With the release of Because the Internet, Childish Gambino marks his second full studio hip-hop album. His debut, entitled Camp, received generally positive reviews. Childish Gambino has become known for his witty lyrics and honesty in the hip-hop community, and continues to show these traits in his most recent release. However, the ambitious album falls short in the vocal delivery and fails to establish a unique sound.
In an attempt to deliver a more enriching entertainment experience, Childish Gambino released a screenplay (also entitled Because the Internet) intended to accompany this album. The screenplay dives deeper into the characters seen throughout this album, and tells stories that are more difficult to articulate through the musical medium.
This album kicks off with the song “The Crawl,” an epically produced track accompanied with the braggadocious lyrics and personality that is to be expected from a hip-hop release. Although this song lacks substantial lyrical content, it serves as an exciting introduction to the album with its powerful hook and rapid delivery. Past this point, the album dives into more profound lyrical content starting with the song “WORLDSTAR.” This trap-style beat and staccato flow creates a platform for Childish Gambino to talk about the internet’s over-exposure in contemporary society, using the example of the viral video website worldstarhiphop. This theme is revisited multiple times throughout this album, and is the inspiration for the EP’s title.
A pivotal point in the album is reached with the song “The Party,” in which Childish Gambino has all of his friends over at his mansion and promptly kicks them out. This is followed by the dark and twisted track “No Exit,” in which he presents his depression as a product of self-isolation. This song is filled with dark imagery, with lines such as “3a.m. stare at the ceiling, murder the feeling, spider crawl in the corner, brown recluse.” His monotone delivery and sinister lyrics are stylistically similar to the contents of the EP Doris by the LA rapper Earl Sweatshirt. Flowing smoothly into the track “Flight of the Navigator,” Childish Gambino outlines a dream in which he “fell in love again” and the feeling never had to end. The finite length of love and life is something that bothers him, and drives him to isolation when he compares reality to this utopian dream. This causes Childish Gambino to lose his frame of reference, as he states on the final track “Life: the Biggest Troll.”
Because the Internet serves as a creative way for Childish Gambino to outline his fears to his fans. The imperfections of life and the internet’s over-exposure in society were recurring themes throughout the EP. These issues seem to bother him to the point where he feels lost, leading to his self-isolation.
Childish Gambino took a more free-form approach when composing his songs, deviating from the monotonous verse-chorus-verse structure. His experimental synthesizer arrangements and bridges keep the listener interested with each new musical layer. The large instrumental breaks in his songs show that it is not always necessary to rap over a well-produced hip-hop arrangement. However, while Childish Gambino is a technically talented singer, most of his vocal hooks came off as being rather tasteless. He seemed to lazily fall back on corny love song hooks in his choruses, as seen in the song “3005” (among others). Childish Gambino’s delivery also fails when he is taking a stab at new flows in his raps. From his A$AP Rocky-inspired trap delivery in “WORLDSTAR” to his The Weeknd-inspired vocal arrangement in “Telegraph Ave,” his lack of authenticity becomes increasingly obvious. This mimicking behaviour dilutes his own sound, and makes him seem somewhat forgettable as an artist.
Despite these drawbacks, this album has a large and interesting variety of musical arrangements accompanied with very coherent and consistent themes. Childish Gambino has undoubtedly grown as an artist from his previous full-length release, and continues to provide the listener with intelligent similes and socially conscious subject matter.