I should love Camp. Its lush live instrumentation, pop culture junkie references, misunderstood-nerd-from-the-
To hear CG tell it, it’s a laundry list of haters. It’s “subtly racist” white kids, it’s closed minded black kids, it’s backpackers, it’s “cool kids”, it’s nice girls, it’s self-absorbed mean girls. Basically everyone. Camp‘s whole theme is literally how nobody can believe Donald Glover actually raps. Which is so fucking “get over yourself” that I was literally unable to sit through the whole thing for the first two weeks it was out. Now certain guys can get away with that kind of megalomaniacal persecution complex rap. Guys like Kanye, Eminem, etc. have parlayed the whole hip hop pariah thing into startling, volatile music. Difference between CG and those guys? They actually were hated. PEOPLE ACTUALLY KNOW WHO THE FUCK THEY ARE.
Kanye got called a jackass by a sitting President of the United States. Donald Glover dabbling in rap on a lark and then filling his entire debut album with diatribes talkin about “All these haters, see you later” is a crime that will NOT go unnoticed. Wars, recession, unemployment, worldwide regime change, ain’t nobody got no damn time to be holding you down. Be lucky your day job has afforded you the attention to your music that it has and stop worrying about who the fuck doesn’t like your shit. Do you make music for them or do you make it for yourself? Cause that isn’t entirely clear from this vantage point.
I mean if anyone hates this guy, he’s certainly given them plenty of ammunition, what with all the whining about his hard luck, culture shock riddled upbringing (Guess what, bro. You ain’t the only black kid from the hood who had a rough time adjusting in private school.) and, oh yeah, the borrowing from other artists. CG hasn’t quite come into his own as a rapper, and his album arrives rife with stylistic flourishes pinched wholesale from more established MCs. “Bonfire (much like Culdesac’s “I Be on That”) is “A Milli” in a cardigan. While “Fire Fly” contains one of CG’s most nuanced lyrical performances to date, it is textbook College Dropout era Kanye. The more obvious Drake-lite undertones that marred portions of Culdesac have mercifully been scrubbed, but just the same, the Toronto MC’s obnoxious preoccupation with his own fame still hangs about Camp like rain-soaked outerwear. The MC who snarled “I am so different” on Culdesac’s “Difference” sure could stand to put more work into developing a his own personal style.
Before this descends into hate mail territory, I should mention that Camp isn’t all a loss. Most of the beats here are winners. Glover and Community soundtrack composer Ludwig Goransson have a knack for titanic, intricate productions stacked with lively organic instrumentation. As a songwriter, CG comes closest to finding a lane of his own on tracks like “L.E.S.” and “Heartbeat”, where he turns relationship melodrama and nightlife intrigue into insightful pop rap. Late in the album, “You See Me” and “Sunrise” actually deliver on CG’s promise of quirky, left-of-the-dial indie rap. There’s about an EP’s worth of uncomplicated, egomania-free music in there somewhere.
I don’t necessarily hate Camp. It’s more like I’m appalled that CG feels like an outsider in rap in 2011. Like there isn’t room in the game for him in 2011, the year Danny Brown toured the States with Das Racist in what can best be described as a Tigger costume. The year Odd Future hijacked the entire musical dialogue with rhymes about rape, murder, and atheism. The year Cali oddball Lil B, who has written songs claiming to be Miley Cyrus, Bill Clinton, Bill Bellamy, Ellen Degeneres, Justin Bieber, etc, can get face time on MTV. The year Drake can openly pine for high school exes on record and Lil Wayne can prance around in women’s jeggings onstage while living out half-assed skater aspirations offstage, and BOTH can laugh all the way to the bank. The year a former corrections officer can claim to be “selling dope off the iPhone”, and no one bats a lash. If you feel too unusual to find a space to occupy in 2011′s weird ass rap game, maybe this isn’t your calling. Go film a Judd Apatow flick or something. Just don’t half-step and then call us haters for not loving your somewhat derivative shit. THAT ain’t going down.