Childish Gambino covers Complex‘s February/March issue and talks about HHM ‘s number 2 project of 2013. Read the cover story below. Written by Jacob Moore. Photography by Marcus Hyde.
IT’S A WEDNESDAY NIGHT IN L.A., AND DONALD GLOVER IS SITTING IN FRONT OF A COMPUTER IN A ROOM FULL OF FRIENDS, TAKING PUFFS FROM HIS PAX VAPORIZER.
He lives up in the hills of Silver Lake in Los Angeles. Walt Disney built his first big studio here in the 1920s and Forbes named it America’s best hipster neighborhood in 2012. Donald’s house—a modern structure far up on the winding roads—looks over the busy city, but from a calm and quiet vantage point.
It’s not a party per se; about a dozen people come and go throughout the night, even though reaching Donald’s house can be a struggle. Once they make it through the L.A. traffic and find a place to park on the street, guests have to walk up hundreds of steep stairs to the back entrance. By the time they make it to the door, they’re breathing heavily. Donald’s been wearing the same shirt all day and short shorts that he says sometimes get mistaken for boxers. He’s playing music ranging from Björk to Lil Durk through large speakers while a projector beams South Park onto a huge screen covering half the wall. He asks everyone to let him know if they’ve got any requests. An argument breaks out about who’s better, Maxwell or D’Angelo. Donald and company joke about girls and race and life.
With his friends around, he’s jovial and quick to break into laughter, but as the guests begin filing out around 9 o’clock, Donald gets quieter. It’s hard to tell if he’s relaxed, bored, or high off the vaporizer. He turns off the music and the conversation quickly leads back to something Donald talks about a lot: the Internet.
“Coding is a beautiful thing,” he says. “If there is a God, he definitely codes. There are fail-safes in the world. That’s code. I don’t want young black kids to aspire to be rappers or ballers. Even lawyers and doctors—those are service positions. I want them to be coders. They can make their own worlds then. They don’t need anybody else. I love hearing those kids’ ideas, all these kids on the Internet. The excitement of making something, that’s the spark of God.”
Donald Glover, 30, originally came to fame through comedy—first as a sitcom writer, then as a stand-up comedian, and finally as an actor, playing the fan favorite Troy on NBC’sCommunity. Since he was 20, he’s also rapped. When he makes music, he does it under the name Childish Gambino. He famously came up with the alias using an online Wu-Tang Clan name generator. Given his comedic background and goofy name, the reception to Childish Gambino’s music has often been: Is this guy kidding?
Late last year Gambino/Glover convinced a lot of people that he was dead serious about his music. In October he stopped by SiriusXM’s Sway in the Morning radio show in midtown Manhattan to premiere a track from his forthcoming album Because the Internet. He hadn’t planned to rap that day but Sway convinced him to spit a freestyle over Drake’s “Pound Cake” beat. Were they his best bars ever? That’s up for debate. But the performance became a tipping point in Gambino’s rap career. The “Pound Cake” freestyle set rap blogs afire, effectively changing the conversation about Childish Gambino. Since that day, nobody asks if the acclaimed comic’s rap career is some kind of joke.
The day before the get-together at his house, Donald sat on Arsenio Hall’s couch—wearing those same short shorts—and explained that rapping is only one of the things he can do. “Rappers don’t want to be rappers,” he said. “They’re usually artists who want to do a bunch of stuff. I don’t think any rapper wants to be just a rapper.” On that note,Because the Internet is more than just an audio experience. “I believe that music has just become advertising for a brand, and if that makes music less magical, then f*** you,” he explains. “I understand people being like, ‘I worked really hard on this song and I’d like some payment for it.’ It just needs to be done differently.”
In addition to music videos, Gambino’s album is accompanied by a 73-page script, which you can read at becausetheinter.net. The screenplay—which opens with a little boy coming home from camp (Camp happens to be the name of Gambino’s last album) and getting picked up in a limo by his father (who happens to be Rick Ross)—also contains soundless visuals designed to be viewed while listening to the album. The “prelude” to this script is a perplexingly artsy short film released on Donald’s YouTube channel called Clapping for the Wrong Reasons. It all ties together, presumably, but it’s up to the audience to figure out how.
Read the full story at: Complex