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Mixtape Review: Childish Gambino, ‘S T N M T N / Kauai’

Well, the rap game’s Steve Erkle has got his Gangsta Grillz mixtape. He spoke it into existence as more than hundreds of thousands listened to the finished and free product from Childish Gammbino and DJ Drama. STN MTN has successfully made us aware of cool ways to spell Stone Mountain, Georgia. And this mixtape has, not only, exposed some slept-on musical gems, but it unearthed the birth of a more experienced and “mature” Childish Gambino.

1. Dream | Southern Hospitality | Partna Dem: “I had a dream, I ran Atlanta and I was on every radio station.” Behind those words is a montage of Dirty South hits as Gambino continues with the details of how he would run ATL. The piece segues into the next segment of the song, which quickly goes into a beat we can all recall from Ludacris’ Southern Hospitality when he was throwing ‘dem bows. An early millenium hype man fades in and out before you hear Gambino’s Drake-ish like flow on a few bars. He fades into the Childish Gambino style and then into a Yeezy pace and tone. One style was too hot, the other just right and then the last too cold. A gunshot goes off and you’re transitioned to another segment with faux-Spanish horns and a Southern rhythm.
2. F*cks Given: Aye! When Gambino states, “I came here to do my own s#@!,” he is serious. He successfully blends his own style into the new era of Southern rap. This track was ripe for A-List features but Gambino stayed solo for the whole song. The amount of rap techniques he continued to fade in and out of made it seem like a group piece or maybe a tribute to the many voices of Minaj. The track is produced by Nick Banga.
3. No Small Talk ft. Kari Faux: The smoothest track on the mixtape. Kari Faux (who also produced the track with Black Party) is very confident and pretty much commands attention on this, which sadly makes Gambino’s bars forgettable. You will find yourself ratchet-ly clapping and chanting “b*tch I’m taking calls, no small talk.”
4. Money Baby: A fast-pace song with bass that only kicks in during the breakdowns. The track phases in and out of light and heavy beats. Gambino’s bars continue to stray farther from the geeky hip-hop that he is well known for, but its irritatingly getting too close to Drake imitating Southern rappers or maybe I’m just thinking of Kirko Bangz.
5. Move That Dope | Nectel Chirp | Let Your Hair Blow: This track was produced by Zaytoven who has worked with Gucci Mane and Migos. The first segment is a diss track to every rapper that 1.) Gambino doesn’t like or 2.) is outside of the parameters of Atlanta’s music scene. The next segment speeds up and is a humorous interlude to the last part that features Young Scooter. At this point in the mixtape, the amount of gunshot sounds have increased and Gambino is going hard with his lyrics. It finishes with Young Scooter’s laid back vocals that fit the top-down cruise jam envisioned for the last piece.
6. A** Shots Remix ft. R O Y A L T Y: : Finally more than two rappers and one of them is kin to Gambino. This song was originally done by Steve G. Lover (Steve Glover) who held the track by himself. This remix is okay compared to the original.
7. Childish Gambino @ The Antrium: A skit that has a radio announcer advertizing Gambino’s hot off the press concert coming to Atlanta. The skit is funny and includes clips from what sounded like Boondock’s, Dave Chapelle and Chris Brown.
8. U Don’t Have To Call (produced by Ludwig Göransson): Gambino starts with a clip from a conversation about a popular strip club and then fades into an a capella of Usher’s same-name hit. By the time he begins the second hook, the beat drips in. DJ Drama ushers in the rest of the song and Gambino follows up with a relaxed spoken word piece. It trips you up in the end as it navigates an alternative route to the traditional meaning of “You Don’t Have To Call.” Well played, sir, well played.
9. Candler Road: The first half was produced by Tim Suby and the second half was assembled by Gambino. Suby’s piece is eerie and haunting as Gambino flows with an echo after each bar. The second half of the track is heavy and thick with futuristic beats. Gambino word vomits on it to the point he’s gasping for air. He makes a dig with “All these light skin n*ggas came back in style. ‘Ye lied to us!” Hmmm…whom are we talking about here? The track ends with Gambino admitting in cantabile that his hums are to cover up the fact that he didn’t know how to finish his piece.
