Childish Gambino is the Stage Name that Donald Glover (born September 25, 1983) uses to release music. The name came from Glover putting his own name into this online Wu-Tang Name Generator while he was in college at NYU.
Glover's music career is Older Than They Think, having been releasing music (for free!) since 2002. In 2010, his role on Community brought in a wave of fans to his music, propelling him into the mainstream (and his appearance on Jamie xx's remix of "Rolling in the Deep" didn't hurt).
Throughout the early 2010s, he released his first major works under the Gambino name, carving out an introspective, existential flavor of Alternative Hip Hop. However, after a three-year hiatus following his second album because the internet, the Gambino sound switched to more eclectic styles, combining influences from singing-centric genres such as soul, R&B and funk, although he would continue rapping in places such as the 2018 single "This Is America", which debuted at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming his first song to do so.
For tropes relating to Glover's acting career and other entertainment ventures done under his real name, see his creator page.
- Camp (2011)
- because the internet (2013)
- "Awaken, My Love!" (2016)
- 3.15.20 (Donald Glover Presents) (2020)
EPs / Mixtapes / Independent releases
- Sick Boi (2008)
- Poindexter (2009)
- I Am Just a Rapper (2010)
- I Am Just a Rapper 2 (2010)
- Culdesac (2010)
- EP (2011)
- Royalty (2012)
- STN MTN/Kauai (2014)
- This Is America (2018)
- Summer Pack (2019)
"Awaken, My Tropes!":
- Album Title Drop:
- Camp gets title dropped in "Bonfire," "Firefly," and "That Power."
- Because the Internet gets title dropped in "III. telegraph ave." ("Two dates and he still wanna get it in / And you're saying it's because of the Internet / Try once and it's on to the next chick") and in "III. life: the greatest troll [andrew auernheimer]" ("Because the internet, mistakes are forever / But if we fuck up on this journey, at least we're together") — both lines accurately summing up the concept behind the album.
- Both songs in the Summer Pack, unsurprisingly, mention the summer extensively.
- Album Intro Track: The first two minutes of "Me And Your Mama" is a mood-setting choir and keyboards.
- Alien Geometries: In the "Sweatpants" video, every time Gambino leaves the diner through the rear exit, he finds himself back at the front entrance.
- all lowercase letters: because the internet as well as all the song titles on the album are officially in all lowercase, though people often use regular case rules when discussing them.
- All There in the Manual: Many details of because the internet are fleshed out both in the accompanying screenplay and through parts of Gambino's website. For example, the chorus of "I. the worst guys" is actually "All she needed was some dick;" and the instrumental "Death by Numbers" is the score to The Boy's drug overdose scene.
- Ambiguous Ending: The screenplay for because the internet, attributed primarily to the fact that it ends in the middle of a sentence. This was later utilized in a contest through RapGenius where fans could write their own endings, and four winners picked by Donald would receive a signed copy of the script along with a CD of the album.
- Animated Music Video: The video for "Feels Like Summer", which features animated versions of current rappers and celebrities.
- Arc Words: He tends to base his album titles off of these.
- Variations of "I do not talk, I am just a rapper" appear in songs throughout his demos I Am Just a Rapper and I Am Just a Rapper 2.
- "Roscoe's wetsuit" showed up a lot during the because the internet era and in the screenplay. It's a meme that just seemed to start from nowhere and exemplifies the impersonal emptiness of memes and referential humor in general.
- Audience Participation Song: The following numbers involve him reaching out to the audience to help sing:
- "Rolling in the Deep."
- In concert, the audience supplies the line "That ain't ironic, bitch, I love Rugrats!" from "L.E.S.".
- The entirety of "Freaks and Geeks". Just watch this.
- The "words that I made up" hook on "Do Ya Like."
- The titular chant from "II. WORLDSTAR" has become one, with some fans chanting it between songs at concerts.
- The "GO HOME, ROGER!" sample in "The Worst Guys."
- The choruses of "Crawl", "Earth: The Oldest Computer", and "3005."
- The "at her booty" and "ain't nobody got time for that" lines from "Crawl".
- The "woo!" sample during the second section of "Zealots of Stockholm."
- Several lines during "Sweatpants" ("are you eating though?", "white hood, white hood, OKKK"), including the timeless onomatopoeia line.
