Review | Childish Gambino – “Awaken, My Love!”

After taking a short break from music and focusing on a successful first season of Atlanta on FX, Donald Glover aka Childish Gambino returns with his third studio album, Awaken, My Love!”

On “Awaken, My Love!”, Childish Gambino takes a leap of faith a lot of artists do when venturing into new areas musically and this leap of faith actually works. In other words, there is no rapping on this new album, but that isn’t saying that Gambino drops his entire signature style of cleaver metaphors. No, it doesn’t stray too far as the quick rap jabs turn into smooth vocals over funky instrumentals.

Laced with 11 tracks in total, the album features production from Ludwig Göransson, Vinylz and Donald Glover himself. Gambino handles the whole album all himself with additional vocals coming from Kari Faux. At first listen, many will write this off as a Funk album, but it’s a bit more than that. There are so many sounds from many artists Childish Gambino was influenced by when constructing this album. George Clinton, Rick James, Prince, Jimi Hendrix are just to name a few. “Awaken, My Love!” can be described as Funk-Rock R&B album.

The album kicks off with the first single released from the album – Me and Your Mama. This would be the only track on the album that uses the modern kick and snaps heard in many hip-hop songs. As the track begins, a faint female vocalist sings “I’m in love when we are smokin’ that…” as a thumping bass rises to the forefront that leads into an awesome guitar breakdown where we first hear Gambino belt out “Do what you want, I’m telling you, Let me into your heart”. Me and Your Mama is such a loud and grand song that grabs you in.

On most tracks, the future Lando Calrissian, sings about issues that are occurring in today’s society – Hate, relationship problems, industry giants and coming together like on the track Have Some Love. Gambino calls for all his “brothers & sisters” to be kind and make some time for each other. On the rock & roll track Riot, the main emphasis relies on the good (common people) vs evil (those who want to better themselves by stepping on “little man”).  

Redbone is definitely a standout track – It’s a funky soulful track that sees Gambino experimenting with his voice. At first listen. I didn’t think it was Gambino singing, but indeed it was. On the Triple J Breakfast Show (Australian radio show), Gambino revealed that his vocals on the album were not pitched as he just decided to sing differently on certain tracks. On Redbone, his voice can be compared to Macy Gray, as it is raspy when he breaks into the first verse and the rest of the song. The track in question deals with Gambino getting the girl of his dreams and then finding out his “peanut butter chocolate cake with Kool-Aid” is out cheating. The production on Redbone is insane – from the bass to the vocals, to the guitar, it’s an all-around great piece of music.

Terrified has a huge early Prince influence aura to it as Gambino sings about knowing how dangerous this woman is, but still proceeds to chase after her. Great guitar riffs mixed with an faint organ being played in the background makes this a solid track. As mentioned, Childish Gambino didn’t do away with his signature double entendre metaphors; they’re on full display on Terrified.

“People want you underground

Do you misbehave?

Haunt you to your grave

I’m going to eat you alive

Please don’t find me rude

But I don’t eat fast food

So don’t run to me”

Besides Redbone, Zombies is also one of my favorites from “Awaken, My Love!” The funk is strong with this one as this track can be linked to music executives preying on young artists for profit, thus turning them into “zombies” who will do anything these executives tell them to do (aka making radio hits). The haunting voice whispering “We’re eating you for profit, There is no way to stop it” in the background is performed by Kari Faux, who appeared on No Small Talk from Childish Gambino’s 2014 STN MTN/ Kauai mixtape.

“Awaken, My Love!” features a ton of creativity executed profoundly. Majority of the 11 tracks have distinct sounds from the past (circa 1970’s) with Gambino sending warnings to everyone who’s listening to “stay woke” and beware that “they” are watching your every move. With that, Me and Your Mama, Baby Boy, The Night Me and Your Momma Met have a branching storyline. On Baby Boy, Childish Gambino sings to his son about how joyful and thankful he is and also gives details on the struggles he has with the mother of his child. As Baby Boy comes to an end, The Night Me and Your Momma Met fades in – the soothing track with no vocals gives you an idea how Gambino felt when he met the mother of his son.

Some might be upset to see Childish Gambino go in another direction with his third album, but it’s a welcome change. If you’re a fan of collecting vinyls, this album will fit perfectly between your old Funk/Rock/R&B vinyls. This new sound has ushered in the new era of Childish Gambino.

– Journalist Without A Beat… Out!


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