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CHILDISH GAMBINO 3.15.20 gets 8/10


Childish Gambino

3.15.20
mcDJ Recording/Liberator

8/10

It’s been four years since Childish Gambino’s last album, the much celebrated Awaken, My Love!” which featured the Grammy award winning track Redbone, and two years since the hard hitting political masterpiece This is America. Finally, he is back with a 12-track album, 3.15.20.

At a time when the world has come to a standstill during a global pandemic, and everyone is locked inside their houses, the album is a perfect opportunity for individuals craving mental stimulation to indulge their thoughts.

Named for the date it was first streamed on a website purposefully created called donaldgloverpresents.com, the album is a genre defying and mind-bending exploration of electronic beats, complex musical scores and lyricism. Only 12 hours after its upload to the website the album was pulled and given an official release date. Almost right on time, Gambino’s work is a response to the current state of affairs in the world. Instead of track titles, he has replaced them with the start times of the songs themselves, suggesting rather than a separated collection of songs the album is a continuous flow of composition. Only two song titles remain on tracks 2 and 3: Algorhythm and Time – the latter being the overriding theme of the album.

Time is a central focus on 3.15.20, with an emphasis on us running out of it. On 42.26, the renamed 2018 hit Feels like Summer, Gambino sings: “Every day gets hotter than the one before/ Running out of water, it’s about to go down/ Air that kill the bees that we depend upon/ Birds were made for singing, wakin’ up to no sound/ No sound”. A sense of urgency in the lyrics evokes thoughts of an impending environmental catastrophe.

Other themes the album explores are the ongoing global crisis, inequality and racism in America and the importance of self-love. On 32.22, the most aggressive track on the album and originally entitled Warlords, there are obvious influences and parallels between the track and the 2013 album Yeezus by Kanye West. The heavy instrumentals and dark imagery can be translated into the sense of panic the world is currently in.

On Time, Ariana Grande assists with establishing the dream-like vibe, yet in classic Gambino form the musical composition of the track subdues the visceral importance of the lyrics: “seven billion people, tryna free themselves” and “but one thing’s for certain baby, we’re running out of time.” Once again he alludes to the temporal nature of human experience.

Rapper 21 Savage teams up with Gambino on 12.38 and addresses racial prejudice: “The police keep harassin’, ’cause I’m rich and I’m black/ They mad ’cause I made myself a boss without crack.” A common theme in hip hop music, 21 Savage collars the assumption of illegal success in American culture for an African American man.

On 47.48 the final moments of the song are Glover talking to his son, about who he loves and the need to love yourself. Almost a fade out message for the whole album, Gambino is also promoting messages of self-love and self-appreciation and the significance of it in society today.

The only debatable restriction the album faces for not receiving top marks is the absence of a standout single. We had Redbone on “Awaken, My Love!” and V. 3005 on because the internet, songs people associate with each album. The closest thing to it is 42.26 (aka Feels Like Summer) – a 2018 single. However, the counter argument is a stand-alone hit would reduce the fluidity and mystery of the album, and this perhaps is why Gambino chose not to include This is America.

With complex musical layering, intelligent and contemporary lyricism and a mysterious tangibility to the work, 3.15.20 is the perfect lockdown album, a bell tolling in sinister unison with current global events. Almost as if Childish Gambino knew what was to come, we can learn lessons and continue to explore its hidden meanings.

BENEDICT SHIRLEY

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