- During live performances of "Sweatpants", Bino now uses the Fisker bit where he stops the song and directly addresses the listener to say "How you feeling, [name of city/festival]?" to get some cheering.
- "The Longest Text Message" seems to be another fan favorite.
- The "UCLA" line in "You See Me".
- Inverted with "Worldstar"; at the part of the song that talks about filming phone videos horizontally, he'll always single out a few people recording him vertically and tell them to rotate. In some cases, he'll go down and adjust their phone for them.
- Author Avatar: Sort of. For each of his major studio releases so far, he's assumed the perspective of a character who generally represents certain aspects of his personality. The protagonist of Camp is based on himself in his early teens and is explicitly referred to as Donald, but it's a bit more complicated on because the internet, in which the narrator has a backstory unconnected to Gambino's, but does seem to represent the darker, more nihilistic side of his personality. Several times on the album the line between Donald/Gambino and The Boy is blurred ("Sweatpants," "Urn") and "Life: The Biggest Troll" is credited as 'featuring Donald Glover' on the physical copy of the album, and to make things more complicated he switches between Gambino and Glover throughout the track.
- Autotune: Gambino usually sings with his natural voice, but has used some autotune for stylistic effect, like in "The Awesome" and "Stand Tall".
- Badass Boast: A cornerstone of his early work. For example, on "Fuck It All", of all songs.For all you people saying Donald Glover bout to blow
Just give me 6 months so you can say "I told you so"
- Black Comedy:
- "Bonfire:" "The shit I'm doing this year? Insanity. Made the beat then murdered it: Casey Anthony."
- "Freaks and Geeks:" "This beat is a disaster, 9/11 this track."
- "Backpackers:" "I got a girl on my arm, dude, show respect. Something crazy and Asian, Virginia Tech."
- Body Horror: The end of the "III. telegraph ave." video, where Gambino is revealed to be an alien with tentacles sticking out of his left side like something out of a H. P. Lovecraft story.
- Book Ends:
- "That Power", the closing track on Camp, depicts a young Donald returning to his city life...which is exactly where the album opener "Outside" begins.
- The short film Clapping For the Wrong Reasons begins and ends with it being morning and someone knocking on Gambino's window, waking him up.
- because the internet opens and closes with a similar sound effect of pages being flipped through; the intro swoops upward while the ending swoops downward. Listening to the album on loop gives it a rather cyclical nature. The final track, "III. life: the biggest troll", ends with The Boy/Bino encountering a dilemma of self-image as he comes to realize that he doesn't know who he is anymore. The opening track, "I. crawl", starts with the question, "Who am I?" Both tracks are connected by the aforementioned sound effects.
- The first song on the STN MTN mixtape starts with him saying "I had a dream I ran Atlanta", and the last song ends with him saying "And then I woke up".
- The "Sober" video begins and ends with Bino sitting at a takeout restaurant in the exact same manner. A nearby clock is shown displaying 9:30 at the start and end as well, which helps the viewer realize that the entire video was an imagination that Gambino had.
- "Me and Your Mama" and "Zealots of Stockholm" both start as quiet, sensual songs and escalate into louder, more intense songs before returning to the original quieter sound for the ending.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall:
- In "Yaphet Kotto."What's the point? I don't know
Why am I here? Why am I alive? Why do you care?
- The video for "IV. sweatpants". Just like in the song proper, Gambino pauses the song after the line, "Ain't nobody sicker in my Fisker, vroom vroom, ho! Ain't nobody-", to remind the audience that Fisker was an electric car manufacturer and their vehicles can't actually make revving noises.
- In "Yaphet Kotto."
- Brutal Honesty: His date in "life: the biggest troll." She even interrupts him; you can hear him starting to go off on a Boastful Rap tangent in the background before suddenly being cut off by the next line.She said, "you need to grow up, you been doing this for too longThat camp was a million years ago, sing me a different song."
- By "No", I Mean "Yes":
- "Kissing in the bathroom, girl/I hope nobody catch us.../but I kinda hope they catch us." ("L.E.S.")
- The final lines of "Heartbeat": "Are we dating?/Are we fucking?/Are we best friends?/Are we something/in between that?/I wish we never fucked and I mean that! (But not really. You say the nastiest shit in bed and it's fucking awesome)".
