Childish Gambino Made a C+ Funkadelic Album

“Awaken, My Love!” is a lesser version of Funkadelic’s “Maggot Brain” and now I’m triggered.

I’ve never listened to Childish Gambino. I think Donald Glover is too good at comedy writing to be a rapper. It’s the same reason I wouldn’t watch a sitcom written by any rapper. I succumbed to the peer pressure this time, I downloaded “Awaken, My Love!” and I listened to it, in full, thrice.

There are some nice moments on the album ‘Me and Your Mama’ is ok, but it’s essentially this Bad Rabbits song from 2013.

The other standout tracks are ‘Have Some Love’ and ‘Boogieman’ and this is where the triggering comes in. These two tracks are egregiously referential to Funkadelic’s 1971 LP but he doesn’t mention the reference. There are no samples, no credits – just mimicry. Gambino is recycling the same themes, instrumentation, vocals, and effects but he misses the mark. “Maggot Brain” is fun, weird, noisy, original – “Awaken” is stale.

Let’s take a look at the songwriting in each. Here’s the first verse on ‘Have Some Love’:

You got the power, you got the power
Of every hour, of every hour
I come to getcha and I know where you are
I come to getcha and I know where you are
It’s getting hot, it’s like a sauna
Then every night, in Arizona
They come to getcha when they grope in your mind
They think you creepy, getting down in your mind
Come to getcha, come to getcha
It doesn’t matter, you making magic
I got the business to make a mind
I got the business to make a mind
And if you feel it, if you feel in your toes
And you act nothing like nobody knows
But if you want it, you got to want it

Here’s ‘Can You Get To That,’ the obvious inspiration for Glover’s track:

I once had a life, or rather, life had me
I was one among many or at least I seemed to be
Well, I read an old quotation in a book just yesterday
Said “Gonna reap just what you sow
The debts you make you have to pay.”
Can you get to that?

The verse on the latter track is much less redundant and much more substantial. Writing should be about content not word count, and if you can communicate a dense message in a short passage you’re a better writer. Funkadelic’s verse is more poetic, more rhythmic – Glover is an excellent writer, and we should expect more from him.

On to ‘Boogieman.’ It’s ‘Hit It And Quit It’ down to the melody, don’t @ me.



So what? Isn’t all music cyclical, isn’t it all recycled? Yep. It is. The frustration comes when hypebeasts talk about the “production” on the Gambino stuff like its revolutionary when it isn’t. (See comment thread here).

Glover’s material creates the sound and illusion of a funk rock masterpiece without any of the emotion or rebellion that a funk rock masterpiece requires. The project approaches the source material too literally without offering credit to the originators of the sound via samples or licensing.

People should seek out and discover the inspiration behind this sound, rather than credit a Swedish composer for creating it. George Clinton, Bootsy Collins, Parliament, Parliament Funkadelic, George Clinton and the Parliament Funkadelic; these sister groups are the incestuous community that pioneered this sound. There has been an entire canon of this music already out in the world for over 4 decades and it’s wonderful that we’re getting back to it, but only if the sources are cited and the consumers are encouraged to explore the origins.

Update: Redbone is ‘The Look of Love’ by Isaac Hayes. Thanks Matt.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s