Donald Glover is known for his willingness to experiment with forms of media and his music persona, Childish Gambino, is no different. Which genre does Gambino perform in?
Childish Gambino has primarily been a rapper, though he has incorporated numerous other genres into his unique style. This has included funk, soul and rock, as well as more psychedelic sounds. Donald Glover has said that he would prefer for people to move beyond traditional genres and simply listen to good music.
For more on Childish Gambino and Donald Glover’s multifaceted music career, read on.
Donald Glover Jr. attended both Lakeside High School and DeKalb School of the Arts in order to nurture his academic and creative sides. After high school, he enrolled at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, studying Dramatic Writing and graduating in 2006.
Glover began recording while at Tisch, first with the mixtape “The Younger I Get”, though it was never released and he has since expressed his displeasure with the finished product.
He also started DJing during this period, using the name MC D, which he later modified to mcDJ, an alias he has continued using while DJing. His DJ work has mainly been focused on electronic music.
His focus continued to be writing, submitting a script in the hope of writing for “The Simpsons”. He was named “Most Likely to Write for The Simpsons” in his high school yearbook.
Tina Fey and producer David Miner were impressed with his work and hired him to write for “30 Rock” in 2006. He was then chosen to act in “Community” as Troy Barnes, Glover’s breakout role, and one that established him as a rising star.
As his acting career was beginning to take shape, Glover continued making music. He performed under the unusual name Childish Gambino, which was actually just the result of using an online Wu-Tang Clan name generator.
He released mixtapes under the name, “I Am Just a Rapper” and “I Am Just A Rapper 2”, then “Culdesac”, all in 2010. He then released his first EP, creatively titled “EP” in March 2011 as a free digital download.
In April 2011, Glover began a nationwide “IAMDONALD” tour, combining his rap and comedy talents. He did this again at Bonnaroo that year, performing comedy as Donald Glover and music as Childish Gambino.
Glover began work on his first studio album and asked for the assistance of Ludwig Göransson, who composed the score for “Community”. Göransson’s production experience was a big help and the two have frequently worked together in the years since.
The album, “Camp,” released on November 15, 2011, and was moderately successful both commercially and critically.
Glover continued acting, writing, and recording consistently over the following decade, releasing free EPs between his studio albums. His TV series “Atlanta” premiered on FX in September 2016 to great acclaim, winning numerous awards.
After signing with RCA Records in 2018, Glover released the single “This Is America”, which became his first number-one single in the US and went on to win the Song of the Year Grammy. It also won Record of the Year, making it the first rap song to do so.
“This Is America” had trap influences indicative of the Georgia rap scene, where Glover grew up. His musical style has varied greatly, with hip hop a consistent foundation but also being described as “neo-funk”.
There are also psychedelic features, from both rock and soul, which have given Childish Gambino his unique sound.
For his part, Glover seems happy to defy easy categorization. He has said that he believes people should move past genres and simply seek out good music and that “people just want quality”.
As the online avenues for releasing music continue to expand and evolve, it seems likely that the traditional genre conventions will continue to blur.