Yes!! Tonedeth is back up and SPRINTING for the new year.

Okay.. maybe warming up with a slow jog. I’m a bit out of shape here.

Let’s start this off with a review of Childish Gambino’s Because the Internet, one of the several albums that dropped last year to make me scratch my head and listen to over and over again. To be honest this is one hell of a release, not simply for the musical content but because it was tagged along with a 73 page screenplay and a 20 minute short film. The three are only vaguely related, so you could count them as three separate works.

Donald Glover is slowly but effectively becoming a household name. The triple threat artist already has acting and directing firmly under his belt with significant work credits from NBC. In interviews he claims that this album, Because the Internet, was his most “honest work to date”.

If it is honest then either this guy is either very depressed or desperately attempting to divorce from his “funny guy” image. Which is never a bad thing but it seems that he has instead created a doppelganger, his antinomic twin. Donald Glover is the comedian and the clown. Childish – ironically –  appears to be the mature one, creatively distraught with where his life choices have brought him.

“I mean where’s the line between Donnie G and Gambino” – “III. Life: The Biggest Troll”

One of the more interesting aspect of the album is that you can witness the dichotomy of the two characters in the word play. In between the lines of self deprivation and the cliché bragging about his cash flow (all too common in this genre) there is a divided man unsure of his identity.  His modesty can come off authentically but it is piled under a thick bite of unabashed confidence.

Because the Internet is certainly a leaping departure from his last album Camp which had more of the generic production and content of a mainstream rap album with the incessantly catchy hooks and ridiculous lyrical work with the occasional reference to life as a 90’s kid. This guy sure knows his market..

“Camp was an album for 13-year-olds, kind of written by a 13-year-old — it was very angsty and silly, but this album I think is just about my time at NYU more. It’s more grown-up, but a lot of things on the album happened to me this past year. I don’t know if I’m more mature on this album but I definitely know more about music.”

I can see that but I don’t necessarily agree. He makes many more references to his time at NYU in Camp. Because the Internet sounds like it takes place way beyond that. More referring to his celebrity status and growing as an adult, now 30 years old.

As far as musically, he has matured and incorporates original sounding and ear grabbing melodies to this album making it stand out from his previous releases.

This newest work was recorded at NBA star Chris Bosh’s mansion which Glover dubbed “The temple” and enforced a strict no shoes rule. Definitely wouldn’t want to do anything to damage that guy’s house.

“Who tracked mud in MY kitchen!?”

The tyranny continued banning “tweeting and instagramming” and a implementing a harsh work day starting at 10am.

Ahh.. the weary life of a recording artist…

 Because the Internet is Gambino’s second album on Glassnote Records, and Camp was the label’s first hip-hop release ever. Unfortunately the label doesn’t quite consider him a “major” artist. It’s hard out there for any rapper whose name doesn’t end with “West” or “Z”… The label told him he would have to wait to release the album in 2014 despite its completion in early October. He had other plans.

“If it wasn’t gonna be released then, I was gonna release it myself. What’s the point of waiting? I feel like that’s the only time people would be able to listen to it. December is the perfect time. Albums made a really big impact on me when I was alone and everything was quiet, and I know that’s when students go home, that’s when everything is closed, so it’s a good time to just listen to something and be yourself.”

Glover got the idea for the cryptic but brilliant album name from conversations he had with friend and alternative indie artist, Beck.

“Everyone keeps saying by this or that year, Mandarin or Spanish will be the most dominant language, but the internet is already a language we are all connected to… But the thing is, there are no rules, which is also the awesome thing.”



Internet as a language is not as inane of an idea as it may sound. In the screenplay he constantly uses Emojis to describe an action, expression, or emotion as if it were common place. An editor wouldn’t allow it but the majority of the market who will buy his album will not only understand it completely, but embrace it.

It seems he’s eyeing the role to be the voice of the viral generation, the globalized media junkies. He relates to them with his poignant media references to “Rugrats”, “Fresh Prince of Bel Air”, and “Double Dare”, all mega-popular shows that millennials have grown up with. But with so many references and metaphors a purpose gets lost. He jumps between the gangster and the clever less than seamlessly.

Maybe it’s me but the lyrics on this album rarely make sense. They jump topics and go in an out of focus so quickly it just seems he’s making observations on events happening in his brain. Maybe it’s intentional and he wants to appear obscure but it comes off as random.

