05 October 2014

REVIEW: Childish Gambino - STN MTN / Kauai

Ten months after his 2nd studio album Because the Internet dropped to mixed reviews (peep what BITM had to say here), Childish Gambino returns to his mixtape / EP game with STN MTN / Kauai.  It's arguable that Gambino's best music is from his mixtape and EP catalog. Due to his fearless approach to music, the creative barriers are torn down when he is in this space. As a result, this project naturally shines brighter than the likes of his most recent studio album. He calls this the world's first concept mixtape, with the first half, STN MTN, serving as a Gangsta Grillz mixtape full of samples and beats from the goldern era of southern hip-hop, and the second half, "Kauai," being a true Childish Gambino EP in the same lane as his 2011 project EP. STN MTN is a true mixtape that will hop through several beats within a single track with Gambino adjusting his flow to what you typically hear on the radio. Fans need not worry though, because it all somehow works. All facets of the south are covered from Wayne and Future to Ludacris and Usher. He isn't simply spitting over their beats though, he is actually telling a story throughout the mixtape. STN MTN serves as a dream that is being realized as you listen through its 11 tracks. On the intro, he runs off his wish list if he was a chart-topping Atlanta artist during the height of ATL's relevance, and he spends the entire tape illustrating this dream as if it were reality. Truly an original concept once you understand where he is going with it.

If STN MTN is a dream, then Gambino wakes up on Kauai, returning to the sound we have grown to love from him. The ethereal intro "Sober" may be one of the strongest songs he has ever made. As far as rapper ternt sangas go, Childish Gambino is one of very few who sound amazing in both fields. The majority of Kauai is so relaxing it may send you to another planet. Long time Gambino fans will be excited to know that he sneaks in a track from his Sick Boi days with the beat from "Love is Crazy" returning on the song "Retro," including the hook (sans auto-tune). Even Jaden Smith makes a cameo on the first half of "Late Night in Kauai," with a spoken word piece that fits perfectly. All of the tracks on the Kauai side just flat-out work. It's a shame that it's only an EP though, as these 7 tracks are among Childish Gambino's best work in years. Having a dream about being in his hometown of Stone Mountain, Georgia, and then waking up in Kauai, Hawaii and having the mixtape flow into the EP portion is borderline genius. Also the music from each side fits both areas and is such a clever and creative concept that will hopefully help expand other artist's ideas when it comes to being original in a game that is so oversaturated with people trying to sound the same. And to top it all off, all of the money made from "Kauai" sales will go toward keeping Kauai clean. It would be nice to see music this great from Childish Gambino whenever his next studio album drops.

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