The Infinite Sides of Donald Glover

Tuesday, June 08

By Rocio Mourelos

Can someone be an actor, singer, dancer, comedian, director, and producer, all at the same time and succeed in all of them? Surprisingly, yes. There’s no one in the industry that can be as recognized as Donald Glover is nowadays. I believe he’s now one of the most successful men in the industry and has every weapon to keep on astonishing us with every project he commands.

Glover started as a screenwriter for Tina Fey’s 30 Rock and soon won an award for his job. By this time he was also part of a stand-up group and recorded his individual Comedy Central special in 2010. Meanwhile, he was also starring as Troy Barnes, a former high school soccer star, in Community (this, in fact, is the first side of Donald Glover I’ve ever met). The show was really successful and his character greatly loved and appreciated by the fans. Anyways, he left before the show finale, as, while Donald Glover’s actor, screenwriter, and comedian versions succeeded, Childish Gambino was born. Glover started dropping independent albums under the name of his alter ego, captivating the attention of rap fans.

By the time he decided he wanted to be a rapper too and created his alternate identity, Glover was already established as a celebrity. He entered the world of rap with rhymes full of allusions to his nerd condition, showing himself as a fragile, vulnerable, strange subject, the opposite of the boastful alpha-male stereotype that dominates the gender, and by extension, the culture of African-descendants in the United States.

Between 2011 and 2014 Gambino released and toured his first and second album, Camp and Because the Internet. After this musical peak, Donald Glover decided to work on his new project: Atlanta. FX’s dramatic comedy stars the actor in one of the main roles, and he also directed and produced many episodes. Atlanta is nowadays one of the best TV shows ever created. It is not a sitcom, but intelligent and sophisticated humor, capable of changing tune with great speed and surprise the public. The episodes seem to be about nothing in particular, but they say a lot about human behavior and society; and Glover created this universe himself.

After making his place in the alternative rap scene, rapping about his nerdy status and his obsession with Asian girls, Childish Gambino released a new album in 2016, his masterpiece: Awaken, My Love!. An ambitious album of psychedelic soul where there is not a single rhymed verse in rap format. And with that album, atypical even for a very atypical rapper, he finally won the acceptance of the hip-hop scene and his hit "Redbone" was the first to enter American rap radios. And there, while he dispatched a whole second season of Atlanta and acted in Star Wars and the remake of The Lion King, from one day to the next, and without prior notice, he gave us this great video, accompanying a rap song where it abounds in an unexpected use of street slang, references to weapons and drug trafficking and samples of the voices of many contemporary rappers with a rather gangster profile, juxtaposed with gospel: "This Is America" was born.

"This Is America" masterfully portrays the current state of its country, the obsessive relationship with firearms, and the resulting crossroads between that and historical racial segregation. It is a work of art, which could well be redefining what it is to be African-American in the 21st century. The music video has now 778 million views, and the song is today an anthem for the Black Lives Matter movement, in which Glover participates as an activist.

Undoubtfully, Donald Glover is the face of a new generation, hungry for freedom and justice. Artists like Gambino are the ones who we should let our youth look up and listen to, as he is an inspiration for the upcoming generations.

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