- The opening yell from "Backpackers" is sampled in the background of "That Power."
- The script for because the internet that was posted online starts directly after "That Power" ends. "That Power" ends with the line, "The truth is I got on the bus a boy. And I never got off the bus. I still haven't.", while the screenplay begins with the text, "You can't live your life on a bus..."
- "earth: the oldest computer (the last night)" is filled with references to previous songs:
- The hook loosely reprises the melody of "telegraph ave."
- The closing lines are also rapped in the same manner as the chorus of "You See Me".
- The backing vocals in the outro are sampled from "So Fly."
- The lyrics reference the concept of being 'destined,' first brought up in "That Power."
- The chord progression is nearly identical to that of "The Last."
- The video for "Sweatpants" features one of the Gambinos wearing the red hoodie he wore in the "Freaks and Geeks" video.
- The Cameo:
- "Silk Pillow," featuring Beck!
- Questlove from The Roots plays drums on Camp.
- Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin and actress Kristen Schaal (recognizable as Hazel Wassername from 30 Rock) narrate the intro to Royalty.
- And Scott Grimes introduces STN/MTN as "Steve Smith from ''American Dad''.
- More than 50 other prominent rappers and/or singers appear briefly in the animated video for "Feels Like Summer".
- Careful with That Axe: As a testament to his vocal prowess (and his larynx strength), he does a lot of powerful screaming throughout "Awaken, My Love!". He has said that the inspiration for this element of the album came from how he'd feel a certain way emotionally after hearing a scream when listening to the album Maggot Brain.
- Cerebus Syndrome: As he grew as an artist, he started to lay off the Boastful Raps a bit and delved into topics such as racial identity, sexual paranoia, existentialism, and suicide.
- This also applied to his acting roles too. His early sketch work with Derrick Comedy and his role as Troy Barnes was over-the-top, hyper and full of him embracing his nerdy nature. Following his departure from Community, his later work as an actor such as Atlanta still had elements of comedy but was much more subdued and deadpan.
- Creepy Changing Painting: A variant; the album cover of because the internet is actually a GIF. Initially, it seems like a normal image showing Gambino's face, but then his face will distort beyond recognition before returning to normal for a few seconds, after which it distorts again.
- Concept Album: Gambino has said that each album also represents a certain period of his life. For example, Camp is his early teens and because the internet is his late teens and early twenties.
- Camp: A somewhat autobiographical account of Gambino's difficult childhood ("Outside"), his rise to fame ("Fire Fly"), the narcissism ("Bonfire") and self-loathing ("All the Shine") that accompany it, his difficulty having actual relationships now that he's successful ("Heartbeat," "L.E.S.," "Kids"), and finally facing his problems ("That Power"). There's also the recurring theme of summer camp throughout the album, particularly evident in many of the song titles ("Backpackers," "Letter Home," "Bonfire," "Kids," etc.)
- because the internet centers around social media's role in tightening relationships between people, but not necessarily for the best reasons. The album came with its own screenplay which concludes the bus narrative from the end of Camp's "That Power", then fast-forwarding 15 years later to show the same boy (referred to as "The Boy") filling his parentless void by trolling internet celebrities and throwing mansion parties à la The Great Gatsby. He eventually becomes manically depressed and attempts suicide. After waking from a coma, he learns that his father has died and no longer has any income. He attempts to sell drugs with his friends but gets caught quickly because of how sloppily he handles his business. Police arrive at the mansion shortly after The Boy is kidnapped by rival drug dealers; a firefight ensues and it is insinuated that The Boy is shot.
- Cover Version:
- "Rolling in the Deep"... sort of. It was originally a remix of Adele's original on which Gambino had a guest verse, which became so popular among fans that it was regularly performed live as a straight-up cover (with John Legend singing Adele's part) that concluded with Gambino rapping his verse from the remix.
- "Break (All of the Lights)" features a beat that mostly replaces the original's blaring horns with a guitar, piano and cello.
- He did a gorgeous cover of PM Dawn's "I'd Die Without You."
- STN/MTN has a cover of Usher's "U Don't Have To Call", acapella no less.
- Creepy Shadowed Undereyes: In the "Sober" video.
