On December 2nd, 2016, Childish Gambino made waves with his ambitious new release, Awaken, My Love!. In the spirit of ditching his past as a dorky, lovable character on Community for a rough, yet lovable character on his hit new FX series, Atlanta. Gambino opted to create a gorgeous ode to funk. Gambino, whose birth name is Donald Glover, has left critics torn with his witty punchlines on his debut album, Camp, to his overly-ambitious concept album, Because the Internet. Even with his 2014 mixtape STN MTN/Kauai, Gambino was unable to penetrate further than the standard pop rap he has grown to find comfort in. However, his innovative concepts were often overlooked whether he was criticizing the monstrosity known as the internet or expressing his dreams of running Atlanta.
As his career advanced, we saw the man who went from the nerdy angst of Camp to the luscious pride of Awaken! Gambino stepped outside of the comfortable conventions of current hip-hop by exploring love and the recent welcoming of his first child, a son. Previously, Gambino has seen some criticism for his honest tales of being black, but not black enough such as on Camp's "Hold You Down"-- "He said I wasn't really black because I had a dad / I think that's kinda sad, mostly cause a lot of black kids / think they should agree with that". With trap music rising in popularity, there is a scarce amount of artists blending different elements of rapping and singing over dreamy instrumentals without sounding too much like a Drake knockoff. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it can get stale and repetitive.
This is where Brandon Chatman comes in. The Penn State junior recently released a spectacular hidden Soundcloud gem entitled Reveries, a 6 track EP detailing the various relationships with both men and women and their influence on his previous misconceptions about love and life. The hypnotic opener "Everything" starts with a pitch-altered voice over Chatman crooning "Save a place in your heart for me, baby. Restless, I'm so restless" in the same vein as Frank Ocean's "Thinkin' Bout You". "Everything" unravels into an honest lament of searching for a late night hookup, punctuated by a blunt text message.
Chatman's heartfelt ode to his identity is expressed bluntly in Reveries, a haunting EP that can only be seen as the beginning for his promising career. In a genre where there is a lack of the exploration of masculinity and sexuality outside of heteronormativity, artists such as Gambino and Chatman are creating a new landscape in hip-hop: one with no rules, just exploration. As we see the success of Kanye West's disjointed The Life of Pablo and Kendrick Lamar's serenade to his identity in To Pimp a Butterfly, we can see the gradual change and celebration for the nooks and crannies found within our favorite classic hip-hop records, their messages, and our lives. We just need to stay awake.
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