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The Discography of Childish Gambino

An exploration and short analysis of Childish Gambino’s various albums, EPs, and singles.

Childish Gambino, better known as Donald Glover, is an artist that I have a lot of respect for. His Hollywood roles vary as much as his music does; he’s best known for playing Troy on Community, but he’s starred in, wrote, and directed a wide variety of other projects, including Atlanta, Solo, The Lion King (2019), The Martian, and Spider-Man: Homecoming. In fact, the creation of the Miles Morales character can be traced back to him after he auditioned for Andrew Garfield’s role in The Amazing Spider-Man. I’m a big fan of his acting work, but I’ve only become familiar with his musical projects over the past year. I’ve  grown to love Childish Gambino, and would consider him to be one of my favorite musical artists. If you’re into rap, you’ve probably heard some of his more recognizable tracks, but I’ve found that many people aren’t very familiar with his discography. So, I hope to give some background around each of his projects, my thoughts on them, and a short analysis regarding their tracks and meaning.


EP (2011)

The first ever appearance of the Childish Gambino persona, EP was one of the projects that made people really start paying attention to Glover. Of course, most learned of him from Community, but this is when he showed how much promise he had as an entertainer across multiple mediums. EP can feel pretty dated when compared to his future albums, but there are still some very solid tracks. Weirdly enough, I feel as if he displays more vocal range in a few moments here than in his first studio album, Camp, which I’ll get into later. The lyrics can be a little over-the-top, but it’s not enough to deter me from it. ‘Freaks and Geeks’ is a fan favorite, and while the lyrics make me cringe every now and then, it’s still a great song. ‘My Shine’ and ‘Lights Turned On’ are quite good as well, and showed early on how good he was at creating unique beats. EP isn’t something that I would put on a pedestal like some of his other albums, but it’s still a very solid first attempt. It put Gambino on the map for many, and established a fanbase early in his career.


Camp (2011)

Gambino’s first studio album, Camp, doesn’t hold up as well as a lot of his other work. I still like it a lot, but it just doesn’t display his talent nearly as much as his later work does. This used to be my favorite of his discography, but I’ve grown to see its flaws. The lyrics are at many points extremely graphic and vulgar, sometimes to a laughable extent. Gambino’s early work just seems to be like this- EP is pretty nasty at points, and Camp is no different. ‘Bonfire’ is, of course, the most obvious example, and even my favorite tracks from the album, Firefly’ and ‘Les’, have a few lines that I could do without. If you ignore the edginess and just try and focus on how the tracks sound, a lot of songs are still quite good, but this can be difficult. It also does a very poor job of demonstrating his true talent as a musical artist, never showing how much vocal range he possesses. His voice never seems to go beyond one note, which I’ve noticed a lot more as I’ve grown to like his other albums more. It definitely sounds like this is his first studio album, and hasn’t quite figured out how to utilize his vocal range yet.

Complaints aside, I have a soft spot for Camp. It was one of the albums that got me into rap music, and I’ll always owe it that. A lot of the beats here are still really fantastic, as well; ‘You See Me’ has fantastic production, even if the lyrics can be overly edgy. Again, just like EPCamp really shines when you pay attention to its beats. It displays a lot of talent, and the deep understanding he’s always had surrounding beat-making. Honestly, if he manipulated his voice a bit more, this would be a remarkable album. Again, I have a lot of love for Camp‘s tracklist, but I still recognize its many issues. As it stands, It’s easy to appreciate Camp for what it is, and point to it as an early sign of the greatness to come.


Because the Internet (2013)

It’s hard to write about Because the Internet. This is my absolute favorite thing Donald Glover has ever created, and it’s probably one of my three favorite albums of all time. It follows the story of ‘The Boy’, which seems to be something of a self-insert, and how he navigates love, loneliness, and isolation. It features a lot of darker beats and themes than his other projects, displayed in songs like ‘Crawl’, ‘Worldstar’, ‘No Exit’, and ‘Zealots of Stockholm’. These almost oppressive sounds are juxtaposed with more upbeat tunes, such as those found in ‘The Worst Guys’, ‘Shadows’, ‘3005’, and ‘Pink Toes’, as well as a few others. The whole album follows a linear storyline, and has a seventy page long script to further explain the story that was included with the vinyl. This is why many songs are listed with Roman numerals in front of them- to keep track of the story when you listen to it with the script in front of you.