- Damn, It Feels Good to Be a Gangster!: "Pink Toes" is about The Boy becoming a drug dealer and making a lot of money. However it ends with the line "I'm out of time" accompanied by siren noises, so presumably he didn't enjoy that life for long.
- Darker and Edgier: because the internet is a pretty grim album, compared to anything he's done before.
- Darkest Hour: "Bronchitis" is easily the darkest part of Royalty.
- "I. Flight of the Navigator"/"II. Zealots of Stockholm (Free Information")/"III. Urn" on because the internet.
- Department of Redundancy Department: "I used to rap about nothing/Now I rap about nothing" from "Silk Pillow."
- Destination Ruse: * In his stand up special, Donald mentioned how his dad would lie and say they were going to Toys "R" Us when they were actually going to Home Depot.
- Didn't Think This Through: When he joined Twitter, he found that "donaldglover" was already taken, so he opted for "donglover", not realizing what it spelled.
- Digital Piracy Is Okay: He uploaded the BTI-era demo "What Kind of Love" to his SoundCloud for free shortly after learning that it had been released on iTunes without his knowledge."i saw that someone is selling this on iTunes. i gave this away for free since it’s incomplete and a rough. thought it was wack someone did that without my permission. so i put it up here."
- Dies Wide Open: The "Yaphet Kotto" video, the BTI screenplay's closing scene, shows The Boy dead with his eyes open in a spread-eagle position at the surface of a pool.
- Diegetic Switch: "III. telegraph ave." begins with Gambino in his car listening to radio station Power 106 as the (in real life, fictitious) song "Oakland" by Lloyd starts playing. Gambino begins singing along and eventually sings over the track as the chorus drops.note
- Driven to Suicide:
- He fantasizes about it in "Fuck it All," and dismisses it (at least for the time being) in "Bronchitis."
- The Boy in because the internet attempts it at the end of "II. no exit" (the screenplay shows that he tried to overdose), leading into "death by numbers" (which fully illustrates the Boy's sensations as he does it). It doesn't take.
- Early-Bird Cameo:
- The instrumental versions of "II. no exit" and "I. Flight of the Navigator" appear in the short film Clapping for the Wrong Reasons.
- The middle section of "II. Zealots of Stockholm (Free Information)" premiered at the end of the "3005" video.
- Early-Installment Weirdness: All of Bino's early work focused on Boastful Raps with plenty of Narm. It wasn't until 2011's Camp that Gambino began finding his voice as a rapper. As of 2013's because the internet, he's got a firm grip on it.
- For people who found him through because the internet, the fairly straightforward hip-hop of Camp might come as a bit of a surprise.
- Epic Rocking: "That Power" is his longest song, being 20 seconds shy of 8 minutes long. "Flight of the Navigator", "Real Estate", "Life: The Biggest Troll", "Me and Your Mama", and "Stand Tall" are all around 6 minutes long, and Bino also has a handful of songs around the 5-minute range ("All the Shine", "LES", "Kids", "Pop Thieves", the opening STN MTN track, "Redbone").
- Eleven O'Clock Number: "Earth: The Oldest Computer," the penultimate track on because the internet, is its emotional climax and features multiple Call Backs to earlier songs.
- A less obvious example with "Sunrise" on Camp.
- Establishing Character Moment: "Be Alone," the opening track on EP.
- Everything Except Most Things: From "Be Alone": "I don't fuck with fake bitches, except for when I fuck with fake bitches."
- Everything Is an Instrument: "Dial Up" gets its main beat from windshield wipers.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: He has an EP called...EP.
- When he said "there's levels to this shit like a wedding cake" on "Yaphet Kotto," he wasn't lying. It describes the shooting that triggers The Boy's existential crisis in the because the internet script, and the short promo video that accompanied it is actually the script's final scene.
- In his stand-up special Weirdo, he talks about his love of "weird music," which became apparent nearly two years later on because the internet.
- The video for "The Worst Guys" had a quick shot with Bino walking out of frame, revealing a bloody wound on his leg. This would make more sense in the "Telegraph Ave" video, when Bino is revealed to be an alien.
- Fun with Acronyms: Singer, Writer, Actor, Gambino. (Alternately, Sex With Asian Girls.)
