This is America!

Early in his music career, Childish Gambino (the nom de rap of actor Donald Glover) suffered from an overload of his influences and his need to pay homage to them profusely and too aptly.

He’s come a long way from his debut Camp and Because, the Internet, the latter weighed down by too much ambition and a poverty of soul searching, the former a declaration of geek colors that stumbled and sometimes fell right flat on its sophomore face.

On Awaken, My Love, Gambino still finds himself frolicking in the fields of someone else’s dreams, specifically the heyday of the funkadelic and groove blues era, but this time his pastiche of bluesy vocals, impassioned rap, nerdisms, race politics, melodic acrobatics, and tongue-in-cheek American modernisms come together into a unique marriage sufficient to raise the flag of the identity that is uniquely Childish Gambino.

Sure it may take a sudden turn to the absurd like “Zombies” or the bouncy weirdness of “California” but they all fit with Gambino’s persona of jester, unhinged prophet, and gloomy, quirky, smart aleck sans too much influence on sleeve. And damn if the songs aren’t a fun, trippy spin!

His latest music video, “This is America,” if you still haven’t seen the viral phenomenon, is a cornucopia of jabs at the issues, historic and current, of American life. Proof of Gambino’s singular intelligence in activism that nods to old school hip hop as well as the quirky, acerbic comedy he’s been known for.

You can also catch Mr. Glover in the latest Star Wars spin off, Solo, where he plays gambler Lando Calrissian.

Karl R. De Mesa