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Childish Gambino: Culdesac

B-

Childish Gambino

Album: Culdesac
Label: self-released

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Among the creative endeavors on Donald Glover’s résumé—30 Rock writer, Community cast member, and stand-up comedian—”rapper” is the least expected from the comedic polymath, considering that the music he creates under the guise Childish Gambino is straight-faced hip-hop, not “joke rap.” His music is occasionally funny—see lyrics like “NBC is not the only thing I’m coming on tonight”—but Glover’s free, Internet-only album Culdesac suffers from a mild case of dissociative identity disorder. As Childish Gambino, Glover swerves between rap-star lothario and sensitive lover-boy, hardworking artist and booze-addled barfly—perfectly expected and acceptable fluctuations coming from a twentysomething rising star, but a bit jarring when compressed into 56 minutes. The music follows suit, crowding orchestra-hit bangers like “Hero” up against crooning slow jams like “So Fly” and the positively twee “These Girls.” The fact that Glover’s delivery lands at the exact midpoint of Lil Wayne’s loping, free-associative croak and Kanye West’s melodic wordiness doesn’t help in terms of crafting a distinct identity. Taken piecemeal, there’s a lot to like about Culdesac—especially the aggressively boasting “I Be On That” and the hyperactive “Put It In My Video”—but it often feels like a collection of good ideas that still need to be finessed into a strong statement.