- Gainax Ending: The "Telegraph Ave" video has one that completely shifts the trajectory of not just that video but some of the videos preceding it, leading many to realize that there's an underlying story. In the ending, Bino gets hit by a car, and his girlfriend (Jhené Aiko) is infuriated with the driver when he tries to reason with her. However, Bino is revealed to have long tentacles protruding from the side of his body, revealing that he's an extraterrestrial creature if not a Humanoid Abomination, and kills the driver by lifting him up into the air with one of his tentacles and allowing him to crash down onto his car.
- Gratuitous Panning: The end of "Stand Tall".
- Green Aesop: A major theme in "Feels Like Summer", considering the only reason it "feels like summer" at all is because of global warming, and Donald spends the entire song singing about the ramifications that he could see if the world continues on its current path.Every day gets hotter than the one before
Running out of water, it's about to go down
Air that kill the bees that we depend upon
Birds were made for singing, wakin' up to no sound
- "Groundhog Day" Loop: A recurring theme throughout Because the Internet. The "Sweatpants" video is a particularly clear example.
- Hashtag Rap: He used it very frequently in his earlier albums (especially Camp), but uses it slightly less now.
- Heartbeat Soundtrack: If you listen closely, there's a faint, heartbeat-like sound playing during parts of (what else?) "Heartbeat".
- Hidden Track: Video version. The "3005" video contains a hidden music video for the middle section of "Zealots of Stockholm" at the end, and "Sweatpants" does the same for "Urn."
- Hipster: Discussed in "L.E.S." and criticized in "Backpackers."
- I Have Many Names: As mentioned above, he's Donald Glover as an actor, Childish Gambino as a rapper, and mcDJ as a DJ. This is even played with in the April 21, 2018 episode of Saturday Night Live, in which Glover is listed as the host and Gambino as the musical guest.
- Incoming Ham: "Rolling in the Deep"Adele: We could've-
- Incredibly Long Note: The most famous part of "Yaphet Kotto" is the extremely long sung note in its sampled instrumental, electronically altered to extend its length.
- Indecipherable Lyrics:
- Most lyrics websites list "Death by Numbers" as an instrumental, because whatever he's singing has been so thoroughly distorted and filtered that it's nearly impossible to decipher.
- The respective climaxes of "Shadows" and "The Worst Guys" also qualify.
- Instant Mystery, Just Delete Scene: because the internet's screenplay features a box on page 41 that simply says, "secret track coming soon," with instructions to stop reading and listen to the entire song before continuing.
- It wasn't uploaded for another 10 months after the album was released, eventually being found and leaked through Reddit. It's an acapella remix of "3005", and upon its discovery, Gambino directed fans to sync it to the "Instrumental Beach Picnic" version of "3005" that was on Kauai.
- Jump Scare: The lenticular because the internet cover GIF will undoubtedly startle someone the first few times they see it, with Bino's face suddenly getting distorted. It's even scarier since if you see the picture online, you don't know if it's a still image or a GIF.
- Just Friends: A dark example in "Heartbeat."
- Literary Allusion Title: Clapping For the Wrong Reasons, the short film that functioned as a prelude to because the internet, derives its title and at least some of its thematic base from this The Catcher in the Rye quote."I swear to God, if I were a piano player or an actor or something and all those dopes thought I was terrific, I'd hate it. I wouldn't even want them to clap for me. People always clap for the wrong things."
- The Loins Sleep Tonight: From "The Worst Guys":I had a ménage, and murdered the vag
But, afterwards, it was awkward as fuck
Cause I'm nervous as fuck and could not get it up
- Lyrical Dissonance:
- "Heartbeat," which has alternately soothing and energetic instrumentation but is lyrically an example of The Masochism Tango.
- "L.E.S." is the opposite. Lyrically, it's an offbeat love song to a Hipster girl with only a few lines in the verses indicating anything more serious or depressing (though the bridge makes it more obvious), but the melancholy (and, in the choruses, ominous) instrumental part changes the tone of the song completely.
- "You See Me" is a heavy, grinding track with distorted vocals... and probably the funniest song on Camp.
- "Feels Like Summer" is a groovy R&B jam about the multitude of problems slowly destroying the Earth, including overpopulation, climate change, pollution, and deforestation.
- Lyrics/Video Mismatch:
- "Bonfire" is a Boastful Rap; the video is a ghost story.
