On October 2 and 3, Childish Gambino released his mixtape STN MTN and an extended play Kauai. STN MTN is Gambino’s way of paying homage to where he grew up, in Stone Mountain, Georgia, in the form of a gangsta grillz mixtape. In it, he raps over artists from Atlanta, Georgia, such as Outkast, Rich Kidz, and Ludacris, among others. Meanwhile, Kauai is more Gambino’s style, containing a capella verses and ambient sounds.
Originally from a comedic background, Gambino is known for his work on Derrick Comedy, writing on 30 Rock, and role as Troy Barnes on Community. This root in humor is his inspiration for his witty lines, pop culture references, and catchy hooks in his songs. It’s what sets him apart from typical hip hop and rap, and what makes this mixtape/EP combination uniquely Gambino.
STN MTN/Kauai is a continuation of Gambino’s previous release, Because the Internet. Because the Internet explores a variety of themes such as loneliness and trust, which is why I liken it to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. Both have an experimental vibe, employing ambient sounds and elements that are not usually heard in the genres of classic rock and hip hop. Contrarily, the mixtape/EP combo starts off different. STN MTN is more reminiscent of Gambino’s Camp release, where he delivers hard beats and packed lines which don’t really fit the typical hip hop/rap genre. In the beginning, Gambino explains that if he ran Atlanta, he would have Chick Fil-A open on Sundays and he’d have his own gangsta grillz mixtape. What follows is Gambino dreaming his mixtape on the radio.
Kauai starts right after STN MTN ends. Young Gambino, voiced by Jaden Smith, wakes up in Kauai, one of the Hawaiian islands and explores his time with a previous love interest. The feel of this part of the release is much more like Because the Internet, but does not include as many hard raps, save “Retro [Rough].” Containing an extensive use of falsetto and a capella, the part of the album reminds me a bit of Michael Jackson. Additionally, Gambino uses some “yeahs” and “uhs” that are like the vocal hiccups Jackson uses in songs like “Smooth Criminal” and “Bad”.
Because the Internet already had me hooked on Gambino; the release of STN MTN/Kauai only solidifies my respect for him as a unique artist. People say that he’s not typical rap or hip hop, and that’s exactly what draws me in. He uses its elements and adds his own twist of a capella, ambient sounds, and clever lines to make his albums a truly special listening experience. And if that’s not enough for you, Gambino, as a proponent of universal internet use and computer science knowledge, put a secret audio clip on his website of him singing that matches up with the last track of Kauai, “3005 (Beach Version).”
Some of my favorite songs are “U Don’t Have to Call” and “Retro [Rough].” “U Don’t Have to Call” is a mix of Usher’s track of the same name. Personally, I think that Gambino did a fantastic job with the a capella in the song, with a catchy verse. “Retro” captures disinct elements from both Camp and Because the Internet, which I love. Overall, STN MTN is more for car rides and blasting loud, while Kauai is meant for your room to chill with. The duo is a solid release, providing an insight to two different musical sides of Gambino. I highly recommend a listen if you’re into SchoolBoy Q or Kendrick Lamar.