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Donald Glover and Childish Gambino, his musical alter ego, together have created a one man cultural tour de force
If someone has a blanket, they need to throw it over Donald Glover and Childish Gambino (if you can catch them at the same time). Why? Because they are on fire right now.
But before we admire the global blaze the 34-year-old performer is stoking right now, let’s get the obvious out of the way: Yes, Donald Glover and Childish Gambino are the same person.
Just like Bruce Wayne and Batman, you will not see them in the same room together at the same time — much to the dismay and disbelief of some dubiously-idolised celebrities.
But there we have it, while Childish Gambino has been gambolling and rapping his way across music television screens for the last six years, Donald Glover has been making waves in Hollywood circles at the same time.
Combined, the Glover-Gambino duo is the hottest property in the world right now. There’s no hyperbole here. Glover is one of the most in-demand actors. And Gambino is one of, if not the most talked about musician on the planet.
And for good reason.
Start with Atlanta — one of the most talked about and critically acclaimed shows in TV right now.
Move to Solo: A Star Wars Story — one of the most anticipated film franchises of 2018.
This is America
And then you come to ‘This is America’ (video above) — the irreverent R&B song, the lyrics and video to which has sent the world into a viral social frenzy.
What do they all have in common? Yep, Donald and Childish G are at their centre, tying them all together like a total entertainment tourniquet.
Glover has got the double-sided personality — certainly in entertainment terms — spot on. While one side is scribbling down lyrics and spitting bars for album tracks and YouTube music video phenomenons, his other self is quietly rehearsing lines, reading scripts and writing lines tv and film.
“People always want to be surprised. Anything I come to and I already know the answer to, I get bored so fast,” Glover recently said in an interview with i-D during the promo period of Solo.
Childish Gambino’s Elusive Meaning
Throughout Glover’s musical career he has certainly surprised people. None more so than his 2018 track ‘This is America’, which has gripped the world in its polemical stranglehold.
In just over a week more than 200 million people had viewed it. Scores of millions more had shared it. Feminist, Nigerian and mock spin-offs were written, performed and posted days later.
Subsequently Gambino’s ‘hidden’ meaning has become a media fixation.
From suggesting Gambino is a physical manifestation of America herself, to interpreting the symbolism of his choice of dance, to the Confederate-style buttoned pants he wore, Gambino has pulled the world into his thinly-veiled world view: an overarching rage and disappointment with the way the world is happy to prioritise saccharine entertainment to distract itself from the real atrocities playing out on the background of our lives.
All the while America (Gambino) mirthfully gambols across the screen from homicide to prison cell to abandoned cars.
Glover Talking Through Art
For his part, Glover refuses to comment on the intense worldwide analysis of his politically-charged track. Instead, he is a man who prefers to speak through his layers of art. Gambino dropped ‘This is America’. It blew up. He walked away and left us to put the pieces together ourselves, almost daring us to try and interpret the myriad layers of meaning that are woven into the fabric of the video.
It’s an admirable ambition, and there are very few who achieve the level of superstardom where they can rely on their art to talk for them without justifying or explaining it to the masses to whom it is addressed. But it’s a privilege that Glover has earned.
After coming to the public’s attention at the age of 23, when Tina Fey hired him to write on 30 Rock, Glover went on to feature for five seasons in NBC sitcom Community as Troy Barnes. He didn’t look back once he’d got his break. Glover’s since created, written and starred in Atlanta — a comedy-drama series centring on the Atlanta rap scene — for which he has won a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a comedy TV series and a Critics Choice award for Best Actor in a Comedy series, both in 2017.
Moving onto the silver screen has also been a breeze: The Martian (2015), Spiderman: Homecoming (2017) Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) and he’s lined up to play Simba in a 2019 remake of Disney’s The Lion King. And if that wasn’t enough, there are rumours that he could be playing a villain in the next Black Panther blockbuster.
Hand in Glover Style
For a man who originally wanted to be a wedding planner because he “liked events and thought it would be cool,” this life is a far cry from ordering cakes and centrepieces for hitched couples; although there has been plenty of confetti on his journey from start out songwriter to mega Hollywood movie star and rap demi-god. Glover is not the one organising the show for others, the show is organised for him to shine on centre stage.
Since the world’s attention has been closely focused on Glover, his style has taken a noticeable turn: wowing red carpet onlookers with scarlet, orange and purple suits and tuxedos with a panache and charisma reminiscent of Tinie Tempah.
Simply put, Glover makes waves in whichever pool he swims. From the red Salvatore Ferragamo suit he donned for the Solo premiere in Los Angeles to the unbottoned Hawaiian shirts (which are soon removed) on stage, to the topless and Confederate-style pants he wears in ‘This is America’, through his on-stage characters and Gambino, Glover has cultivated a cult following for a talent and style that is only going to continue soaring to meteoric heights.
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