- "Heartbeat" is a depressing Anti-Love Song; the video is Gambino riding around in a limo and eating cheetos.
- "Firefly" is an upbeat Rags to Riches song; the music video is a science fiction story — but when you think about it, though, it's kind of appropriate.
- Madness Mantra: "Look at the recluse" in "No Exit." This is the roughly where the album begins to descend into borderline-Nightmare Fuel territory.
- The Masochism Tango: "Heartbeat," again.
- Meaningful Background Event: The video for "This is America" repeatedly shifts focus between Gambino's gleeful dancing in the foreground and the shifting scenes of chaotic violence and rioting in the background. Considering the lyrical content itself makes similar shifts between being hedonistic and carefree to critical and disturbing, this juxtaposition is very much intentional.
- Me's a Crowd: The "Sweatpants" video, which involves Gambino repeatedly walking through a restaurant as more and more people begin to look like him. By the end of the video, everyone in the place looks like him.
- Mind Screw: The "Sweatpants" video and the ending of the "Telegraph Ave." video.
- Misogyny Song: Subverted by "Kids," which is a downtempo ballad that starts out like this, but quickly falls apart and reveals that he's really more depressed about his inability to form any sort of healthy relationship with women than anything.
- In an interview, he said that his one regret about Camp was that he thought he came off as sexist.
- Modern Minstrelsy: His exaggerated faces and poses in "This is America" directly evoke minstrel shows.
- Mood Whiplash: Part of Bino's Signature Style.
- The album Camp uses this several times, which helped bring his style to the forefront:
- The most effectively by cutting straight from the uptempo, hedonistic "Bonfire" to the bleak Tear Jerker "All the Shine".
- "Hold You Down" follows "L.E.S.," and it feels like the light at the end of the tunnel.
- Because the Internet:
- The sad and melancholy song "Urn" is immediately followed by "Pink Toes", probably one of the most upbeat tracks on the album.
- Up until around 1:30, "Zealots of Stockholm" is lush and peaceful. Then there's a sudden drop and the song becomes bleak and jittery. It then reverts back to its original form for the last minute and 45 seconds of the song.
- Invoked multiple times in the "This is America" video (and the song itself).
- The first time is when the video first opens on a man playing guitar as chorus chants cheerfully, then pans to Gambino, who then begins dancing. As he makes his way to the guitar player (who now has a mask over his head), he grabs a gun and shoots him in the head as the beat becomes much darker. He shortly resumes dancing.
- A similar example happens later is when Gambino dances in front of a church choir singing gleefully before being thrown an assault rifle and killing them.
- The album Camp uses this several times, which helped bring his style to the forefront:
- Motor Mouth: Channels this in some of his songs, such as in the last verse of "You See Me", through the second verse of "The Party", and in "California".
- Myth Arc: A light one between two of Bino's music videos. In "The Worst Guys", there's a Freeze-Frame Bonus shot where Bino can be seen walking out of frame with his leg revealing a nasty wound to the camera. In "Telegraph Ave", he has gigantic tentacles sort of slither out of his side, confirming the belief that Bino must be some sort of extraterrestrial creature.
- New Sound Album:
- because the internet. It's hard to place it in a single genre.
- "Awaken, My Love!" is a throwback to R&B, Motown, and funk, with inspiration taken from artists such as Funkadelic and Prince.
- Nice Guy: Parodied on "My Girls:" "They don't like me 'cause I'm too nice! ...also I'm kinda fat."
- No Ending:
- The because the internet screenplay ends in the middle of a word.
- "Stand Tall" (and by extent, the whole of "Awaken, My Love!") ends with him belting a note that gets suddenly cut off before it can finish.
- N-Word Privileges:
[imitating Obama] We stand here today, there are still some Americans who don't believe I have their best interests at heart, and I'd like to put those fears to rest today. But before I do that, I'd like to talk about how niggas be trippin'. They be trippin'. Niggas be trippin. Especially when bitches be around.
- In "Backpackers", he sarcastically refers to himself as "the only white rapper who's allowed to say the n-word."
- He also lampshades this, saying that some black people just can't say the n-word.
