STN/MTN And Kauai Mixtape Review
Released October 2, 2014 (STN/MTN); October 3, 2014 (Kauai)
Genre: Hip Hop, Trap Rap, Pop Rap
The solo project of producer/rapper/actor/writer Donald Glover (AKA Childish Gambino) has flexed his creative muscles after his sophomore album of late last year. Taking time off from writing for NBC shows like Community and 30 Rock, Glover found time to make a brand of alternative hip-hop, a style of rap that has recently emerged and can be seen with artists like A$AP Rocky, Chance The Rapper, etc.. Whether he’s cracking you up with his character Troy Barnes on Community or astounding you with his complex rap lyrics, Glover effortlessly exceeds expectations in so many mediums. Nevertheless, his sound is far from ordinary because of the depth in production, catchy hooks, and fusion of multiple styles that define the “Gambino sound” that this album reinforces and reinvents.
Coming off of the stellar reception of his latest album, because the internet, Childish Gambino announced a two part release, encompassing a mixtape entitled STN/MTN (which is a reference to Stone Mountain, Georgia, and released free via Datpiff) and an EP entitled Kauai. The release bookends his late rise to fame, including a broad show of support of his immensely popular song, “3005″. The colloquial description “turn-up music” comes to mind when thinking of the previous releases from the 31-year-old talent, which is supported in the mixtape portion, but is heavily contrasted in Kauai.
Gambino continues on with the story that appeared in because the internet within the mixtape, which is simply an explanation on why he’s here. In an interview, the multi-talent explained that “Because [of] the internet I’m here, because of the internet we’re all here. It’s the language of earth…But the thing is, there are no rules, which is also the awesome thing.” [SOURCE] For the most part, he grapples with issues including bigotry, lack of inspiration in youth, and fear of a breakup in the album. STN/MTN does feature trivial themes (including drinking, women, and money), not straying too far from his previous album. I’m not so sure the material and lyrics within this mixtape are necessarily anything noteworthy, but Glover has proven that he always adds an element of charm and surprise to his work. At a glance, the song titles are certainly vulgar and offensive, but this only appeals to the previous style of Gambino.
“Dream/Southern Hospitality/Partna Dem” leads off the tape with a surprising monologue from Glover that outlines a dream and functionally sets up the rest of the first half of the release by describing a dream in which the music takes place. The lofty and almost petty wishes of the Georgia native give a sense of nostalgia and carelessness. The final track off of the mixtape portion, “Go DJ”, concludes with Glover/Gambino actually thanking all of the contributors to the tape and the audience, and then ending with the transitional statement, “And then I woke up.” From this point, the mixtape portion full of heavy rap lyrics, deep production, and minimal singing fully transitions into the EP, “Kauai.”
I chose the first track off the island-themed EP, ‘Sober’, as my most noteworthy track because of its overwhelming beauty and easy-going lyrics. A glossy Chicago-style organ and bright, lively vocals certainly perks the ears of the listener at a glance. The track showcases the raw power of catchy vocals. The simplicity of the song and instrumentation certainly is what’s most impressive since the typical hip hop beats and slick rhymes are completely absent. At first, the album appears as though Childish Gambino has morphed into light alternative R&B. Until, the dazzling hook transforms into a wall of thick sub bass and detuned lyrics that shock the listener’s senses as the vigorous, aggressive style reemerges. The scariest thing about this song is that after the quick bass break, Gambino picks up seamlessly with the chorus and picks up where he left off. I personally think the selection of this track to be at the forefront was incredible because it only teases at the production arsenal that the talented rapper has to offer while revealing a lighter side to his creativity.
The rest of the album features a classic R&B sound that echoes most of the influential performers in the Atlanta area. Classic R&B vibes pour out of ‘Pop Thieves [Make It Feel Good]‘ and ‘Retro [ROUGH]‘ as ‘The Palisades’ features a soulful, upbeat texture with classical lyrics about a girl who remains unnamed.
The track ‘Poke’ imitates the ballad-like style that artists like Bruno Mars seem to put out every other year. This track actually features Donald’s brother Steve, who raps the verses of the song, contrasting his brother who beautifully sings the chorus.’Late Night In Kauai’ welcomes guest star Jaden Smith (an actor and rapper in his own right) and consists of a laid-back tribal atmosphere with a spoken word monologue by both contributors.
‘V. 3005 – Beach Picnic Version’ rounds out the EP by providing a different take on the hit single, remixed by Gambino himself. I personally like this version due to its finesse and different take on the instrumentation itself. The remade hit features a de-tuned chorus and a simple beat that still remains true to its original. The smooth synth sounds and orchestral stabs give it a very fine texture. In my opinion, it’s the perfect way to round out the EP that strays from his original style.
Childish Gambino has impressed hip-hop and music fans alike with his creativity both within the album and outside of his releases with his ability to tell a story through sound and connect with any listener. With this dual release, many fans of Childish Gambino as well as rap/hip-hop enthusiasts around the world were surprised of the album due to its ingenuity and characteristic sound. Glover obviously reinvented himself in releasing Kauai, but stayed true to his original sounds in STN/MTN, something very impressive for a multi-talent in the internet age.