Childish Gambino is the alias of writer, actor, rapper, and comedian Donald Glover. His alter ego allows him to express himself in ways the mainstream would find unacceptable. His razor-sharp lyrics about sexuality, race, gender, and class have left their mark on hip hop.
As Gambino, Donald explores various behaviors and stereotypes in new and unique ways. He is a double suspect as a “black male in short shorts.” He was “too black” for his white classmates, who would mock his clothes, but “not black enough” for real hip hop.
Glover started rapping about a decade ago with the idea to carve a niche in the rap industry. At the time, only rappers who were “from the streets” were allowed. Then, this trend reversed itself, and Kanye West became famous. People were tired of seeing thugs and hustlers.
Childish Gambino is a black male rapper who wears glasses and carries a handbag. That in itself is enough to change the whole hip hop scene. Popular Afro-American culture has major issues with even the mere suggestion of homosexuality, and Donald says he’s spent a lot of time trying to figure why that is. He goes against the grain, pointing out that black men struggle with gender and masculinity issues more than outsiders realize. Black men are held up to impossible stereotypes, expected to be strong all the time, which keeps them from growing and developing as people.
He calls black culture “a fight.” Sometimes, he says, holding on to what you are is pointless if you’re predominantly negative. His solution? Hip hop artists should try new things and do away with stereotypes insofar possible.
Nowhere are his views more passionate than when it comes to the Internet. “Coding is a beautiful thing,” he says. “I don’t want young black kids to aspire to be rappers or ballers. I want them to be coders. They can make their own worlds then.