10. All Yall: This track pulls from Timabland and Magoos “To All Y’all” (which is sampled from Solas “The Made on The Shore). The melody is upbeat and the flow is okay. It has regular rap bragging. Gambino lost his hardness when he said, “Frozen. Disney movie around this neck.” I guess he wanted to make it kid-friendly.
11. Go DJ: Another remix to a hip-hop fave. The flow is short and the rest of the beat is a backdrop to Gambino’s shoutouts to everyone he appreciates for helping his career. The song lags on until a Gambino’s monotone voice brings you back to reality with, “And then I woke up.”
Yes, it was all a dream, as Biggie would say. Childish Gambino’s new Gangsta Grillz mixtape is a wake up call to his fans and haters. “They want the old Bino so they try to rewind. The new Bino – too ahead of its time.” Childish Gambino is taking moves from Pharrell’s playbook but he has read me right. I want the old Freaks and Geeks and Heartbeat guy that still resembled the Donald Glover who made Troy mesh well with Abed. But I digress because I respect Gambino’s display of versatility and refusal to pigeonhole himself into one sub-genre of hip-hop.
STN MTN is entertaining and has some really good tracks to bob your head to. Southern Hospitality was the right title because all that’s missing are some occasional drops of the word “shawty.” I’m surprised he didn’t have features from some of the pioneers or current headers of Southern rap.
The more and more Gambino thrives in hip-hop, the more and more the content of his lyrics resemble every other rapper. His Southern Hospitality mixtape confirmed that.
His verses fade between screwing women and throwing random shade/trolling for his competition. But you can’t take Childish Gambino too serious because he doesn’t take himself that serious and it keeps the comedic side of his music breathing throughout the mixtape, which is part of his edge.
Childish Gambino’s Kauai EP is the follow up awakening of STN MTN. We are leaving the ATL dream to chill and vibe with Jaden Smith (a.k.a The Boy), Glover clansman, Steve G. Lover, and the twin powers of Christian Rich. Randomly and yet fortunately, some of the proceeds from this EP will go to keeping the island of Kauai clean, as Gambino put it in a Complex interview. This part of Gambino’s new project is softer with gentle pop melodies, more singing, and relaxed lyrics.
1. Sober: Simple with a basic snare that keeps the rhythm while Gambino sings of why he lacks sobriety.The tempo kicks up and becomes more intricate as a short phase of dubstep interrupts the melody with slowed vocals. Dubstep steps out and we’re left back to sweet vocals and a melody to two-step to.
2. Pop Thieves (Make It Feel Good): The seagulls sounding off to the clean beat brings us to the shores, sunshine and lovin’. Gambino leaves a trip up in the middle of the track that coincides with the beat switch up; “I know you miss this d-Love.” Such things keep you tuned in or tuned back into the song. It abruptly concludes with night-time waves and a statement that segues to Jaden Smith’s spoken word session over a syncopated beat similar to bongos.
3. Retro [Rough]: A quick return to the Atlanta rapper we left in STN MTN that includes rough serenading hooks.
4. The Palisades: Produced by Christian Rich. The opening sequence reminds you of a young A Tribe Called Quest and a mature MJ-influenced Pharrell. This track carries a solid groove. The vocals are smooth and the rap bars are retro. With that compilation of musicians who peak my interest, this is my favorite.
5. Poke: A strong melody about summer flings. The vocals are thick and the rap feature by Steve Glover are a good match for the song.
6. Late Night in Kauai: This track continues the spoken word and lingers on with a few bars and a ballad by Gambino and then conscious rambling by Steve Glover.
7. V.3005 (Beach Picnic Version): A remix to Gambino’s popular single that came out earlier this year. The new sounds include a orchestral add-ins and the natural noises of the beach fading in and out a few times to complete the scenery.

Each track is pretty chill and fits nicely under the image of a getaway island that bears the tradition of escapades. I enjoyed this transition from STN MTN’s crazy, amped up ode to the dirty, dirty into various summer fling ballads. Based on Childish Gambino’s previous albums, these songs are his niche and don’t deviate away from his roots like the mixtape. Kauai gets 7 out of 10 stars.

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