By SARAH PARK
Think back to your most memorable summer camp experiences. What do you think of? Telling ghost stories by the bonfire? Hikes in the woods? Catching fireflies? As a kid, camp was a place you went to escape boundaries and discover yourself. Using these nostalgic memories, comedian and actor Donald Glover (Troy from NBC’s “Community”), otherwise known as rapper Childish Gambino, creates an overarching self-defining jouney in his album, “Camp.”
“Camp” is a truly intricate album that exists inside of society’s mainstream hip-hop standards, as well as outside of them. Songs such as the album’s first single “Bonfire” and “Backpackers” are Glover’s attempt at breaking into the mainstream, MTV-esque hip-hop scene. In “Bonfire,” Glover raps about things most rappers typically rap about, such as how many girls he can get and how much better he is than other rappers. At the same time, he also inserts questionable pop-culture references, such as “Made the beat and murdered it/Casey Anthony.” Although he seems inappropriate at certain times, Glover is also stunningly self-aware in songs such as “All the Shine,” where he asks existential questions such as, “What is the point of rap if you can’t be yourself, huh?”
Individuality is a key theme in “Camp,” especially in songs “All the Shine” and “L.E.S.,” where Glover raps about finding his own identity and reconciling his own ambitions with those of his family. His verses are infused with anecdotes about his personal struggles of growing up poor and an outsider in a white-dominated society that are thoughtful as well as thought provoking.
The beats that Glover created are another aspect that makes “Camp” incredibly diverse. Although he seems fond of the dubbed-up piano-and-chorus production trope (see “Hold You Down,” “Outside” and “Letter Home”), Glover also includes a wide range of selections that are discothèque-appropriate (see “Heartbeat”), orchestral indie (see “Outside” and “L.E.S”) and 80’s-inspired (see “Fire Fly”).
Although the beats are incredible by themselves, Glover is a talented rapper so he is never undermined or overshadowed by his own instrumentation. His delivery is reflective of his own eccentric personality, which on one end of the spectrum, it’s intense and outspoken and on the other end, it’s extremely philosophical and pensive, without ever losing the audience’s attention.
“Camp” is the manifestation of Glover’s statement to the world. He is exclaiming that you can create a truly unique album of hipster beats combined with intense rap lyrics while still capturing the mainstream audience’s adoration. Doing all of this while maintaining his own sense of individuality, Glover also spreads encouragement to his audience as a whole to be themselves and not allow society to define who they are. No matter what kind of music you’re into, there’s something on Glover’s album that will cater to you individually.
Image courtesy of didyouhearthenew.com