Donald Glover played us. Donald Glover made a 2 year “disappearance” from the limelight seem like forever to the most impatient fan base of all time: Hip-Hop fans. Donald Glover made us question what we thought was wrong with a person we’ve never met before. Donald Glover was working on a fantastic T.V. show and a career shifting album while we were analyzing his Instagram posts and Hot 97 freestyle. Donald Glover played us.
Awaken, My Love! Is Glover’s 3rd major studio effort, and its charm comes with the fact that it doesn’t give a shit about trying at all. This is not an album that’s trying hard by any means to prove its worth, it knows where it stands when it comes to funk revival. Half of the album sounds like it’s being produced by the greatest karaoke band this generation has ever seen. Orchestration and ideas are well thought out and prevalent here, though. “Me And Your Mama” is an incredible intro track. The instrumentation is huge and Glover’s vocals show maturity in the way he now views singing. A majority of this album sees no signs of untouched vocals. Voice manipulations and/or a hybrid of screaming/wailing take over 90% of the project, there’s no rap on here.
Glover’s drastic transition into another genre shouldn’t be so surprising, artists do it all the time, but the general lack of any true instrumental and stylistic boat-jumping in hip hop makes Awaken, My Love! so commendable. In a climate where The Weeknd is too afraid to go full krautrock-nu disco and Travis Scott is hesitant to drop the most generic aspects of Atlanta Trap and release a truly consistent art-rap project, Glover jumps ship effortlessly.
The instrumentation, with help from long time producer Ludwig Göransson, follows a trend of funk revival in hip-hop and does it well. This is mainly due to the fact that the influences are clear, yet there is a strong sense of respect for its influences. The Funkadelic references will come naturally when Awaken is mentioned; and it’s clear Glover, who’s shared his love for the band on his Amoeba “What’s in My Bag?” episode, knew that. Still, songs like “California” show that the era behind Funkadelic is a key factor in Awaken as well. His vocals are horrid, but in the best way possible. It’s like the Legendary Stardust Cowboy did funk.
Awaken, My Love! above all, stands as a testament to Glover’s newfound fatherhood. The closing track “Stand Tall,” is a clear message to his child. “Keep all your dreams, keep standing tall/If you are strong you cannot fall.” The instrumental changes about 3-4 times in this track, and the first two lines of the hook are repeated as the song and album finish abruptly. This is also the only song on the album where Glover has no effect on his vocal and sings clearly for a majority.
Awaken, My Love! isn’t challenging, and it’s not trying to be something it’s not. To call it a remake of Funkadelic is a stretch, because Glover’s ideas and goals are present on this album, especially with the lyricism. It’s, simply put: fun, which is something that hasn’t been synonymous with Glover for a while. The truth is, no one really knows/should know whether Donald Glover is truly or ever was fine, but the music is as colorful as it’s ever been, and that has to mean something.
You can stream Gambino’s funky new project below on Spotify: