We could all write trilogies on how this year got us messed up but undeniably music has come to our collective rescue in 2016. A fresh release to add to the pantheon of 2016 greats is Childish Gambino’s newly dropped ‘Awaken, My Love!’. A funk rock cloud of an album, it shows off a whole new side of this artist/actor/spiritualist/woke bae slash imaginary husband of many (mine too, girl).
Even though people are far from being finished talking about the acclaimed FX show ‘Atlanta’ - in which Gambino (government name Donald Glover) plays a Princeton dropout manager trying to make his cousin’s rap career lift off next to being the show's EP - the album provides copious fodder for new conversation. And what about that gorgeous cover art, featuring Kenyan model Giannina Oteto?
Inspired by his childhood memories of hearing Funkadelic or The Isley Brothers playing in the house, the album spins out like a high-charge trip blasting through all the corners of your head. In a recent interview with Billboard, Gambino spoke about the parallels he drew between the political and musical climate of the 70s and what’s happening today thanks to grassroots organisations like Black Lives Matter: “It felt like people were trying to get out of their minds, with all the things that were happening — and that are happening right now. How do you start a global revolution, really? Is that possible with the systems we’ve set up? There’s something about that ’70s black music that felt like they were trying to start a revolution.”
The opening track ‘Me and Your Mama’ builds up to Gambino howling “let me into your heart” in a Prince-y falsetto belt and it excellently sets the stage for what’s to come. Don't go expecting him to rap though. The wailing guitar lines and masterful vocal pitching and distorting heard throughout the record are a testament to the unique synergy between Gambino and longtime collaborator Ludwig Göransson (the Roc Nation-signed Swedish composer behind the haunting score of Fruitvale Station).
My personal top favourites right now are ‘Boogieman’, ‘Baby Boy’ and ‘Redbone’. The line “My peanut butter chocolate cake with Kool-Aid” is uttered so there’s no way ‘Redbone’ isn’t going to be on repeat till we ride the wheels off of this year. The record basically had me in my seat doing the Kerry, Taraji and Mary dance so that’s generally a good thing.
Even though ‘Awaken, My Love’, stands out on its own merits, Childish is nothing if not a man of the future. He organised a “shared vibration for human progress party” during Labor Day weekend dubbed ‘Pharos’ in the run-up to the album, which was released as a virtual reality concert experience that you can download here. It was also announced that the new record will be accompanied by a ‘virtual reality vinyl’ edition, available for preorder here, but it’s unsure what exactly that entails. You should grab the album merch here, but don’t wait too long since the exclusive poster is only available until midnight today (02/12).
And when you’re done with all that, you can also start gearing up for the upcoming yet-untitled Han Solo spinoff flick, where Glover will take up the role of Landro Calrissian, and for season two of Atlanta. There’s plenty of Gambino goodness to go around here. All that remains is planning how you’re going to sneak this album into the Christmas dinner playlist and you’re all set.
Purchase “Awaken, My Love!” on iTunes or stream it below:
Portrait images by Ibra Ake