Childish Gambino decided to drop a surprise album on us amid this terrorizing virus spreading. The artist, comedian, actor, and superstar is known as a jack of all trades, but he has not quite mastered any of them yet. There is no denying he has talent. I liked him as an actor and comedian, long before I even knew he was a rapper. And yes, I think he has talent on the mic too. I just never found his music to be so good that we have to check for his every move. I’d be lying if the curiosity wasn’t creeping up on me though, especially since he didn’t place it on streaming platforms until a week later (Maybe that’s from being inside all day, every day now). It has been four years since his last album, so I was curious about what kind of sound he would go for? If Awaken My Love was any indicator, he has moved away from hip-hop.
The new album, 3.15.2020, is a mixture of varying styles. It sounds like it’s trying to be Yeezus at times, Untitled Unmastered at others, with some of the fake-wokeness of a Joyner Lucas project mixed in. This is a mess in terms of what he’s trying to say, his vocal delivery, and even some of the production. Childish is trying to be experimental but he comes off as a copy-cat that stretches tracks out for far too long. “0.00” is by far one of the worst introductions I’ve heard in quite some time. It’s three minutes of Childish repeating “we are” over a loopy beat. Penn State would be proud of this song.
This album could’ve gone in the right direction with songs like “Algorhythm” which has a very catchy beat. Although it feels like a Yeezus throwaway, Childish’s hook does it justice. “Time” is a cool track too, something you’d bump during the summer. I didn’t appreciate whoever made Ariana Grande sound so robotic on a verse she could’ve killed regularly though. “12.38” is also a very smooth rap track, where Childish experiments with different vocal inflections. He carries it on for too long though, as if he is taking a stroll around Atlanta just freestyling. Luckily, 21 Savage comes in at the end to save the track from being repetitive.
The quality of the album after this is just down-right sad though. “19.10” is an electro-pop track where you can barely hear Childish because of how distorted his voice is. “24.19” is eight minutes long, EIGHT! The last two minutes of the track are absolute filler. “32.22” had to be stolen from Kanye West in 2013 because what in God’s name is this ridiculous futuristic sound? I just imagine “35.31” being background music for “Dora the Explorer.” Childish goes on for two more songs of pure nonsense. He doesn’t do anything that his peers haven’t done 20-times better already.
The album ends with the pretty solid “47.48” where he talks about violence in this time over a glittery sound. The song ends with Childish talking to his child, which sorry, I’m a sucker for a kid sounding cute as hell. “53.49” wraps things up sounding aggressive and almost celebrating life at this present moment. It is easily my favorite track, so at least it ends on a strong note.
So what is this thing? I described it as a “thing” before for a reason: I truly don’t know what Childish was going for here. Is this an album for him? Is there something more coming from this? Even though I’m not a huge fan of his music, his ability to make something sound whole is usually on point. This doesn’t sound fully fleshed out. 3.15.2020 is a bunch of sounds thrown together in hope’s that some of it will stick with the listeners. What was his goal here? Because if this is the final product, he fell well short of it. It’s messy, and although some of the production is experimental, I’m not sure it even comes close to saving what Childish did here.