I find the story itself and the way it’s presented to be absolutely fascinating; most rap albums have some sort of story to tell, but I just find Because the Internet‘s to be particularly interesting. You may be asking why it’s called ‘Because the Internet’, and the answer is that the title is itself an answer- an answer to many questions asked throughout the album. Not only is it an exploration of The Boy and his thoughts and feelings, but how the internet and social media impacted him and affected these emotions. It follows The Boy through his success as a musical artist, and how the large amount of positive and negative attention impacts him. Every track has a deeper meaning, and essentially every lyric is painstakingly thought out. In addition to its storyline, all of the tracks are just really good. Aside from the few interludes, this is a no-skip album. My absolute favorites are ‘3005’, ‘Telegraph Ave. (Oakland)’, ‘Crawl’, and, of course, ‘Sweatpants’. ‘Sweatpants’ is my favorite Gambino song, and one of my favorite songs in general. The beats are immaculate, really illustrating the promise shown in Camp, and Gambino has really made more of an attempt to blend his voice with the music, giving us far better and much more interesting results than anything seen on Camp.

If you’re interested in a full explanation that this album deserves, this link leads to a Reddit post that gives a very long analysis that I believe to be overall on the mark. I disagree with a few of the poster’s points here and there, but he’s got the right idea overall.


Kauai / Stn Mtn (2014)

This is technically a combination of two different mixtapes, STN MTN and Kauai. Unfortunately, the STN MTN tracks are hard to come by, so I’ve only ever gotten to listen to the Kauai portion. I’ll find a way to listen to it at some point, but for now, the Kauai tracks are more than enough. ‘Poke’ and ‘Late Night In Kauai’ are both great, but the other three tracks, ‘Retro (Rough)’, ‘Sober’, and ‘The Palisades’ are genuinely perfect songs. This was the first project where he strayed away from the rap genre, and I think he made the leap quite well. Kauai is the perfect summer album. Listening to songs like ‘The Palisades’ and ‘Late Night in Kauai’ feels as if you’re sitting on a beach somewhere, enjoying a summer evening.

Every Gambino album has a different atmosphere to it, and Kauai is no different. While Because the Internet had a much darker and almost uncomfortable feel than any of his other albums, Kauai is a laid back, relaxed, twenty-minute-long handful of songs that’s easy to throw on and listen to whenever. This blends together quite nicely with Gambino’s later EP, Summer Pack, to create the ultimate summer playlist. I’ve found myself revisiting Kauai‘s tracks very often, never skipping them when they come up on shuffle. Unless I’m in the mood for a louder, more intense track, songs like ‘The Palisades’ and ‘Sober’ are never skips.


“Awaken, My Love!” (2016)

Another drastic shift in tone from the last, “Awaken, My Love!” is essentially a 70’s funk/soul/R&B album. This might be my least favorite of his full-length albums, but it’s still excellent and certainly very unique. Upon release, it was very polarizing, as some didn’t care for the radical genre change, and some embraced it. I appreciate the different angle it’s trying to go for, taking heavy inspiration from groups such as Funkadelic and the Isley Brothers. Gambino has gone on the record speaking of his love for this kind of music, explaining “I remember listening to songs my dad would play- albums by the Isleys or Funkadelic- and not understanding the feeling I was feeling. I remember hearing a Funkadelic scream and being like, ‘Wow, that’s sexual and it’s scary.’ Not having a name for that, though; just having a feeling. That’s what made it great.” “Awaken, My Love!” can be described as trippy at times, seemingly trying to capture that feeling that Gambino described. A Rolling Stone writer once called it an “enthralling trip into the land of funk”, which is a very accurate description.

From a vocal standpoint, this is definitely Gambino’s most impressive work. The range he displays here is quite remarkable, showcasing how many notes he can hit. You could tell me that several songs on the album weren’t even performed by him, and I’d almost believe you. While it’s the easiest example, I think that ‘Redbone’ is the best showcase of what I’m talking about. ‘Boogieman’ and ‘Have Some Love’ are quite unique, too, showing a side of his voice that we’ve never heard anything close to. ‘California’ is my least favorite of the tracklist and one of my least favorite Gambino songs in general, but it does give him another opportunity to flaunt his vocals.

“Awaken, My Love!” is mostly seen as something of a love story, but it’s less about a story being told, and more about establishing a general mood. There are a lot of good tracks here, but there are a handful that really stand out. ‘Redbone’, of course, was an instant classic, and possibly Gambino’s most recognizable song. I have a very deep love for ‘Me and Your Mama’, which can only be described as dreamlike; it lures you in with a soothing melody that repeats for a minute or two before transitioning into loud guitar riffs. ‘Boogieman’, ‘Zombies’, and ‘Riot’ definitely fall more in line with the funk genre, and are unlike anything else Gambino has made. The genres of funk and R&B are something I have yet to explore, but I believe that this is a great starter album for anyone wanting to get into them.


Summer Pack (2018)

Summer Pack is Gambino’s second EP, and it provides a different type of summer feel than Kauai while still pairing with it very nicely. Compared to Kauai‘s beachside feel, Summer Pack is something that you can listen to and be instantly transported to the feel of summertime. It only contains two tracks, ‘Feels Like Summer’ and ‘Summertime Magic’, but it’s more than enough for a side project like this. I probably prefer ‘Feels Like Summer’, but they fit together so well that they kind of feel like one song. It doesn’t really have anything to say, and instead capitalizes on just being two relaxing tracks that can get you into the summer mood.


