The Rise and Rise of Donald Glover

Niall Flynn /
Dec 7, 2016 / Music

Awaken, My Love! is the biggest record in the world right now. It’s an epic, psychedelic odyssey, courtesy Childish Gambino, the musical moniker of Donald Glover. It’s probably the most important record in the world right now, too.

At 48-minutes long, it’s an immersive expedition into the funk and soul sounds of the 70s era, which sees Glover discussing love, sex, race, empowerment and parenthood under the vast sonic umbrella first explored by George Clinton and company over 40 years ago. It’s a tribute, no doubt – but not in the sense of replication. This is Glover’s work and his alone; an eclectic, meandering brainchild that borrows sounds from bygone movements and reimagines them within the contemporary.

To sum up: it’s very, very good. Under the Gambino tag, Glover has been pumping out music since 2009 – but nothing like this. Primarily a rapper, Gambino’s previous two records have been grounded in hyperactive geek rap; fun, but by no means groundbreaking. Awaken, My Love! is a different beast entirely. Childish Gambino is an unrecognisable presence; entangling himself within the funked-up soundscape he’s meticulously crafted, becoming part of its ecosystem. He carries the record on his shoulders, without ever seeming to reveal the part he’s played – and all without rapping a single bar. It’s strange, crazy, gorgeous and mad. It’s one of the best albums of the year.

Before Awaken, My Love!, you’d have found yourself pausing before declaring Glover’s music on a level with his triumphs in both acting and writing. With all due respect to his third album’s predecessors, they weren’t convincing enough as an argument in favour of promoting Childish Gambino the big leagues. He was, somewhat, a scatterbrained outsider – and seemingly happy in being so. Donald Glover was an actor and writer who liked to do music. He was much better than most of his contemporaries that ventured into similar ground, but my no means a novel phenomenon. Now, it’s difficult to separate his creative feats in terms of both their significance and success. Now, Donald Glover has achieved full domination.

In the space of a few months, Glover has achieved individual acclaim for Atlanta (the FX show he created, wrote, directed, executively produced and starred in), been cast in two of modern cinema’s biggest franchises (Star Wars and Spiderman) and hosted Pharos, a three-day festival in Joshua Tree, California. Overnight, the writer-actor-rapper-singer has reached the peak of all of his respective fields with aplomb. All of them. Atlanta is one of the best things to come out of television this year. He’s playing Lando Calrissian in the Han Solo spin-off, for fuck’s sake. Without Awaken My Love!, you’d have had a case for 2016 being the Year of the Glover. With it, the opinion becomes fact.

This is multifaceted creativity in its most unwavering form. Donald Glover is unshackled, bouncing from career high to career high with astute nonchalance. He’s gone from quirky rapper to pioneer of the nu-funk revolution. He’s gone from acclaimed young writer to the sole brains behind one of the year’s most successful television shows. He’s gone from Community’s Troy Barnes to Star Wars‘ Lando fucking Calrissian. In a world where James Franco is considered a renaissance man, what outdated term do we bestow upon Glover? Is he a King? Must we bow at his feet now? It only seems fair – and relative.

Donald Glover has risen – and he will continue to rise. Awaken, My Love! is the magnificent shattering of a glass ceiling that seems to have reigned over his head up until this year. Now, for whatever reason, Glover has the platform to share the innermost workings of his brain. We don’t deserve him, but he’s exactly what we need.

All hail King Glover. Long live the king.

Like this? You’ll love Volume #16

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Words by Niall Flynn

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