Like that last mixtape I wrote about, Royalty is free. 100% free. Right here. Donald Glover, the actor/rapper/wunderkind behind Childish Gambino, made it free. Because he’s awesome.
If you don’t recognize that name, it’s because you don’t watch Community. And if you don’t watch Community, you are depriving yourself. Seriously. Community is the best sitcom on TV, so rush out and buy the first season on DVD or, if you have a HuluPlus subscription, watch it on there. It’s available on Netflix. But seriously, WATCH COMMUNITY.
Anyway…divorced from the show, Donald Glover is a considerable talent in his own right, writing for 30 Rock–y’know, that show that’s won millions of awards but no one you know watches?–doing stand-up, acting and, for a while now, rapping. His rap alter-ego Childish Gambino (the name came from a Wu-Tang Clan name generator) is as witty as Glover’s stand up but still reeling with emotion and insight into what it’s like to be someone like Glover–a self-styled “black nerd”–in this day and age. There’s also a bunch of wonderful insights into the trials of childhood and love.
Royalty, like most mixtapes, is star-studded. My favorite track, “Silk Pillow,” comes courtesy of Beck, who, after 4 years with no new releases, just drops a great guest rap and sets up a perfect counterpoint to Gambino. I don’t know what the lyrics are about but that’s how all Beck songs are to me. Like Beck’s solo music, the brilliant instrumentation sells it.
Some other great tracks are “We Ain’t Them,” the opener in which Glover relays all of his adult life in a breezy, charming manner with a smooth beat and “American Royalty,” where Wu-Tang’s very own maestro the RZA and the Chicago-based Hypnotic Brass Ensemble just jam.
As you might have heard, the final song, “Real Estate,” features a “rap” from Tina Fey, comedy’s “It girl” and Glover’s former boss on 30 Rock, but…guys…it’s just not good. AT ALL.
The whole song is just dumb and boring; the sort of creatively empty boast rap that Gambino is otherwise against. Fey doesn’t even show up till the end, but she has no flow, is painfully awkward, and nothing is the slightest bit funny about it. Guhhh.