Childish Gambino changes style on new album “Awaken My Love”
February 6, 2017
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Childish Gambino makes his glorious return to the music world with an unexpected, new style on his highly anticipated album “Awaken My Love.” Originally known for his popular hip-hop and rap albums “Because the Internet” and “Camp,” Gambino has proved his talent in the past with hits such as “3005,” “ Sweatpants,” and “Sober.”
When the album dropped, fans quickly noticed that this album does not include the familiar profanity-riddled raps that made Childish Gambino famous but rather consists of funk songs dedicated towards social and racial injustices. Two popular songs on the album—“Boogieman” and “Riot”—highlight these themes. Fast-paced and almost aggressive sounding, these two songs directly address the tension between law enforcement and the African-American community.
In Boogieman, Gambino portrays this with the lyrics: “With a gun in your hand, I’m the boogieman,” and goes on to say: “Though we’re not the one, but in the bounds of your mind, we have done the crime.” In Riot, Gambino sings: “No good’s happening, world we’re out of leaders, everyone just wants a better life.” Through these lyrics, Gambino expresses the prejudice he feels as an African American man.
Gambino is also known for his acting and writing on the praised FX show, Atlanta. The show is about two cousins who are trying to become successful rappers in Atlanta in search of a better life, and often deals with racial issues. In an interview, Gambino said that “Awaken My Love” is actually very closely related to Atlanta, and that when people listen to the music he wants people to “feel scared because that’s what it feels like to be black.”
Aside from the political motivations of this album, Gambino states in an interview that he wanted the album to have a funk feeling, similar to that of the 70’s: “I remember listening to songs my dad would play—albums by the Isleys or Funkadelic—and not understanding the feeling I was feeling. Not having a name for that, though; just having a feeling. That’s what made it great.”
By far the most popular song on the album, already with 45+ million listens on Spotify, is “Redbone.” The song begins with the funky sounds of a bass guitar, performed by Ludwig Göransson, who co-wrote and co-produced the album. The chorus features the phrase “Stay woke,” which is associated with people being aware of social and racial injustices that occur every day and refers to metaphorically waking up and having your eyes opened. With a combination of the strong funk vibe, as well as the message Gambino sends, this song is a perfect representation of the whole album.
In regards to this album, Gambino has expressed the difficulty of writing such a personal album. “Awaken My Love” didn’t necessarily receive the best reviews, and many were upset that it was not hip-hop/rap. However, it is clear that Gambino was playing from the heart, with the combination of the political message of the album and playing funk music–which he felt connected with.
Listening to the album for the first time may have disappointed listeners, especially because it is nothing like the rest of his discography. However, if listeners take his message into account and open themselves up to the music, they can appreciate “Awaken My Love” as an innovative album that re-introduces funk into the music industry.