After the passing of Prince and David Bowie this year, Childish Gambino’s single “Redbone” feels like an ode to nostalgia.

Fresh off the season one finale of his highly-acclaimed show “Atlanta,” Childish Gambino, also known as Donald Glover, returns to music with the second single off his third studio album Awaken, My Love! With tones of funk, the feel of soul and dashes of ’60s psychedelia, he moves in a new direction from his usual sound. While the old Gambino put emphasis on his abilities as an emcee, “Redbone” flexes his vocal capabilities to the fullest.

Too late / You wanna make it right, but now it’s too late / My peanut butter chocolate cake with Kool-Aid / I’m trying not to waste my time.

It’s Childish making music for himself.

The “Redbone” Gambino alludes to in the title is the love interest in this tumultuous relationship. While he’s still in love with her, he’s gaining awareness that they’re becoming more distant. It’s a moment of realization, while he goes through the motions of accepting the fact that they weren’t meant to be.

Gambino recruited composer and long-time collaborator, Ludwig Göransson, for help with production. Together, they both showcase their versatility; from how the vocals sound to the production, this song is a vibe. The record even sounds like it’s off a re-mastered vinyl.

It’s becoming increasingly obvious that Gambino is shying away from the hip-hop genre that he initially gained fame from, proven on both “Redbone” and “Me and Your Mama.” It’s Childish making music for himself. It is still something that old fans will appreciate, but it may also catch the attention of Gambino naysayers.

Photo © Candace Nyaomi and Urbanology Magazine Archives

Aron A. is a writer and journalist currently based in Montreal. Focused on hip-hop culture, he seeks to discover the stories behind the art.

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