Donald Glover, the man, the myth, the comedian/rapper/actor/human-swiss-army-knife is at it again. Better known in the music scene by his alter ego, Childish Gambino, the 31 year old boy wonder recently released his highly anticipated EP full of island beats and dreamy hip hop fittingly titled, “Kauai.” A day before Kauai was released for public consumption on iTunes, Gambino released his mixtape to go along with the Kauai EP, STN MTN. The projects were presented together and one is supposed to complement the other. STN MTN features Gambino crushing tons of known beats originating from his Georgia, his home turf and the Kauai EP is all new material with some bonuses added in.
Lets focus on Kauai. The EP opens with a track that Gambino released via his Soundcloud titled, “Sober.” We hear bouncing synths and we hear the hook, “And now that it’s over/I’ll never be sober/I couldn’t believe/but now I’m so high.” A line that while it’s not easily accessible to everyone is still relatable to those that have gone through a break up. Here, Gambino gives us a somber track about longing for someone who’s already let you go on top of one of his most hauntingly uplifting beats yet. The best part of this track has to be the unexpected drop of his heatwrenching, bass-y bridge. By this time, it’s clear that this EP is going to be good.
Before you can talk about the EP, however, it should be said that this isn’t a typical Childish Gambino release. For one thing, it features Jaden Smith, the prodigal son of actor and “former rapper” Will Smith. Jaden Smith plays the part of “The Boy” on two tracks of the EP, and to anyone that knows Gambino’s screenplay from his sophomore album, this jumped out right away. “The Boy” is the main character from a 75 page screenplay that Donald Glover wrote to accompany his second album, “Because the Internet.” The album artwork for Kauai that Glover leaked revealed Jaden Smiths involvement from the very beginning and solidified the EP as a continuation of the project he began with Because the Internet. That being said, Jaden Smith’s presence on the EP is actually pretty cool.
At the end of the second track, “Pop Thieves (Make It Feel Good)” Jaden Smith has a sort of spoken-word verse, in character of course. Smith hasn’t necessarily made a good name for himself in either the acting world or in the music industry (he hasn’t actually made music, but after his father’s blip of a rap career and his sister Willow’s insufferable, “Whip My Hair” song, his attempts would already be spoken for). However, his verse at the end of “Pop Thieves” and his voice at the beginning of “Late Night in Kauai” really help the EP flow together coherently. It’s also pretty pleasing to the ear, especially since Famuel Rothstein of Royalty acknowledges that people don’t take Jaden seriously in a poem at the end of the song. Though at first it was questionable, Jaden Smith definitely belongs here.
Overall, the album doesn’t showcase his rapping prowess as much as his two previous albums, but artistically, this EP is an absolute gold mine. It’s a great addition to the Because the Internet concept, and the songs themselves are incredible. Full of soul and spice in good measure, each track is something to behold, from the conceptual masterpiece that is “Late Night in Kauai” to the car-radio-thumping “The Palisades” which is my personal favorite off the EP, Childish Gambino has truly delivered again. It really feels like listening to this latest installment could take you to a night of bliss on a beach somewhere in Kauai.