The release of Pharos last Friday marked the return of Donald Glover.
All weekend people sat glued to their phones - waiting, watching, speculating what would happen as the timer ticked away. As we grew closer to the mysterious destination a planet appeared, visually allowing viewers to feel as if they were truly on a voyage. As far as apps go, it was forward-thinking and pretty cool. Even though music would’ve been the desired reward, Pharos was used to announce Donald’s upcoming festival, located at Joshua Tree in California.
Through the app tickets can be purchased, pre-sale will be available in a few days (on June 24). This is a great way to handle an event of this magnitude, cutting out resale tickets and scalpers, limiting the audience to those who actually bought tickets. The festival will take place in September, the same month that Glover's new series will debut on FX, it's safe to say Donald is looking to take over the entire third quarter in both music and television.
The app presenting a new album last weekend would’ve been instant gratification, but an album experience is more fitting of Donald. He said it throughout the press run for Because The Internet, he isn’t trying to sell albums, he wants to sell an experience. Experiences can’t be leaked, ripped, or stolen by pirates. He understands this era, he understands the internet, and for this very reason Donald Glover is one of the most creative individuals in all of music.
The genius of Kanye West is a book yet to be written. I foresee a day where on bookshelves between the Bible and the Great Gatsby will sit a biography that will tell the tale of rap's most acclaimed creative. Kanye’s influence is undeniable. Just look around, he is the father of countless - his offspring aren’t just in hip-hop, not just in urban music but across the globe. Men and women in the poorest neighborhoods and in the richest boardrooms have been inspired by the ethos that he exudes through his art and person.
A few months prior to the release of Because The Internet, Childish Gambino gave an interview and stated:
“I am the son of Kanye.”
It was the first time I heard the phrase, opening my eyes to all the qualities he carries that can be traced back to the house of Yeezus. Kanye and Gambino are two names in rap that rarely intersect, existing on two separate spectrums but once you start connecting the similarities, it’s clear that Childish Gambino is from the same family tree.
Production is what got Kanye into the door so that he could showcase his desire to rap. He was ignored, laughed at and brushed off, but his persistence on being seen as more than a producer paid off. He wasn’t a producer turned rapper, that just happened to be the creative talent that got him attention first. Donald Glover isn’t a college dropout but as a rapper what he did as an actor took him places that the mixtapes he recorded never could. The rapping continued as the name Donald Glover became associated with his writing on 30 Rock and when he starred as Troy Barnes on Community. He was seen as an actor turned rapper, where in reality he just happened to be more famous for that side of himself. Two rejects that were resilient enough to keep going at a time where they weren't beloved stars but artists trying to make it in the face of boxes stacked on top of boxes
Both Kanye and Gambino introduced a narrative in rap that wasn’t being widely embraced in the mainstream. Comparing their early material, Kanye is the superior rapper but Gambino’s progression throughout the years is astounding. Think back to My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy - Kanye packaged the album with a high-budget film. Gambino wrote a screenplay to coincide with the release of Because The Internet and released a short film that brought the characters to life as a prequel to the album. When the two speak in interviews you can hear the words of passionate creative minds, one a bit more outspoken than the other, but you walk away with a sense that both are big thinkers that care about art - whether it's fashion for the pending doomsday or a television series.
Glover's rhyme-spitting started in his freshman year of college in 2002 with a self-produced, self-released mix-tape called "The Younger I Get" — an effort his classmates widely derided for being too confessional and wildly out of step with hip-hop's boilerplate subject matter: babes, bullets, bling. "It was like somebody ripped out my heart and put it on a CD," he recalled. Straight out of NYU, he landed a plum job writing for "30 Rock," yet stuck with hip-hop and put out another mix-tape, "Sick Boi," in 2008 — despite a constant white noise of constructive criticism from those around him. - L.A. Times 2010
When Donald left Community, he stressed that the reason he left the show was because he didn’t want to work for someone else. A man who wanted to be his own boss. It reminds me of Kanye’s “Spaceships,” a man sick of working a job who would rather pursue his creative passions full-time. Unlike Kanye, Donald wasn’t waiting for a spaceship, he left to build his own. Other than the few movies he’s been in, creatively Donald has been in the driver's seat creating the kind of content displaying his ability to merge all his talents - acting, music, comedy are the trifecta that his series Atlanta is built around. He is running on a creative drive that’s full of epic ambition but isn’t seeking any validation from anyone. Donald isn't screaming about his genius, he isn’t boasting about what he has done, self-contained and completely in control. Kanye is a bit different. He might be out of the Gap but he’s still waiting on his spaceship - acceptance.
Since Yeezus, Kanye's has been working hard to keep his finger on music’s pulse while also entering into the realm of fashion. The stage show that he put on for the Yeezus tour was immaculate, there wasn’t another rap show like it. The Life Of Pablo’s rollout from the tweets to the streaming was messy and while an ever-evolving album feels innovative, he isn’t the first to take that approach. Kanye has always been a visionary, but lately it’s very hard to see his vision. The Madison Square Garden show had a great turnout, a historic night for him, but ultimately it was just him playing his album through a phone at a really big venue. No different than passing him the aux cord in your car. It was an album experience just not a great one.
Childish Gambino is taking that very concept to the next level with Pharos. He’s going into the woods, taking his fans into a setting completely in his control, and potentially delivering a night they will never forget. A Reddit user discovered that Gambino trademarked the name Pharos in 2014. It shows that he isn’t moving under a burst of inspiration, this is a meticulous planner who has a vision and has been executing it without deviation. In some ways you can see him as the son of Kanye but it’s becoming clear that Gambino is the next form of Kanye in the evolutionary chart of creative geniuses.
Donald Glover and his team are proving you can do it your way. They have continued to innovate and evolve without losing a sense of self. Progression has only made him better but I haven’t noticed the slightest bit of compromise from the artist he was and the artist he is now. Looking at Childish’s career reminds me of the article that Kevin Abstract wrote a few years ago, about how Gambino made it easier for a creative black kid like him to pursue his dreams and embrace what made him different instead of seeking to fit in. That’s the very feeling Kanye gave kids who didn’t feel connected to the image typically associated with rap when he entered the game with his pink Polo.
Evolution sparks influence, and influence is able to breed the next phase of evolution. Donald Glover isn’t Kanye West, he will never be Kanye, but he has reached a place where his vision and innovation needs to be acknowledged and celebrated the same way he have celebrated all that Kanye has done. And hopefully what he’s doing now will fuel the next, budding creative mind to surpass and go far beyond Donald’s wildest imagination. Let Donald be the example of how there’s no limits for a creative mind who doesn’t see ceilings but an open sky of infinite possibilities.
By Yoh, aka The Son Of Donald, aka @Yoh31
Photo Credit: BELLNJERRY