Awaken, My Love! album review

Glassnote Records

In September my brother immersed me in enough rap and hip-hop that I began enjoying it as a genre. Since then, the music I listen to has been integrated with artists such as Chance the Rapper, Jon Bellion, Milo, Open Mike Eagle and Childish Gambino.

Among the first full rap mixtapes that I listened to–and still one of my favorites–was Childish Gambino’s (better known as Donald Glover) STN MTN / Kauai. Having listened to almost exclusively rock prior to then, the mixtape was a drastically different experience, and I subsequently went out and listened to all of Glover’s albums and mixtapes. The reason I appreciated them so much was because of the incredible lyricism backed with excellent beats and instrumentation, so that is exactly what I expected listening to his new album Awaken, My Love!.

That was far from the case. Instead of the Hawaiian print and too short short-shorts Glover, we got something completely different. When “Me and Your Mama” was released on Youtube back in November, I had to check and make sure it was Glover making the music. As “Redbone” was released one week later, it was clear this album was not going to be anything like his previous works.

Generally, this album feels more like R&B, funk and soul than rap: the bass lines are intricate, the guitar and piano sometimes feel like they are just uselessly making noise, and Glover’s voice is almost constantly in falsetto. The lyricism that I had come to expect of Glover was simply not there as this style of music frankly does not allow for it, but in its place was ingenious instrumentation. As opposed to having the drums, guitar(s), piano, bass and vocals all circle around the same rhythmic structure, each entity of the group plays its own unique part that layer to create a wall of sound to groove along to.

Highlights of this instrumentation, and the album in general, are “Riot” and “The Night Me and Your Mama Met.” “Riot” is the pinnacle of the wall of sound and grooviness; it’s got the synthesizer going crazy, the bass is just rocking out and the vocals and auxiliary sound effects are playing sporadic licks. It seems as if it shouldn’t mesh, but it does. “The Night Me and Your Mama Met” features Gary Clark Jr. (an incredible guitarist) and is quite literally a three and a half minute split vocal-guitar solo which was simply mind blowing because hardly anyone just solos for an album track.

AML was a 90 degree turn from Glover’s previous works; his voice sounds weird, there is no rap whatsoever and it caught me off guard entirely. But after listening through, this album became an impressive work of music and, while maybe not what I personally expected, is a truly an outstanding album.

The Parkway West Pathfinder gives “Awaken, My Love!” a 9.3/10.