This week’s album of the week is technically not an album. Rather, it is a continuation of an album in the strange joint-release of Childish Gambino’s free mixtape STN MTN and for-profit EP Kauai on Oct.2.
Touted as one the most memorable albums of 2013, Gambino’s Because The Internet was an intricate concept album with an accompanying seventy-two page screenplay. The album follows a teenage protagonist with internet-era rap stardom dreams.
STN MTN and Kauai are extensions of just that concept, STN MTN being what the character depicts superstardom as and Kauai acting as its real-life counterpart.
Together, the two projects are far from cohesive. STN MTN (referencing Stone Mountain) struts exactly what its title would suggest: a bombastic influence by Gambino’s childhood home city of Atlanta, Georgia.
The only problem is, it struts its stuff in a way that just is not what listeners have come to expect from rapper-singer-actor-screenwriter-comedian Donald Glover.
STN MTN finds Childish Gambino boasting a more casual attitude than ever, alluding to the care free nature of southern rap culture. Free of the usual double entendre and punchline-heavy verses, STN MTN is an exercise of parody a parody of hip-hop’s braggadocio.
Lyrical intricacies fans came to love are relatively non-existent here, which some will write off as enough for the project to be a major disappoint.
However, Gambino proves that he can take on an ignorant, mainstream rap façade better than his money-obsessed counterparts. Whether well-executed or not, this jab is laughably brilliant from the New York University alum.
After several listens, STN MTN feels exactly like what it should—a now-established artist trying out different things on an inconsequential free release. Standout track “Candler Road” finds Gambino executing classic rapper ignorance in a way more appealing than anything that that has hit radio waves in 2014.
Laughable near-rhymes like “Becomin’ the last great American poet/The flow Lindsay Lohan” remind you that this is supposed to be fun.
The only other STN MTN track worthy of consideration as one of Gambino’s best is spoken word and singing piece “U Don’t Have to Call”, momentarily abandoning the jokes for a more earnest feel.
Kauai is a radical change of direction, relying heavily on singing and spoken word from unlikely guest feature Jaden Smith, taking on the role of the main character reflecting on his newfound boyhood
Lead single “Sober” achieves dreamy pop elegance, proving Gambino’s rap-sing combo to be more effective than his more popular contemporaries Drake and J. Cole.
Most interesting is third track “Retro”. The track acts as a remake of his song “Love is Crazy” from 2008, one of his first ever. It finds Gambino returning to his roots, while also showing progress in both his rapping and singing capabilities.
In all, the joint release from Childish Gambino is underwhelming in terms of execution.
With a concept so lofty, one would have expected one of the better projects of the year. With that said, it is by no means a bad effort. Gambino has simply set a high standard for himself andhis intricate rap conceptualizations.
After all, this was not a full-length studio album, but a tie-over for eager fans anxiously awaiting album number three.