On Royalty, Childish Gambino offers us something completely different from his past creations. For starters, it is almost entirely produced by Gambino himself, adding an additional creative tally to his list. And he does a pretty damn good job of it, too. He also tracks down some dope features from Schoolboy Q and Ab-Soul from the Black Hippy crew, Nipsey Hussle, Danny Brown, Bun B, RZA, Ghostface Killah, Beck, Alley Boy, and even (only on a Gambino album) Tina Fey. He additionally gets some help from Boi-1da and Skywlkr to produce a few tracks as well.
In past records, namely Camp, Gambino has opened up about the challenges of being an African-American raised in a suburban white community, especially as a rapper. He asks us, aside from color, what defines the difference between a black person and a white person. He explains to the listener that there are a lot of assumed images that come along with being a white or black American that aren’t necessarily true. In his lyrics he mentions that the black rap community does not accept him because he is too “soft”, while the white community doesn’t accept him because he isn’t white. In the album’s first song, “We Ain’t Them”, Gambino says, “I went hard cause niggas say I’m soft/Even Black Thought thought I made it a little hard, I gotta be honest/Feeling like the other stuff is kinda behind us.”
From a first-hand experience at his performance at Sasquatch last Spring, the first line is definitely true. Other black rappers may call him “soft”, but anyone who’s seen one of his shows know that Gambino goes hard. The energy he came out with had the crowd roaring within minutes of his set. He transcends this hard energy into the track “Unnecessary” featuring Schoolboy Q and Ab-Soul. His flow blends in well with the Black Hippy crew as the Gambino produced track drives forward with a thick kick and cracking snare. However, Gambino still needs to find his producing style, because beat-wise, the album is all over the place. Yet, other great tracks on the tape still shine through including “Shoulda Known”, “Silk Pillow” and “Toxic”, which samples the Brittany Spears’ hit of the same name. So all in all, definitely check out the tape. And if you’re a Gambino fan, expect something new.
You can download the entire mixtape here.