Mixtape Review: Royalty

childish_gambino_royalty-front-large-1Royalty (2012)
Childish Gambino

Album Rating: 3/5
Album Length: Too Long
Album Feel: No

Donald Glover, the Community star, turned stand-up comedian, turned Internet rapper Childish Gambino, has followed up his debut album Camp with a new mixtape, Royalty. The mixtape shows that Gambino’s a hipster nerd with the swag of a street thug.  His development as a producer is really evident in his new material, as he continues to refine his work by mixing orchestral elements with more radio friendly sounds.  It’s refreshing to find a hip-hop producer who doesn’t rely too heavily on sampling.  The track list is a near perfect balance of catchy pop songs, raw hip-hop and ballads, where Gambino proves that he’s just as good, if not better than all of the “Drakes” in the world today.

One of the mixtape’s highlights is “R.I.P.,” an electronically driven track that samples the theme song from the acclaimed 2011 film Drive and features Bun B on the opening verse.  Other pioneers of the genre, Wu-Tang Clan members RZA and Ghostface Killa, also make guest appearances within the mixtape, proving that some of rap’s elite have accepted Gambino as an artist.  Guest artists are present throughout the mixtape and add another dimension to Gambino’s music, who’s preferred to work alone in the past.

While on Camp Gambino altered his vocals from one song to the other; on Royalty he has found a comfortable and consistent flow equipped with an almost equally clever vocabulary.  His flow exudes confidence on the mixtape’s most serious track “Black Faces,” which touches on the economic crisis, racism, and how it feels to be a successful African American.  However, on other tracks the self-proclaimed “Metaphor Mozart” loses some of the conscious realism that accompanied a lot of his colorful imagery of the past.  Instead of filling his tracks with autobiographical accounts, he chooses to expand on his assault against Internet haters and sell-out rappers.  Unfortunately by ignoring his more personal side on tracks like “Real Estate” and focusing on hip-hip clichés like his successes, wealth, and flirtations with woman and drugs, he becomes somewhat of a hypocrite.  But even with the occasional decline in lyrical content, the work as a whole is a great step towards true rap legitimacy.  Donald Glover isn’t just some comedian who’s trying out the rap game; he’s part of it.

  • Key Tracks: “R.I.P.”, “Black Faces”, “One Up”
  • Worst Tracks: “Arrangement”

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