The content ranges from the gangster rap dribble:

“Instagram my stack load
Hashtag my day wear and your girl drank my day care.
I’m born rich, life ain’t fair.
Ain’t nobody sicker and my Fisker ‘vroom vroom’, ho”

To esoteric thoughts and pop culture references:

“Year off, got no rules, tripping off of them toadstools.
More green than my Whole Foods
and I’m too fly, Jeff Goldblum.
Got a glass house in the Palisades, that a.k.a.
White hood, white hood, Oh K K K”

both are from the track, “IV. Sweatpants”

Sometimes they flow musically and even poetically but many just sound like extemporaneous rants. Either he’s ran out of things to say or his life is so foreign and weird that we have nothing else to believe?

The first single “V. 3005” released back in October of 2013 is currently #44 on the top 100 Billboard chart. The music video is certainly a strange one and is meant to give the impression of intense loneliness. The entire thing is him sitting stone faced on a ferris wheel with a large stuffed bear. Complete departure from his silly character, Troy from “Community” or his work with his old comedy troupe Derrick Comedy.

This track is the least interesting on the album. The instrumental is painfully simple and his flow seems forced. The intention was clearly to be the single track, the one that you assume the rest of the album will sound the same to get you to listen to it. It’s similar to his song “Heartbeat” off of Camp. Catchy sung hook with a thick electro-pop background. “3005” also appears to be about love gone wrong but he claims it’s about being alone, not necessarily from a loved one.

What struck me instantly about this album and made me want to write a lengthy review on it is that it reminds me of a metal production rather than a new hip-hop record. It’s very dark, not so much in content, but musically.

The first song, “I. Crawl”, starts with samples of a screaming and a heavy industrial sounding background. I could easily imagine a guttural growl come in with the drop at about the 30 second mark. “Bet you crawl. All alone”.

New rap-metal album?

donald glover screaming

The bassline for the verse of “II. No Exit” sounds like something straight out of a Lamb of God. There are several more parts of the album that could easily be implanted into a metal song because of their dark anxious tone like the end of “II. Shadows”.

He’s kind of proving his point with Because the Internet. The world is getting smaller, there are less visible boundaries and Childish Gambino intends to blur the lines between rap, pop, and rock.

Here at Tonedeth we focus on the unique and commend the strange. You think we’d review any ol’ album?

Most of the tracks start off unassuming enough but many end with left turns or simply switch genres. On “I. The Worst Guys” featuring Chance the Rapper has a Santana-esque guitar solo thrown in to keep the flow of the song going. And “II. Worldstar” winds down with a laid-back electronic jazz ensemble complete with a baritone sax solo.

If the instrumental tracks he raps over weren’t interesting enough the fact that he has four mostly instrumental and transitional tracks with little to no rapping shows he has intentions of making an album not a mix-tape.

Because the Internet is exceptional in many respects. He breaks boundaries musically and addresses the social media revolution and how it has affected him professionally and personally. Childish Gambino is a very emotionally divided man. Not only must he cope with this new persona he’s created that he wishes to shed but he’s clearly unhappy with this life and mocks it at every turn. This channeled into the creative can leave people with a strong taste in their mouth that may or may not be bearable.

I give this album:

3 / 5

It’s intriguing enough that fans of rap, pop, or rock can find something to latch on to. It’s musically dynamic and intense but his lyrical structure is a little predictable and needlessly verbose for the sake of flow. I liked Camp and enjoyed pulling back the layers on this piece but it’s lacking some substance. Give it a listen, chew it over, and take a look-see. In that order. It’s worth it.

Can’t get enough of the multi-talented Donald Glover?
Go check out the show Community. It’s running on it’s 5th season but it seems Glover’s character Troy Barnes becomes a part-time role only appearing in five out of the thirteen episodes planned for the season. This will be the second main character to leave the show after Chevy Chase as Pierce Hawthorne.

In a series of personal and revealing photos uploaded to instagram Donald Glover sheds light on his career choices as of late.

“I didn’t leave Community to rap. I don’t wanna rap. I wanted to be on my own.”

Will this be Gambino’s last album and Glover’s kick-start to a more serious acting career?

At the moment he is also gearing up for his musically themed show to be aired on FX sometime this year that he will write and direct. He claims his move to the station was for their willingness to work around his tight touring schedule.

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  1. […] Review: Childish Gambino – Because The Internet […]

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