Released: July 4th
Childish Gambino's fans have been anxiously waiting what he would be releasing after his solid debut album, Camp. After a slew of tracks from his mixtape Royalty leaked recently, he officially dropped it on Independence Day. Check out the track-by-track and overall review below. Additionally, I provide you with “J-Tivs' Top Hits,” which highlight my three favorite tracks. What do you all think, has Gambino stepped up his game on this one?
Alright, so this isn’t really a song, but it’s nice to know that when Blake Griffin isn’t posterizing half of the NBA, he’s got enough time to introduce us to Gambino’s tape.
02. "We Ain't Them"
A smooth track including shout-outs to The Roots and Whitney Houston. The song sets the mood for the rest of the mixtape with slick rhymes, a bit of storytelling, and a nice beat to bring it all together.
03. "One Up" f/ Steve G. Lover
Is it me, or is Gambino is angry in this song? Lover provides a nice cameo in which it sounds like him and Gambino are leaving a bar toasted early Saturday morning. “You ain’t like what we doing/shut up.” That right there sums up the song pretty succinctly.
04. "Black Faces" f/ Nipsey Hussle
This hard techno beat provides a nice change of pace from the rest of the music. Nipsey goes hard on this track leaving us wanting more. Gambino puts out a political track, calling out those in the struggle (as well as the ways they are being exploited). A collaboration with Lupe Fiasco in the future could be very nice.
05. "Unnecessary" f/ Schoolboy Q & Ab-Soul
A mean-beat in which Gambino tells us how everything he does (or owns) lately is unnecessary. Gambino is reaching a state of cockiness that, in a weird way, makes him even more appealing.
06. "Shoulda Known"
This track convinces me that Gambino is on his way to superstardom. I’m not sure he even takes a breath on this. With a soulful beat and a line like, “Christina’s parents, all I make is Milian’s,” it’s hard not to listen to this track over and over.
07. "R.I.P." f/ Bun B
Bun B starts off this track with a surprise appearance and provides a dirty south vibe that sounds sharply different from Gambino. To all those who doubted Gambino previously, R.I.P.
08. "American Royalty" f/ RZA & Hypnotic Brass Orchestra
The only thing that ruins this song is RZA. When I saw him on Californication last year, I was thrilled; I thought that meant he was leaving music. I guess I was wrong. The orchestra is an interesting collaboration, but it’s hard to appreciate it with RZA barking nonsense. Thankfully, Gambino comes in as the beat shifts to an electronic sound and he saves the day talking about a girl who apparently only wants to hear Waka (Flaka Flame)?
09. "It May Be Glamour Life" f/ Ghostface Killah
Ghostface makes an odd appearance on this short and somewhat unnecessary track.
10. "Toxic" f/ Danny Brown
A nice attempt at integrating Britney Spears song, Toxic, onto this, but with Danny Brown doing what I think is rapping, it just doesn’t work. I appreciate the creativity, but even with Gambino’s fast-rhymes and funny metaphors, it’s too late. Good try.
11. "Silk Pillow" f/ Beck
Now we’re back on track! Never in a million years would I have guessed this collaboration would work, but it does. Beck turns back the clock to the 90’s on this one. Gambino acknowledges that his “rappin’ about nothin” and wasn’t listened to by too many. These days, with more politically-driven tracks like this, it makes sense that he’s getting more love on a national level.
12. "They Don't Like Me" f/ Chance the Rapper
Chance is smooth, I like his sound. In fact, he reminds me of a younger Gambino. These two are a nice combination and it would be nice to see them work together in the future.
13. "Arrangement" f/ Gonage
Gonage scares me and leaves me waiting for Gambino to arrive. This sounds like something a parent would play outside their house to scare the kids from grabbing too much candy.
14. "Won’t Stop" f/ Danielle Haim (of HAIM)
Once again, Gambino takes a song that sounds like it’s going to be an R&B slow jam, and provides that speedy delivery that you should be expecting by now. The up and down flow of this one keeps you on your toes and should have you replaying it over and over. “Now that I’m on top/are you proud me,” Gambino asks. Asking me? Absolutely.
Without a chorus and “without a hook,” as said by Gambino, this song makes me wish I had bronchitis. Once again, he takes a verse, and tells us a story.
16. "Wonderful" f/ Josh Osho
“How did it get so wonderful?,” asks Josh Osho. The feel good track of the song, Gambino tells us that he has finally made it, and he has no shame in telling us his journey. And he shouldn’t, it’s been amazing to hear him develop as an artist, and apparently, a person.
17. "Make It Go Right" f/ Kilo Kish
I can’t lie, I don’t love this track, it seems out of place and leaves me wishing I stopped listening to the positivity Osho provides on the previous track. I respect Gambino’s attempt to make a smooth-sounding love-ballad to the ladies, but this one doesn’t work.
18. "Real Estate" f/ Alley Boy, Swank, & Tina Fey
Yep, you read that right, Tina Fey. Gambino tells us how much money he’s racking in these days, and hey, could you blame the guy? At least he still reps Georgia hard. Clearly, he’s living the good life these days. By the way, I’m in love with Tina Fey, and if you listened to the last minute of the song, you should be too.
J-Tivs' Top Hits
Like most Gambino fans, I had high expectations for this after listening to Camp¸ and Gambino does not disappoint. While some of the songs seem oddly placed, Gambino makes up for it by proving over and over that he is on the cusp of superstardom. It’s nice to see him developing a political side as well, something to be on the lookout for as he continues to release tracks. If you weren’t a fan of Gambino before, give this a listen and I’m willing to bet he changes your mind. For those who were fans before, I don’t need to tell you what you already know; he’s a beast!
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"Stars open among the lilies. Are you not blinded by such expressionless sirens? This is the silence of astounded souls."
~Sylvia Plath, from Crossing the Water