Camp review: ‘Summer in November’
I’ve been telling people for years that Childish Gambino’s rise to prominence is inevitable. No rapper with this much charisma, wit, and honesty in his lyrics could stay underground for very long. Donald Glover constantly acknowledges how different he is when compared to other rappers in his music, and he is fully aware that this fact may turn off those listening to his songs for the first time, but he simply doesn’t care. This bravado goes a long way in helping make his first album released through a label a success.
It’s difficult to say whether Camp is better than the last Glover project (untitled EP) or if it’s just on the same level. It’s certainly much better than 2008’s Sick Boi and 2009’s Poindexter, and at least slightly better than 2010’s Culdesac, but that’s to be expected because of his growth as an artist. Although Camp is a shorter album than the aforementioned Culdesac, it feels like a more complete effort from Glover. If you listen to both back-to-back, you can tell that even though he was amazingly honest on his last album, Glover finds a way to top himself with his latest effort. Nothing is off limits: he sincerely raps about family problems, lost loves, and racial struggles more than he ever has before, and all of these things help aid the album in “telling a story,” something that Glover said he wanted to accomplish from track to track.
Of course, accompanying this honesty is confident, self-assured Childish Gambino. The jokes and punchlines shine bright throughout Camp, especially on the first single off the album, ‘Bonfire,’ and on ‘You See Me,’ which has managed to quickly become a fan favorite just through his live performances of the song. Glover is simply one of the wittiest rappers out there, and he shows off his ability to make metaphors no other artist could think of quite well. Even the sadder songs on Camp have moments of sarcasm or wit that prove this sentiment.
Ultimately, Camp really shines because it lets Glover do his thing without the distractions of any featured artists. Although his previous albums have enjoyed some pretty fantastic features (Chaz Kangas, DC Pierson), I think Glover realized after he released Poindexter that having other artists on his songs really just distracted from what was supposed to be the main attraction.
The replay value of Camp is off the charts. Although some songs on the album aren’t as strong as the others (‘Outside’ and ‘Kids’ come to mind), overall, the rest of the outstanding songs do more than enough to keep you coming back for more again and again. These songs easily become part of Childish Gambino’s best work as a rapper, joining classics from previous albums like ‘Get Like Me’ and ‘Put It In My Video.’
Your favorite tracks will depend on what you like most about Childish Gambino. If you like his bravado and his in-your-face style of rapping the most, you’ll enjoy tracks like ‘Backpackers’ or ‘You See Me’ more than others. If you like insecure, emotional Gambino, you’ll prefer ‘L.E.S.’ or ‘Hold You Down’. But the best part about this album, and Childish Gambino as a whole, is that Camp is diverse enough to give us both of these options. The last track on the album is 3 minutes of witty, cocky Donald and 4 minutes of self-aware, awkward Donald all in one. How many other artists can pull off both of these styles with the sincerity that CG offers?
In a year where many highly anticipated hip-hop albums were good, not great (Tyler, the Creator’s Goblin), decent (Big Sean’s Finally Famous), or mediocre-at-best (Lil’ Wayne’s Tha Carter IV), it’s refreshing to expect something great and actually receive exactly that. Camp absolutely does not disappoint, and even fans that can be highly critical of CG will be pleased.
Only two more weeks until the album hits stores. Happy Camping.
Notable tracks: Fire Fly, Bonfire, Backpackers, You See Me, That Power