It would be interesting to know what Paper Boi would make of Awaken, My Love!. Chances are there'd be a lot of laughs and snorts. The character and rapping anti-hero from Donald 'Childish Gambino' Glover's breakout TV hit series Atlanta leans towards a much different kind of hip-hop than that favoured here.
That reaction wouldn’t bother Glover too unduly. As those who followed his prolific output over his career to date, we’re dealing with a dude with oddball but hugely effective smarts and suss. An actor, writer, director, comedian and movie star (he’s due to play the role of Lando Calrissian in the forthcoming Han Solo Star Wars film), Glover has become adept at covering many bases.
Awaken, My Love! adds another destination to his creative map. Previous albums Because the Internet and Camp had Glover facing down the usual macho tropes around hip-hop like homophobia and misogyny in favour of rhymes pockmocked with off-kilter humour which ran from dark and abrasive to broody and melancholic.
Those moodboards are still in use here, but the musical templates are now deeper and wider in tone. Glover has talked up a fondness for George Clinton and the Isley Brothers prior to the release of the album and a similar sonic squall comes to the fore again and again.
Me and Your Mama is a bold, striking, sprawling rush of psychy guitars and bright splashes of colour, all the better for Glover to conjure up some high-level angst with. Redbone is similarly togged out, a soulful strop which is sleek and slinky as Glover tries some R&B shapes for size before the track heads for the hills.
Both Zombies and Boogieman are also tracks which demonstrate that Glover has found much to inspire him by going back to the source of all that funk in the first place. Next time, he might bring Paper Boi with him for the ride.