With the decade over, it was time for me to reflect on my favorite album that dropped in the last 10 years.
There were many options through the genres. A decade is a long time, especially for music.
From rock to alternative, indie to K-pop, my music taste grew exponentially.
But the artist that became a long lasting staple in my music repertoire was an actor turned musician named Donald Glover — Childish Gambino when referring to his music career — with the album “Because the Internet.”
“Because the Internet” has 19 tracks and has a runtime of 58 minutes.
The album dropped in 2013 when I was a high school senior, a time when I was an angry teen who only listened to bands like Green Day and Linkin Park.
I did not discover “Because the Internet” until Fall 2014 as a freshman at Western Michigan University when sitting with some hipsters in a Christmas light lit dorm room.
The music video for the track “3005” was on the TV while everyone was talking.
I recognized Glover since I had seen him in the sitcom “Community” and on his stand-up “Weirdos.”
I asked one of them who the song was by, and he said it was “some guy named Gambino.”
As soon as I went back to my dorm room I hopped on YouTube and Pandora to find his music — Spotify and Apple Music were not the monoliths they are today.
I binged the music videos that were created for the album containing weird scenes such as an amusement park with a raging inferno in the background or Gambino turning into an alien after being killed in a planned hit-and-run.
As I tried to dissect the videos and the songs, I became fascinated with the oddness.
Featuring smooth, thought-provoking rap flows, soft soothing R&B singing and trippy electronic beats that disrupt the other aspects snap the listener out of the trance Gambino creates.
The album starts with an introduction then goes into the track “I. Crawl.” The song features rapper Mystikal on the intro and Canadian singer Kai on the chorus.
Gambino starts with deep, bellowing kick drums while Mystikal distortedly screams “Say it (hit’em) goddamn!” before the chorus starts with Kai’s soothing voice.
After the chorus, in the first verse Gambino asks “Who am I” — the common theme behind the album and its screenplay — before making references to a 1990’s Nickelodeon sitcom, OJ Simpson’s murder trial and old money versus new money.
Ultimately the track is an angry response to the breakup between him and Samantha Duenas after Gambino’s “Camp” tour.
The next track “II. Worldstar” features a similar trap beat while Gambino raps about the worldstar social media fighting videos that were popular in the early 2010’s.
The album’s sound changes with the track “I. The Worst Guys” featuring Chance the Rapper who had dropped the album “Acid Rap” the same year.
This track features more of a lighter drum beat, more synthesizers for an electronic element, a guitar solo towards the end and a car’s wiper blades as the outro.
On this the anger from “I. Crawl” and the ego from “II. Worldstar” manifest into Gambino changing from the goofy actor who was stepped on into literally what the song says, the worst guy.
With lines talking about spending $8,000 on a bathtub, attacking critics with an AK-47, and balling like King James (LeBron James) in the second verse the change is clear.
But the ego fades in the following track “II. Shadows” as he reflects on the failed relationship despite saying he played Russian roulette with the safety on.
This is where we see Gambino start singing more too.
About halfway through the song, the soft flow abruptly ends — as if an audio chord had a loose connection — before a bridge section starts with a repetitive drum beat, guitar and distorted vocals saying “I hope you understand” to play the song out.
This leads directly to the next track “III. Telegraph Ave. (“Oakland” by Lloyd),” where Gambino tries to go back to an old girlfriend when he lived a different lifestyle in Oakland, Calif.
The lyrics referring to her wanting kids and a house in Kauai, insinuating they broke up because she was wanting something serious while he was thinking of himself.
Now they’re both almost 30 years old and loneliness is making him rush through the “red lights and the stop signs,” but he is scared to fall in love.
This makes him feel conflicted so he goes back to his egotistical life on the track “IV. Sweatpants.”
The album is full of personality switches between Gambino and Glover. The track styles change depending on who he is embodying.
The latter half of the album gets more electronic and almost psychedelic, with some of the ambiance instrumentals and deep thoughts about struggling to meet expectations, religion and untimely death.
“II. Zealots of Stockholm (Free Information)” encompasses all of those concepts over multiple beat transitions including the faint sound of church bells at the start of the track, eluding to the death of someone.
A few tracks follow using similar sounds but stay more upbeat in tempo until slowing down a bit with the last track “III. Life: The Biggest Troll (Andrew Auernheimer).”
Gambino ends his story with him repeating “You’re here now. You have to help me…. Please help me.”