Nothing is ever as it seems when it comes to Childish Gambino. And just like everything else he does, the rabbit hole of his new two-parter EP – STN MTN and Kauai – goes way deeper than just surface level.
Everyone likes surprises, especially when they’re in the form of a mixtape.
And for you weirdos who don’t like surprise music, here’s some good news for you: we spoiled this like three whole weeks ago.
Gambino has become known for creating tracks with heavy social commentary as well as larger projects that all crossover into each other, such as the short film and 75-page script that connected to his most recent album Because The Internet. So upon first listen, his 11-track STN MTN (Stone Mountain) seemed like it was missing a piece of the usual cultural critique, nerdy references, and creativity his previous works had.
At first listen, it sounds like Gambino sold out and ditched his usually powerful voice. But like the first song on his new mixtape says, “in Gambino we trust.”
After listening to it a few times, STN MTN quickly illustrates that the entire mixtape is a dream, starting with the lyric, “I had a dream I ran Atlanta…” in “Dream/Southern Hospitality/Partna Dem” and bookended with “And then I woke up…” at the end of “Go DJ”.
My theory was confirmed here, where Glover said that STN MTN is indeed a dream. Going even further, it’s just the first half of an EP that includes the upcoming Kauai. Narrated by Jaden Smith (whose involvement Gambino hinted at in his recent interview with Hot 97), the second installment of the EP continues the narrative when Glover’s musical persona “[wakes] up in Kauai.”
STN MTN still retains that classic Gambino element throughout, such as “Move That Dope/Nectal Chirp/Let Your Hair Blow,” which bears a very similar sound to the freestyle he did on Hot 97 (and where he again mentions Jaden Smith).
And released late in the day on Friday, Kauai definitely has a more beachy feel to it and has Gambino’s unique sound. Ironically, even though it’s supposed to be the “awake” half of the mixtape, it’s actually got a more dreamlike quality to it. There are some songs on Kauai that will appeal to classic Gambino fans, like the wordplay in “Retro [ROUGH]” and the throwback to Because the Internet, “V. 3005 [Beach Picnic Version]” – a remixed version of his hit “3005”.
Any doubt that he was straying from his previous alternative hip-hop/R&B fusion sound to adopt the more mainstream sound that STN MTN initially offers can probably be attributed to the fact that this isn’t a purely a Gambino album, but rather the EP hosted by DJ Drama as part of his Gangsta Grillz series.
While STN MTN and Kauai may not have the caliber of lyrics and clever wordplay that songs like “Bonfire” and “Outside” have spoiled us with, that in no way degrades the quality, addicting beats, and mad talent displayed in STN MTN. It only further proves Gambino’s versatility and capability as an artist, continuing to prove that music is anything but an experiment for this artistic hybrid.
With this surprise EP jumping to number one on audiomack’s most popular music of the week list and pushing Kendrick’s new album Unreleased to not second, not third, but fourth place on the hot list after barely 24 hours, it’s as big of a deal as the now viral hype suggests.
Listen to STN MTN below and download it for free, and check out Kauai in itunes, available now.
(Featured photo courtesy of The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas)