This time, Childish Gambino spared us the full-fledged multimedia attempt at bringing together his writing, rapping, and social media skills that made Because the Internet the clunky and confusing mess that it was.
Still, he didn’t spare us all the drama. STN MTN / Kauai was released as a dual-sided concept album, following the same character from Because the Internet. It begins with Gambino dreaming that he’s running Atlanta and the last track, “Go DJ”, transitions into Kauai’s first track, “Sober”.
In STN MTN, the storyline is hard to follow and other than in the first and last tracks, the dream motif fails to give the track the dream-like and surrealist feeling you would hope for. If anything, Kauai sets a much more surrealist and mellow vibe than STN MTN. In STN MTN, Gambino’s style and lyrics sound like nothing more than mainstream rap with its misogynistic lyrics and not-so-subtle bragging, which don’t always fit with his voice or tone.
It’s clear that Gambino wants to be different, and his creative endeavours are appreciated, but STN MTN’s generic lyrics won’t serve him well in this pursuit.
Despite STN MTN’s shortcomings, Kauai sounds like what Gambino fans (or at least this fan) expect from him. “Sober” is a beautiful and soft R&B song. “Retro” combines some of Gambino’s best musical talents: his singing, his falsetto and his witty lyrics. “Pop Thieves” is a great example of Gambino finally finding a cohesive way to explore different artistic mediums, featuring spoken word by noted mathmagician Jaden Smith.
Overall, Kauai is gorgeous. The recurring beach sounds do what STN MTN couldn’t in maintaining a theme throughout the album. While it definitely has some questionable choices (did I mention Jaden Smith?), it’s worth listening to, if only to experience Gambino’s musical progress since Because the Internet.