Childish Gambino successfully switches it up with “STN MTN / Kauai.”

Courtesy of Glassnote Records
Courtesy of Glassnote Records

If you’re still reeling from the fact that you were unable to witness the greatness that is Childish Gambino at UCR’s 2014 HEAT music festival that never happened, I have a nice surprise for you. After hinting at the possible release of new music earlier this year, Donald Glover, aka Childish Gambino, shocked fans with the sudden release of his newest project “STN MTN / Kauai,” a mixtape followed by an EP, consisting of 18 new songs in total. The Gangsta Grillz-hosted mixtape, “STN MTN,” pays homage to Gambino’s hometown Stone Mountain, located near Atlanta, Ga., while the EP portion, “Kauai,” is titled based on his love for the Hawaiian island of the same name. This new body of music is refreshingly different from Gambino’s latest studio album “Because the Internet,” a thought-provoking, concept album that contemplates the pros and cons of the “Internet age.” “STN MTN / Kauai” showcases his ability to let loose, have fun and create raw, feel-good music that anyone can enjoy.

Gambino’s “STN MTN” can easily be described as “turn-up” music, filled with raunchy hip-hop beats, catchy choruses and talks of partying, money and women. With song titles like “Fucks Given,” “Money Baby” and “AssShots remix ft. R O Y A L T Y,” it’s easy to assume what you’re going to hear. Original subject matter? Not really. But Gambino always puts his signature charm and cleverness on every song he touches. In fact, the opening track “Dream / Southern Hospitality / Partna Dem” begins with a monologue by the actor-turned-rapper, recalling a dream he had in which he “ran” Atlanta, solidifying the dream aspect of “STN MTN” that then bleeds into him waking up in “Kauai.”

His decision to represent Atlanta and Southern hip-hop makes it easy to differentiate the mixtape from other rap music being released. However, Gambino slows it down slightly toward the end of the mixtape with “U Don’t Have to Call,” in which he sings the intro and tackles tougher subjects such as the ongoing struggle of black people in America. With lyrics like, “We are very rare / 10 percent of a foster home trying to Cinderella this shit / This melanin pit they placed us in and said get out / No blueprint, hell’s cruise ship,” Gambino makes it very clear that there are other things on his mind beside living the “good life.”

At the end of the last track “Go DJ,” Gambino thanks the individuals involved with “STN MTN” before going into “Kauai,” the EP in which his vocals are far more prominent than in the first half of the project. He sings throughout the entire opening track “Sober,” a song that sounds similar to an old-school R-and-B track. “Pop Thieves (Make it Feel Good)” features the calming sounds of ocean waves and an appearance from Jaden Smith, who occasionally narrates throughout the EP and plays the role of “the boy” in “Kauai,” a fictional character thought to be based on Gambino’s own middle-class upbringing and whose story is also told in “Because the Internet.” Gambino’s flow and wordplay in “Retro [ROUGH]” make it one of the best tracks on the EP, along with “Poke (feat. Steve G. Lover),” a song about sweet memories and summer days. Gambino continues the alternative R-and-B vibe with “The Palisades (feat. Christian Rich),” a track featuring soulful background harmonies similar to that of Boys II Men. Gambino closes out “Kauai” with a mellower, “beach picnic” version of his hit song, “3005.”

“STN MTN / Kauai” is a far cry from anything Gambino has ever done and this makes it hard to determine how his fanbase will react. However, no matter what style of music he chooses to embrace, his witty personality shines through every song, making it a body of work worth checking out.

Rating: 4.5 stars

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