This Is America (2018)

When it was released, ‘This Is America’ became ridiculously popular, and basically made Gambino the center of discussion for a year. He’s never really been one to release singles; the only other one I can think of was ‘Bonfire’, which he released separately before putting it on Camp. There’s so much to analyze in this single song that has a runtime of under four minutes; ultimately, ‘This Is America’ is a commentary on black life in America, American culture, and America’s attitude towards shooting. It brilliantly juxtaposes its dark and aggressive verses with its upbeat and carefree choir verses. This is further illustrated by its music video, which I would consider to be one of the best and most iconic of all time. Gambino is seen shooting innocent people, dancing with groups of schoolchildren while ignoring chaotic violence happening in the background, and desperately trying to escape an angry mob.

This is a song that deserves its own article-length analysis, but I believe the most prevalent theme to be America’s attitude about shootings and gun culture. Gambino transitions from telling us of shootings, hatred toward black people, and irresponsible police to dancing to a choir’s soothing singing. It demonstrates America’s tendency to be in disarray around the time of a shooting, to seemingly not caring within a couple of weeks, as we’ve moved on to the next thing. I believe that the harsh juxtaposition is also commenting on what many Americans perceive to be the black experience versus the harsh reality of what it can be.

Again, I could analyze almost every single line of ‘This Is America’s lyrics and second of its music video, but it’s too much for a few short paragraphs. Whenever the world is amidst a state of political and social disorder, artists take advantage of their surroundings and create something truly special. ‘This Is America’ is the perfect example of this. Many people would call this one of the most important songs in recent memory, and I’d have to agree. It’s an absolute masterpiece of a song, and stands as one of Gambino’s best tracks in a sea of masterpieces.


3.15.20 (2020)

Something of an outlier among Gambino’s discography, 3.15.20. was a very divisive release, but one I find absolutely fascinating. It’s definitely his least known album, not gaining a recognition or fanbase anywhere close to those of his other albums.  All but two of the songs are listed as a time code, which correlates with the exact time in the album they begin playing, driving home the fact that this album should be listened to in one sitting. This album is yet another display of Gambino’s musical talent, mixing some very unique beats and rhythms with his voice, which is once again being pushed to its limits.

 Like several of his other albums, this is not by any means a rap or hip-hop project, though it does contain many elements of one. It’s very experimental, with songs constantly changing genres. There are weird, oppressive, almost psychedelic-feeling tracks such as ‘Algorythm’, and ‘32.22’, and there are more relaxed and upbeat songs like ‘12.38’, ‘19.10’, ‘47.48’, and one track I’d actually consider a rap song, ‘53.49’. The tone and theming can feel a bit all over the place, but I think all of the tracks have a certain synergy that really ties everything together. Giving an analysis of the themes and messages of 3.15.20 would be very difficult and would take a long time; it explores the current social and political state of the country (or at least current as of 2020), and also ties in themes of love and humanity. Somewhat similar to Because the Internet, it has a lot to say about humanity’s connection with the digital world and its consequent social disconnect, and warns us of the power technology possesses to make us lose our sense of reality. This was helped by the very ironic release date of March 15th, 2020, just when the country was starting to lock down, ensuring all of us would spend even more time online.



In 2017, Glover announced that 3.15.20 was meant to be the last album he made under the Childish Gambino moniker. While he has hinted at the possibility of it coming back, I don’t think it will. I’d be surprised if he never released any more music, but it makes more sense to me if he were to release it under just ‘Donald Glover’ or ‘Donald Glover Presents’. Glover has stated that he has worked on some form of new music, but there are no clues as to when we would see it released. He did assist in the making of some tracks on the soundtrack for Swarm, a Prime series that he wrote and directed much of. But, I haven’t watched the show yet, and since he didn’t have a ton of involvement with the music, I didn’t listen to the EP.

All in all, Glover has had a very interesting career. Discounting his numerous Hollywood roles as an actor, director, and writer, his musical work has more variety than almost any other artist widely considered to be a ‘rapper’. When you think about it, he’s really only made two full studio rap albums, although all of them have elements of hip-hop. Whatever Glover decides to make in the future, I will one hundred percent be there, whether it’s a movie, series, or more music. There is no doubt in my mind that we will see more music from Donald Glover in the future, and at that, probably the near future. He does generally take his time between releases, giving them a few years in between, but he obviously has a lot of other things to work on, and he’s stated that he only wants to make music when it feels necessary. So, if you enjoy rap music in general and are looking for a new artist, it is very hard to go wrong with Childish Gambino.

Links to some of Gambino’s absolute best:



‘The Worst Guys’

‘Telegraph Ave. (Oakland)’



‘Retro (Rough)’

‘The Palisades’


‘Me and Your Mama’


‘Feels Like Summer’

‘This is America’




There are a lot more I could have included, but this is already a long list.


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