The sound of hip-hop has evolved dramatically over the past few years. Now, the artists are just as diverse as the audience that listens to their music. The allure of selling stereotypical drug-influenced verse isn’t what it used to be. If anything, not being original will hold you back.
Aubrey Graham a.k.a. Drake has had mainstream success w/ his Young Money label debut Thank Me Later in 2009. Prior to that his fan base was cultivated in his mixtapes, especially So Far Gone where he spoke about personal topics such as his interracial heritage and his parents divorce.
Childish Gambino a.k.a. Donald Glover is a comedian/actor on NBC’s Community. He unabashedly celebrates his black nerdom with references to Nintendo 64 and Saturday morning cartoons. The inspiration for his music stems from being teased in his adolescence. He was often ostracized by the black community he grew up in because he allegedly talked and acted “white”.
They’re more than a few similarities between Drake and Gambino. And with them both dropping new albums today (Drake’s Take Care, Gambino’s Camp), we decided to compare and contrast the emo-rappers.
Singing – Considered both to be rappers, Drake and Gambino do technically “sing” on their latest projects. On “Marvin’s Room”, Drake is harmonizing more than singing in his gravely baritone. Far from a Ne-Yo, when you hear Gambino on (“Outside”) for example he actually has vocal range and shows off a pretty decent falsetto voice. Winner: Gambino by a note.
Production – On Take Care Drake’s frequently collaborates with in house producer Noah “40” Shebib and reccreates his trademark melancholy introspective/ minimalist but still hip-hop sound. He also reaches out to Boi1nda (“Headlines”), Just Blaze (“Lord Knows”), and the newcomer and current R&B sensation, the Weeknd (“Crew Love”). Gambino does the majority, if not all of his production, and his LP seems to have more range sonically. Low synths to acoustic guitars and other live instruments are littered throughout Camp (“L.E.S.”). Winner: Drake by a beat.
Lyricism – Gambino’s lyrics are unique because he embraces his quirks. They’re no tales of dope boy transactions on the corner or making it rain in the club. Instead he spits about how awkward it was growing up being the only black kid on the honor roll or not knowing how to approach his first crush and the teenage heartbreak that happens afterward (“That Power”). Gambino drops “everyday” verses that touch on human interactions that we’ve all had. What I find to be the most captivating about Gambino is his humor. He’s legitimately funny. Most rappers can’t pull that off between punchlines. Winner: Gambino by a tear.
With it being Drake’s second album, he’s a little more seasoned this go ‘round. His lyrics are about balancing out his stardom and the criticism that comes with it. He’s still in his 20s and is still partying, living the lifestyle only a young superstar can afford. Drake also has a flow that can easily compliment other artists. With tracks with Rihanna (“Take Care”) Andre 3000 (“The Real Her”) and even Stevie Wonder (“Doing It Wrong”), Drake’s versatility shines through.
What can be taken from both entries can be said with all music, it’s a matter of taste. If you’re someone who can’t relate to the prototypical rags to riches rap story, Gambino and Drake are the ones for you. They stand out because at the end of the day they make quality music which is honest. When you’re speaking from emotion even haters cannot criticize because they know its real.
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