When it was recently announced that Donald Glover would only be appearing on five episodes of the upcoming season of the television show “Community,” many suggested that it was so he could focus more of his attention on his musical alter ego Childish Gambino. While it is sad to think of a world without “Troy and Abed In the Morning,” the prospect of a new Gambino album is certainly intriguing, if not outright exciting. It’s been two years since his last full length LP, the terrific Camp, and other than the bland, forgetful mixtape Royalty, things in the Gambino camp have been fairly quiet. Now he has taken everyone by surprise with the stealthily released new track “Centipede” and has given us a glimpse into his progression as a musician, and hopefully a preview of a new project.
“Centipede” begins strangely, with Gambino mumbling an acapella version of the song’s hook while a dog barks somewhere in the background. It’s a confusing way to start a track, but ultimately doesn’t add or take away anything from it. The beat then comes in and puts to rest any uncertainty fans might have had. This beat is definitely more minimalist in nature, especially compared to the over-the-top production on Royalty. It uses pounding piano chords over handclaps and bells to create a dream-like bounciness on the song. The production, which we can assume was handled by Gambino himself, stands out very strongly here and would sound right at home on Camp.
Vocally, the track showcases Gambino at the top of his game on both fronts, singing and rapping. Personally, I have always favored him more when he uses his singing voice more prominently, much like he did on Culdesac, as it adds another layer to tracks and complements his rapping well. He turns in an extremely solid performance on the hook here, and his singing voice sounds as sharp as ever. But it’s his rapping that is the main attraction, and he doesn’t disappoint. His flow showed improvement on Royalty and he takes another step forward here, continuing to become a stronger MC and further himself from his punchline-rap crutch. He is very impressive and on-point with his delivery here, but the lyrics are fairly run-of-the-mill, dwelling on many of the same themes introduced on Camp. They aren’t bad by any means, but it would be refreshing to hear some more diversity throughout. But regardless of the lyrical weakness, it is Gambino’s emotional delivery of the lines that really drives the track and propels it.
“Centipede” is a smart choice to garner hype for Gambino’s new project. It shows a progression in his musical style, but also sounds enough like Camp as to not alienate his fans. In the end, I would like to see him take some more chances on the record, but “Centipede” is a really great track to kick things off. Hopefully this is just the beginning of more music to come.
You can check out “Centipede” for yourself right here.