At Governors Ball last weekend, rapper Donald Glover vaguely announced the impending retirement of his stage persona, Childish Gambino. He didn't give any details about exactly when Childish would cease to be, but he told the crowd that his next album would be his last, a statement that has since been confirmed. Glover wants to end his rap career before the in-your-face confidence that made early hits like "IV. Sweatpants" and "Bonfire" so attractive becomes stale. Glover compared this type of demise to the tiresome feeling of a movie's "third sequel."
With the mainstream success of his latest album "Awaken, My Love!", whose debut earned the No. 1 spot on the Billboard R&B charts, Glover also feels that Childish Gambino is becoming too mainstream to bring him the same level of artistic satisfaction. Glover mentioned how his rebellious stage persona always felt right, and that he doesn't want to continue producing music if that underdog feeling is fading.
Knowing how to gracefully quit while you're ahead is a lost art in the era of The Hangover Part III and that series about tropical pirates that just doesn't seem to want to leave it alone. Besides that, Glover has a dynamic acting career with upcoming roles in movies including Han Solo: A Star Wars Story and the remake of Disney's The Lion King. But after "Redbone" and the rest of "Awaken, My Love!" we aren't quite ready to accept the retirement of Childish Gambino. Glover's last album was anything but a tired sequel to his earlier studio albums. The upbeat gospel style on "Have Some Love" and the funky reggae vibes on "California" are just a few of the spots where this album feels distinct from the aggressive wordplay that dominates Camp and Because the Internet. "Awaken, My Love!" proves that Donald Glover definitely has the creative versatility to continue to experiment and refresh his sound.
Regardless of how Gambino could evolve in the future, concerns about radio popularity are real for an actor who jumped into a rap career swinging at mainstream critics. We may just have to accept the end of Donald Glover's musical career and, for once, avoid having too much of a good thing.
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