First Listen #25: Childish Gambino’s ‘”Awaken, My Love!”‘

I’ve already talked, at length lol, about how much I love Donald Glover (see here and here). I just…HIS MIND!!!!! I just can’t get over the level of creativity that this man is at. Like, he wakes up everyday and looks at Donald Glover in the mirror. And that’s just who he is!!!!! Like, THATS CRAZY. He just exists in real life lol. I don’t know, Because the Internet (2013) has really been hitting lately, so I just am really on my #donaldgloverstanaccount vibes right now. Let’s get on to “Awaken, My Love!” (2016) and why it’s taken me so long to listen to it.

Photo Credit:

2016: “Awaken, My Love!”

(via Genius)

I hate that my first interaction with this project was one of my friends telling me that she didn’t like it that much. She was a really big fan of Childish Gambino (read: Childish Gambino when he raps) but didn’t really like “Awaken, My Love!” because it “sounded so different.” Come to find out, it just sounded like a funk album and he wasn’t rapping on there lol. But hearing her opinion – before I got a chance to listen to the project – made me a little bit apprehensive about listening to it. I did give it a chance though, but at that point, I was only able to make it through the first couple of songs plus “Redbone.” I don’t remember not liking it, but I do think some of the bad vibes that were passed along to me about the project from my friend impacted how I listened to it. So that’s partly why I wait so long to listen to projects now, unless I’ve listened to them before they’ve been tainted by other people’s opinions.

Can’t stand it, backhanded

They wanna see us falling apart

You know that I love you

So let me into you

Childish Gambino, “Me and Your Momma”

And I think that waiting so long before listening to it again was the right call. Donald really gave us something special with this project. I believe I talked before – during the First Listen for 3.15.20 (2020) (lol what is time????) – that Bino has a way with taking inspiration from others and making it his own. There’s a song on that project called “Time” that sounds very 90s Prince to me, which I loved. And I think “Awaken, My Love!” takes that same framework, but applies it to 70s funk. And Donald does it justice. It’s really such a beautiful beautiful display of Blackness and musicality.

Which, like I’ve mentioned before with Tyler, is such a wonderful thing to see Donald embrace. I feel like Childish Gambino – before the release of this project – always existed in this very race neutral space. His music didn’t seem to be for anyone other than people who were loners and outsiders, and those come in various shades. But people liked what he was saying because he was young, Black, and seemed to have zero filter. And it’s not that music that Black people make necessarily needs to be about (or a callback to) Black things (I have my own opinions on that), but there is something incredible about hearing an artist – especially one like Bino – give us a moment of him digging into Black American music more. The result of that is this masterpiece of an album. 2016 seems to have been that year where Donald was really out here creating things for Black folks (Atlanta premiered that year as well), and I LOVE that.

Keep all your dreams, keep standing tall

If you are strong, you cannot fall

There is a voice inside us all

So smile when you can, when you can

Childish Gambino, “Stand Tall”

The production on this project is great, which is to be expected from a Bino project; him and Ludwig are really just a powerhouse of creativity. There are also some AMAZING singers backing Donald on this project. JD McCrary does a phenomenal job on “Terrified” – APPARENTLY HE WAS 9 YEARS OLD WHEN THIS SONG WAS RECORDED. There are also some female vocalists – who are unnamed on the credits – who sound so GOOD on songs like “Me and Your Momma.” Ooh, and the musicians on this????? They bring so much emotion and power on this project! The wailing guitars, the funky bass, the drums driving the pulse *chef’s kiss*. I love every moment on this project. “Stand Tall,” “Me and Your Momma,” “Redbone,” “Terrified, “Have Some Love,” and “Baby Boy” have my favorite moments, though. I did tear up while listening to “Stand Tall,” so that might be my favorite on the project. Like, he really made that song. My ears had the chance to listen to THAT.

I have a TAKE coming up on Wednesday where I talk a bit about how my favorite artists and rappers are getting older, and I think this project is the perfect example of how that “getting older” affects them creatively. Parenthood, long term commitments to those we love, reminiscing on life’s beautiful moments, seeing ourselves in our parent’s shoes. All of that is on this project in ways that we hadn’t heard from Donald before. It’s really just incredible. I’m so happy he was moved to make “Awaken, My Love!”

I’m now about to spend $70 to buy the deluxe version of this project, so my record collection can be blessed, I’ll never have to be without this project again, and I can have another record to cry to lol. Don’t let other people influence your taste in music before you listen to something. I’ve been depriving myself of this GEM for almost 4 years, and I’ll never recover.

Overall Project Rating

Featured Image Credit:

(listen to “Awaken, My Love!” on spotify by clicking the image below)

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