Donald Glover Isn't Depressed; You Just Haven't Been Listening
Donald Glover has been making the anti-rounds of press for Because the Internet, his latest Childish Gambino LP due out next month, bouncing from city to city and playing it in the open for anyone who reads his Twitter announcements. He's declined most interview requests, save for a scant Noisey feature, and he's left Community, his prime time jumping-off point.
His introspective ways have been a focal point for critics and fans alike lately, questioning his motives and rationale since he posted a series of seven Instagram posts outlining his personal fears and doubts last month.
That's only one piece of the puzzle here, something we're hopefully going to see laid out in full through his vicious bars and self-produced beats come December 10. Glover isn't his Community character Troy, unabashedly admitting this on a number of occasions; he's far more multi-dimensional than most roles he's played. His expressive outbursts have been wildly misconstrued because his self-doubt has been put into black-and-white before us all.
First and foremost, Glover is known for his NBC work -- this is no surprise to anyone who's even a fair-weather fan of his. But his time there stemmed from his skits with YouTube sketch group Derrick Comedy, now a flash-in-the-pan in comparison to his standup work, and primarily his hands-on approach to 2009's Derrick Comedy-produced feature-length film Mystery Team.
In addition to contributing to the writing, direction, and role in the film, Glover scored it himself. It's one of the earliest spotlights on his sound, filled with sirens, 808s and Southern hip-hop cymbal accentuation.
However, it's the screenplay, centered around a group of soon-to-be high school grads who have been comically solving juvenile whodunit crimes until they're forced to investigate a murder, that's the tipoff here.
The theme of refusing to act your age permeates the entire film, and Glover's character is the biggest perpetrator of this throughout. That doesn't seem to be a coincidence, foreshadowing his closing Instagram post's line of "You're always allowed to grow up. If you want."
2011 brought us the EP EP, featuring "Freaks and Geeks" from that then-ubitquitous Dwight Howard Adidas commercial. While the track itself is whip-smart, layering pop culture skewering upon skewering, its presence had critics and fans glossing over "Be Alone," Glover's most poignant release to that date.
"I don't wanna be alone" is the refrain, of course, but it's the tail of the second verse where we get the lines "I wanna pick up the phone, ask my dad how to handle it / but what will happen when my dad's not there to answer it?" and "It seems the more I try to connect with the world / I am feeling more alone than I ever have felt before." Glover was rapping about these Instagram posts two years ago -- he's not treading some dark new ground. Rather, he's laying out common fears felt by all, relatable on the most basic level, depression be damned.
And now we've got "Yaphet Kotto," the first Because the Internet single. Delivery is tight, production is spaced-out, and self-deprecation has always been one of Glover's strong suits, but now we have it in the second and third person as he questions more than ever before.
Yet here's where it all comes around. Maybe we're not seeing the full reveal yet, given Glover's propensity for multi-layered projects, but his "What's the point? I don't know / Why am I here? / Why am I alive? / Why do you care?" lines are answered back in that last Instagram post once again. In reference to the release of Because the Internet, he writes, "I wanted to make something that says no matter how bad you fuck up, or mistakes you've made during the year, your life, your eternity, you're always allowed to be better."
Glover may have his own battles, and with the album release around the corner we may have them in our hands soon enough. When he exposes these sentiments, however, it seems that some are all too quick to label him as "depressed" or "troubled." He's simply examining, and has examined, the colder depths of reality and success that either haven't been faced by some or some choose not to face -- you're just finally listening for the first time.
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