Childish Gambino – Atavista

The multi-hyphenate talent shares an augmented version of his pandemic project...

As the dust settles on an epoch-defining rap feud, brace yourselves for a Childish Gambino summer. Brainchild Donald Glover, who’s been teasing new music as his alter ego for some months now, first released the album, ‘3.15.20’, in 2020, assuming form in coded time-stamps in the cumulative order of tracks as they appear on the album. These songs were conceptualised over several years with the DJ Dahi and longtime-collaborator, Swedish composer Ludwig Goransson. Glover has since gone on record saying the project was rush released due to the pandemic and the onset of personal upheavals; the loss of his father and the birth of his child.

Those temporal bounds are more clearly delineated on the spruced-up, newly-titled ‘Atavista’, which taken as a whole feels like a career adjunct – an old/new transition to the all-new (and possibly final) Childish Gambino album arriving this summer. The proto-jungle oddity ‘Human Sacrifice’ – a road-tested favourite – finally gets an official release, as does the new song ‘Little Foot Big Foot’ featuring Young Nudy, which comes accompanied with an all-star, black-and-white music video directed Hiro Murai.

Much of ‘Atavista’ is Prince-lite to the point of mimicry but in a year that’s pumped out obscene amounts of idle rap (and rap-adjacent) releases, Glover’s space-funk, conscious-parading ‘Atavista’ feels like a palette cleanser. Glover is best when he keeps things intimate and close: ‘Psilocybae (Millennial Love)’ is a sex-funk odyssey featuring guest vocals by rapper 21 Savage, Atia “Ink” Boggs, and Kadhja Bonet, where every vocal contour and stylistic flourish feels vital to the sustained build-up; ‘Final Church’ is a glam-rock rhapsody of stadium-sized proportions, and the ‘The Violence’ merges real-life calamity and political broadsides with a tender exchange between Father and son.

‘Atavista’ is dense with a cacophony of ideas, sounds, and styles, and that skittering, serrated momentum is both it’s strength and undoing. The sophisti-pop title track positions Glover as a sage, as does the Afro-futuristic ‘Algorhythm’ packed full of distorted, warbling calls for liberation and self-expression. Glover’s attempts at playing a liberator fall flat as he tumbles into rabbit holes with empty parables and bromides. ‘Atavista’ by Childish Gambino, a multivalent project nearing its end (if Glover’s latest comments are anything to go), is best experienced for the spaciousness of it’s grooves than the soothsaying vision of it’s maker.

Words: Shahzaib Hussain

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