesday (Can I have some?)#N*****Be Like/Put a plus eighteen on that e-vite”.

Furthering the internet theme, Gambino entitles his next track ‘Worldstar’. A braggadocio, cocky but observant viewpoint of the viral and entertainment driven culture we live in, a culture where violence has become trivialised. The song takes its name from the popular website & also acts as a notion that everybody wants to be a ‘World Star’ (& not always for the right reasons). What I enjoy most about this song is the saxophone piece towards the end, the heavy bass, trap-sounding beat transforms in to a rich and jazzy arrangement, taking the song to higher grounds. Relating back to the screenplay, at this moment  ‘The Boy’ character witnesses a murder and there is a moment of seeing himself in the dying person, but this interrupted by passer-byers excited at the idea of sending the filmed footage to WorldstarHipHop.

‘Dial Up’ acts a prelude for the fun and lighter toned ‘The Worst Guys’ featuring Chance the Rapper. Overall a great song but would like to have heard more of Chance other than his “All she needed was some” on the chorus. The song has a spacey and bouncy feel boosted by the occasional horns and playful lyrics like “When these b****** see you "go home, Roger/Tia and Tamara in my bed, I'm a smart guy”. Gambino singing ability is shown throughout the album, on songs such as ‘Telegraph Ave.’, ‘3005’ and ‘Urn’. What I find interesting about Gambino is that, as an artist he does have a lot of sounds to draw upon and at times listeners can come to the conclusion that he is borrowing other people’s styles, particularly Drake or Frank Ocean on these songs. But looking back at his career in songs like ‘Do Ya Like’ and ‘Nowhere to Go’ singing is nothing new to Gambino, he obviously has influences but he also has a unique sound that he continues to develop.

What is clear in this album is that the musical chemistry between Gambino and his producer Ludwig Göransson has grown and from this we have a more developed and layered piece of work where beats are more experimental and contain a vast majority of sounds, allowing Gambino to also try new voice techniques. For example ‘Earth: The Oldest Computer’ where Gambino raps in different styles to accommodate the production. Although technique has improved not the same could be said about the overall execution. ‘BTI’ consists of nineteen tracks and because of the lengthiness of the project, this takes away from the musical cohesiveness, the straight forward personal story told in ‘Camp’ has become a story so wide and extensive that some listeners may find it hard figuring out the true message behind ‘BTI’. The skits musically pleasing at times drag the album out longer then needed.

Taking it all in, the message behind ‘BTI’ is a strong and intelligent examination of what the internet has brought about or helped to increase within society. Because of the internet everyone is now interconnected but on a humane level more detached than ever. The main character ‘The Boy’ has what most people aspire to have in life; money, friends and stability but he still finds himself soul searching dealing with the issues of loneliness, uncertainty, death, depression and other dark emotions. Everything he has is in some shape or form justifies his unproductive lifestyle such as his trolling career, stabilising comfortable living but in no way does he feel a constructive member of society.

Ambitious as it is, there are flaws within this experience that take away from the uniqueness and geniuses of ‘BTI’. The screenplay is a cool and innovative, helping the narrative, but can be off putting to those concerned with the musicality of ‘BTI’, coming across to some as long winded and convoluted; After all if we live in the internet age where text messages are the main language, who really wants to read through 72 pages to decipher an album? To conclude ‘Because The Internet’ is a strong piece by Gambino it shows an artist who is not afraid to try something different and explore new sounds within his music, in a time where music is constantly developing, here is an artist who is not sticking to the old common sounds or rules within the genre but trying to do something different; sonically and conceptually. With more concentration on connecting everything ‘BTI’ could be a stronger album but what it stands for already places it on another level to most albums of today.