Save for the occasional feature, Childish Gambino has been pretty quiet since last summer’s Royalty mixtape (finally) earned him the rap cred he deserved. Most assumed he was busy juggling the seemingly endless list of professions he’s constantly trying to conquer. But with the very sad news (hinted at in the season finale) that he would be taking a step back from his gig on Community to focus on rap, many wondered where exactly the music was.
And seemingly on command, Gambino released “Centipede” last week, featuring an array of styles and beats encapsulated within a single, 6-minute track.
It’s impossible to talk about the song and not talk about Kanye West’s Yeezus. Hip-Hop had a pretty big summer (if you hadn’t already heard), and it’ll be interesting to see where things in rap go from here in the wake of a thoroughly divisive piece of work like Yeezus.
Regardless of your opinion of the album, it’s undeniable that many will try to replicate it’s off-the-wall-ness and disregard for common rap tropes. One only has to look back a couple years to see how Ye’s albums tend to create entire lanes for artists who previously had none (wave hello to 808s and Heartbreak now, Future and Travi$ Scott).
Calling “Centipede” a Yeezus ripoff would be an overstatement — Gambino shows off a variety sounds on the song — but there are pieces throughout that are very clearly born out of the same mode, sonically, as Yeezus.
But the differences lie in the verses, of which Childish gives his listeners plenty to chew on:
“Let’s keep it spontaneous, I don’t need that rehearsal
More flow, man, than Progressive commercials
Get with the program, cause the plus loan that they putting us on
I got month long before I take the bus home.”
The switch from acappella R&B to modern hip-hop to psuedo-punk rock gives the song a three-course-meal kind of feel to it and hints at the direction Gambino may head with his music now that he has some time off.
The track ends brilliantly, with a skit from defunct-beat-maker/toilet-seat-rapping-extraordinaire Charles Hamilton.
Even though Hamilton was branded as “crazy” by the rest of the hip-hop community (and by his local psych wards), his message is interesting nonetheless, especially in light of the recent outbreak of attempts by whites and blacks to sociologically explain why black men are generally more involved in criminal activity.
The debate has proven more informative than any of the answers, revealing how little people understand about the large American machine we all live in and the effect (and, existence, for some folks) institutional racism has on generation after generation.
The minute long skit puts the debate to rest, explaining in simple terms that everything done in low income neighborhoods, legal or illegal, is done for money. It touches on the idiocy of thinking that dealing drugs or shooting people would ever be a “choice” for anyone, much less people already more likely to be arrested than others. It reminds listeners that Crime is an economic issue exacerbated by distinct racial disparities. It ends with:
“Hood n****s don’t even want to be hood n****s. Everything n****s do, everything n****s do in the hood is for money…. What’s one thing that n****s do in the hood that isn’t for money?”
Gambino is able to compress all of these ideas and opinions together beautifully on the song and illustrates the hopeful future of those trying to replicate the Yeezus style with their own flair.
Welcome to the world “Centipede”!