- He discusses it again in his hour-long special, saying that Charlie Sheen has N-word privileges after he had the audacity to call his white wife a "nigger", and that in order to remove the stigma, more white people have to start using the word casually, even though "we will lose some of you in the process".
- One-Man Song: "Yaphet Kotto".
- The Oner:
- The video for "Freaks and Geeks" is a true one-shot, considering it's one of his more minimal videos (him rapping while jumping around an empty warehouse).
- The video for "V. 3005" is edited to appear like one. It features a depressed-looking Bino riding a ferris wheel with a slowly-decaying teddy bear. Eventually the camera pans away from him to reveal that the rest of the carnival is on fire.
- "IV. sweatpants" is also edited to appear as one take. Gambino walks into a diner, has his water glass filled and cues up a tune on the jukebox before walking outside to check his phone. Walking back in the same door, he ends up on the other side of the restaurant and repeats his actions. On each loop, more and more people suddenly bear his likeness.
- The short "Yaphet Kotto" promo video is a true one-shot video, depicting The Boy's death with him in a spread eagle at the surface of a pool. It starts with a close-up of his face, but zooms out to show his body and the rest of the pool, as well as one of his shoes floating in the distance.
- The video for "This is America" isn’t quite a oner but it’s 4 minutes of run time composed of only 4 obvious shots, two of which are extended tracking shots, with the obligatory whip pans for flavor.
- Piss-Take Rap: The hardcore Southern rap song "Real Estate" ends with a verse from Tina Fey.
- Post Modern: He's extremely aware of rap cliches and tropes, and much of his appeal comes from how he toys with them.
- Pun: Known to make a few."3005": "I have no patience, 'cause I'm not a doctor. Girl, why is you lyingnote ? Girl, why you Mufasa?"
- Race Fetish: Discussed and denied in "You See Me."
- Rags to Riches: Summed up in "Firefly:"Even dudes who like me straight lookin' at me crazy
Like, "how the hell he drop a EP and meet Jay-Z?"
Girls used to tell me I ain't cool enough
Now text me pics sayin', "You could tear this up"
I don't really like shades, big rims, or jewelry
But gettin' time of day from a model is new to me
- Rearrange the Song:
- "Lights Turned On" becomes much heavier when performed live.
- "L.E.S." builds up to a much more intense climax during live performances, usually leading directly into "Letter Home."
- Bits of "Bronchitis" have appeared in live performances with different music and context.
- On the Deep Web Tour, "Freaks and Geeks," "Firefly," and "Yaphet Kotto" were merged into a single song, and the live version of "Centipede" features his "Pound Cake" verse at the end.
- "Letter Home" features the instrumental violin from "All the Shine", the song directly preceding it.
- Similarly, "The Worst Guys" uses "Dial Up", the song preceding it, as the foundation for its beat.
- "Retro" is an updated version of "Love is Crazy", a song from his first mixtape, Sick Boi. It uses the same hook and beat (although it sounds more remastered and less lo-fi).
- Recurring Riff: The melody from "Telegraph Ave." reappears throughout because the internet, most notably on "Zealots of Stockholm" and "Earth: The Oldest Computer."
- Recycled Lyrics: "I am ready to go" is first used in "Heartbeat" and then reused in "Telegraph Ave.".
- The Reveal: The "Telegraph Ave." video shows that Bino is an alien.
- Rhyming with Itself:
I like pink, it always looks good on me
- From "Silk Pillow": "I used to rap about nothing/now I rap about nothing!"
- From "Yes":
And I like pink, it always looks good on me
That second part I was talking about vagina, homie
I talk a lot about the girls in my songs
- From "Lights Turned On":
But you are different from the girls in my songs
Stop talking bout the girls in my songs
- Running Gag: His thing for Asian girls. He really hammered it in early in his career (especially on Camp), but has since toned it down.
- "Worldstar" samples a few videos from the titular site, as well as The Little Mermaid (1989) of all things.
- "Zealots of Stockholm" features a sample from another Worldstar video.
- Sanity Slippage: because the internet has elements of this, and the short film Clapping for All the Wrong Reasons showcases this. While it just shows The Boy doing his everyday activities, there's something so off about it, especially near the end. Also helps with the accompanying script.
- Serial Escalation: Camp featured a Motor Mouth verse on exactly one song. because the internet has several, due to Gambino's rapping skills vastly improving.
