Childish Gambino, “3.15.20” (RCA)
Considering that Donald Glover has said “3.15.20” is his final album — and that it’s his first in four years — you’d think he could have come up with a proper title. The rapper/actor/writer/Renaissance man who calls himself Childish Gambino as a musician decided to name it for the date it first appeared on the internet. (It then disappeared briefly before its official release March 22, but that’s another story.)
Most of the songs are also identified by their time stamps, such as “24.19” and “47.48,” but that’s the only thing even slightly undercooked about this 12-track collection.
The new album is the follow-up to 2016’s “Awaken, My Love!” and combines that album’s deliciously deep George Clinton-style psychedelic funk with the aggressive, experimental edge of Gambino’s 2018 track “This Is America,” his interrogation of racial violence.
Glover as Gambino raps and sings, compares himself to Afrobeat founder Fela Kuti (on “53.49”), and even goes a little bit country on “35.31.” “Algorhythm” takes a page out of “Yeezus”-era Kanye West as it builds martial, mechanical momentum, then effortlessly slides into a chorus that finds the soul in the machine.
Elsewhere, the entirely impressive “3.15.20” nods to Prince without being merely imitative. “Time” features Ariana Grande on a guest vocal, conveying end-of-the-world paranoia that speaks to the moment.
At the album’s core are two songs about fathers and sons. On “19.10” Glover remembers his father instilling black pride in his 6-year-old self. And “47.48” ends with a cautiously optimistic conversation between Glover and his own son. “Are you scared of the world? Is it hard to live?” he sings. “Just take care of your soul. Let the beauty unfold.”
Dan Deluca, Philadelphia Inquirer
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