Childish Gambino House of Blues April 6, 2012
"Real G's only; don't fuck up my alphabet." -- Childish Gambino, "It's On"
Childish Gambino is Donald Glover and Donald Glover is Troy from a television show called Community and Troy from a television show called Community is funny as eff and that's generally problematic if you're a rapper but Childish Gambino who's Donald Glover who's Troy from a television show called Community is good. Really good.
He performed Friday night at House of Blues. And since a criticism of his has been that he tends to drive clever into the ground, and since he has a neat line about the alphabet to his credit, let's go A-B-C-style notes for the review and try not to fuck up his alphabet.
A: A lot of people showed up. Actually, it sold out. And there was a bushel of people outside trying to figure out a way to sneak past the pregnant ticket-checker. Pregnant women might make the most diligent door watchers of all-time.
She was having zero of that sneaking-in shit. You'd have done better trying to sneak into the cage they kept Deena in between filming episodes of Jersey Shore.
B: Black people were, as it were, the minority in the crowd.
C: Caucasian people were, once again, the majority.
D: Dudes, when Gambino performed "Bonfire," which is basically a three-minute-long fire alarm, the place went fucking bananas. FUCKINGBANANAS. He had a light wall behind him (band too) that played different things during the show. For "Bonfire," it played a fire that grew brighter as he became more animated. Very cool.
E: Every time the beginning of a song wiggled out of the speakers, people lost their shit. He performed everything people wanted him to (i.e. Camp mostly, though some F&G too), and that's good.
F: For maybe two full minutes, I watched a guy at the edge of the crowd on the stage's left side play Draw Something. Only, he wasn't playing it, he was just scribbling the words out for the other players. The whole time I watched him I was like, "So YOU'RE the motherfucker that keeps doing that?" That shit is the worst. I actively rooted for him to drop his phone. He didn't. There is no God.
G: God, why didn't you make him drop his phone? Why? WHY?
H: "Heartbeat" is super-effective in concert. It's hyper-funky, which is a little unexpected when you consider the rest of his catalog, but he manages it without hiccup, which isn't unexpected at all because, again, he is exceptionally talented. Now, if you'll help me up to my knees, please.
I: I don't understand why people don't like Gambino. I mean, I get that he (mistakenly) designated himself the non-posturing rap martyr even though that role had been filled by a handful of forward-thinking rappers years prior, but beyond that, what grievance is there?
Is it his walk? He does kind of walk like a dick onstage, but c'mon. Disregarding his skill set because he walks away from the end of each song like Barry Bonds walked away from the home plate after each time he'd crushed a ball into the ozone doesn't seem an equitable swap.
J: Just because they make clothes in your size doesn't mean that you should buy them. For real. If your kneecaps are less kneecaps and more knee divots, maybe leave that short neon skirt on the rack, is what I'm saying.
K: ?... Kangaroos like to jump?
L: Look, I know kangaroos have nothing to do with a Childish Gambino concert review, but whatever. There are only, like, eight words or some shit that start with K and none of them worked any better than "kangaroo." I just plugged that in. Sorry. You'll be fine. Fwd.
M: Mentioned his previously broken foot only once, Gambino did. (Yeah, that was Yoda mode for you. Sorry again. This alphabet thing is proving trickier than I had anticipated.)
N: "Nigga." Gambino says it. So do his fans. Again: Mostly white.
O: Oh, man, there was a guy at the show with a Mohawk. And not one of those pussy Hollister mohawks either. This was a legit, bright red, punk rock mohawk. It was remarkable, made even more so by the gummy-bear context a Childish Gambino concert carries. It was like seeing Bigfoot at Taco Cabana.
P: ""Pussy." Gambino says it. And it's surprising every single time, though probably not if you're not used to seeing him as Troy.
Q: Quote: "They're real black; like, won't show on your camera phone." --Gambino. CG has about 300 funny lines on his album. Get it. It's good.
R: Right around the 2:45 mark of "You See Me" (or, "That One Song About Asian Girls," as it's otherwise known) Gambino explodes, shooting into a triple-time flow. Fast rap is cool and easy to appreciate, but Gambino made it doubly so by playing the words to "You See Me" like a lyric video on YouTube on the light wall behind him as he rapped them.
It was easy to see what he was saying while he rapped at normal speed, but when he got to the turbo part the wall just turned into a blur of letters. Very neat moment. People loved it. (Jump to the 2:50 mark of this video to watch him do it at an Atlanta show.)
T: When you subtract the shininess of the jokes, there is a tremendous amount of insight in Gambino's lyrics. He is remarkably adept at dissecting the "Not Black Enough To Be 'Black' But Still Not White" conundrum. Ironically (or "appropriately"), it resonates most profoundly with white people.
Deen argued that he thought Gambino's honesty was whiny and cynical, pointing out that his sensitivity to his own race-related life issues gets upended by "all the corny shit he says about Asians and White girls." Padilla: "He raps like he has a grudge against Blacks [particularly Black women] and treats White women like fetish objects."
U: Ummm... ummm... ummm. Jesus Christ. How many letters are in the alphabet? 400? The alphabet should've ended at T. That note was the perfect stopping point. Damn you, whoever it was who made the alphabet.
V: V? What the fuck is a V? Is that even a real thing?
W: WHEN WILL THIS BE OVER? PLEASE.
X: ...fuck. Nothing. Suck it up. Two more to go.
Y: Yeesh. Eh... um, how about another quote? "You're not not racist because The Wire is in your Netflix queue." -- Gambino. Bam-O.
Z: Zhank zod zhis zs zver.
Personal Bias: Community is pretty excellent.
The Crowd: Seriously? Just re-read the review, please.
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Overheard in the Crowd: "Have you noticed that more and more black women are wearing their hair natural rather than straightening it? This point in time is probably has the most amount of Black women with natural hair since we were in Africa." -- My wife, fiddling with her own hair between her thumb and forefinger.
Random Notebook Dump: The A-B-C thing? Never doing that shit again.