- Shout-Out: Expected from someone as Black and Nerdy as Bino is. Shout outs include Radiohead, Arcade Fire, Sufjan Stevens, TRON, Invader Zim, Pokémon, Adventure Time, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Kurt Vonnegut, internet memes, and much, much more. Each one seems to show that Bino's not just throwing references out and that he's a real fan of everything he does shout out.
- In the Jimmy Kimmel Live! version of "Crawl," he sings part of Kanye West's "All Falls Down" during the last chorus.
- His short film Clapping for the Wrong Reasons is named in part after a quote from The Catcher in the Rye ("People always clap for the wrong things").
- This line from "That Power", which Bino is reportedly very proud of:
- Siamese Twin Songs: "All the Shine" and "Letter Home."
- A more subtle example: "That Power" (the final track of Camp) leads almost flawlessly into "Outside" (the first track) both musically and thematically, which one would only notice with the album on loop or by deliberately playing the two next to each other.
- Done multiple times on because the internet:
- Signature Style: An almost schizophrenic combination of witty, fast-paced Boastful Rap and Kid Cudi-esque introspection.
- Single Stanza Song: "Freaks and Geeks" and "Hero" (along with most of his other early, more freestyle-based songs). "Bonfire" at first seems like it's going to avert this trope, but the part that seems like it would be the chorus ("it's a bonfire/turn the lights out/I'm burning everything you motherfuckers talk about") only shows up once in the song.
- Slap-Slap-Kiss: "Fuck you - can I have this dance?" ("L.E.S.")
- Spoken Word in Music:
- The bus speech that concludes the album Camp.
- because the internet includes small sections of spoken vocals, as well as samples from YouTube and WorldStarHipHop videos.
- "centipede" features a nearly two minute passage excerpted from the documentary Behind the Lava Lamp.
- Stylistic Suck: The verses on "This Is America" are about as basic as you can get, to the point where they're not so much verses but a collection of modern trap rap cliches and ad-libs. This was done to illustrate how the simplistic catchiness of trap keeps America placated as horrible things happen.
- Subverted Rhyme Every Occasion: In "Pop Thieves":Now that we have found this love, babyThese haters can't say shit, ohI know sometimes it's hard when I'm so farI know you miss this di-love
- Not to mention how the song cuts "dick" out for "love" in a purposely sloppy manner.
- Sudden Downer Ending: "Pink Toes", the single most happy and upbeat song on BTI, ends with The Boy saying "I'm out of time" while police sirens wail in the background, implying that his life as a drug dealer was abruptly cut short.
- Surreal Music Video: The video for "3005" is just Gambino on a Ferris wheel with an increasingly mutilated sentient teddy bear.
- The video for "Sweatpants" starts out fairly mundane, with Gambino in a diner sitting down at a booth, then walking out. When he walks back in, the faces of all of the guests are replaced with his.
- The "Telegraph Ave." music video becomes this.
- Take That!: "Backpackers," "Fuck Your Blog," "The Longest Text Message".
- Textless Album Cover: Culdesac, EP, because the internet, and "Awaken, My Love!".
- This Is for Emphasis, Bitch!: Famously placed at the end of "Bonfire".
- Time Skip: Between "Outside" and "Firefly," and possibly between "Firefly" and "Bonfire."
- In-universe, fifteen years pass between the storylines of Camp and because the internet.
- Twin Threesome Fantasy: In "I. The Worst Guys":
- Undercrank: The sped-up vocal sample that recurs throughout "Lights Turned On."
- Subverted with "Redbone", which contained what many initially thought was an effect on his voice to make him sound higher-pitched, until he publicly confirmed that the vocals used in the song were all natural.
- Vocal Evolution: On the early, independently-released albums, he affects a croakier, Lil Wayne-esque voice. It wasn't until EP that he began to sound like the Childish Gambino we know today. And just when you thought he stopped there, he improved even more for "Awaken, My Love!" to the point where people genuinely thought he used effects on his voice for one song ("Redbone").
- Walking Shirtless Scene: Literally in "This is America".
- The Whitest Black Guy: A common topic of his earlier music is him feeling like he's too "white" for the black kids and too "Black" for the white kids.
- Worthy Opponent: From "Bonfire:" "You hate me, but you will respect!"