Currently I’m in a slump, not so much a writing one nor a career one, I currently like both of those things, but just a general life one. I feel lost and generally, unfortunately, unhappy, or as I call it amongst friends, Broken Boy mode. And when I’m in Broken Boy mode, I usually listen to Childish Gambino, because he’s the only artist I will ever love to a fault. And listening to Bino tracks usually leads to thinking about how I relate to certain Bino lines, and now we’re here. And now I want to write about more tracks. It’ll run a lot like the last list which you can find here, except it might be even more self-indulgent and might settle around a theme. If so, sorry in advance. Let’s start with number ten.
10) “Be Alone”
This song always starts by screaming your personal desires, I don’t wanna be alone. And for a while you feared you would be, because you’re awkward and weird, and into things that some people won’t get. You fear being alone, ending up alone, so much that you constantly tell yourself that you’ll die alone, and not in a happy sing-song way, in a general talk of defeat, waving of the white flag for whatever you considered a fulfilling life. You’ll play this song late at night during your sophomore year of college after you realize that you like this one girl, but know that you’re not fated to be with her, and though it’ll simply be a manner of differing tastes, you’ll think, you’ll know, that it’s because you’re not good enough. And right now you’re playing this song, because even though you know you won’t be alone, on your morning bus commutes, while you sit at your desk at work, and when you sit on steps and look out into the distance late at night because you can’t sleep and anxiety takes over, you’ll wonder when everything will crumble. Cause you know, somewhere inside, I cannot find the feeling I got from you.
9) “So Fly”
It’s senior week, you recently graduated high school only eight or so days ago. Some guy you don’t know, the friend of a friend who’s too smart for school, blasts this song. Though you’ve recently become a fan of Childish Gambino, you don’t know this one. It’s intriguing. It’s slow. It’s him singing rather than rapping. It’s elegant and you want to listen to it again, but this friend of a friend, let’s call him an acquaintance, maybe best to label him merely a Facebook friend, says in the middle of this piece that all he wants to do is fuck someone to this song. Someone he really loves. And though you don’t know this man, nor his desires, and that was way out of pocket to just spout to strangers, you find it romantic.
But months later the song will come to your head, because whether it be your girlfriend from high school you can’t get over, that other girlfriend from high school you used to fill a void, the girls you crush on in college, the one you pine for right now, the ones you’ll foolishly love in the future, you’ll always be able to look at them and think, You are the bestest, I will obey you. And though it should be such a loving line, you see the flaw of it all. This pedestal that you put women on, because you don’t know how else to love. Adoration and obsession intertwine in a way where you fear your capacity to love, because you don’t want to smother that woman you admire. You fake yourself out and put notes in your phone that say, Be Better, because you hope that one day you’ll be good enough for a woman you like, and fill yourself with guilt when you realize you can’t. And you’ll fill yourself with guilt when you realize you had a chance, but you wouldn’t let yourself have one. And you’ll fill yourself with guilt when it’s three in the morning and all you want is to hold someone and just be happy for a second, even if it’s lying on their stomach or simply holding hands. And then it’ll be the next day, but let’s face it, it’ll be months down the line where you just see your muse as a person, not an unobtainable deity, and hopefully they’ll still be fly.
8) “Do Ya Like”
This was one of the first songs by Bino you had on your iPod Touch, not even knowing about his Culdesac mixtape yet. You enjoyed how he sampled Adele, all throughout the song, singing, Words that I made up. You say my name like words that I made up. You’re chaperoning a trip in DC after graduating from high school. College is right around the corner. Otakon is next week. Your ferret, Zap, will be dead when you return home. But right now, you’re dealing with rowdy thirteen year olds you feel you shouldn’t be responsible over. When you play this song in the common area of the dormitory you’re staying at, the kids in your group will tell you that Bino’s lame. Rude boy, I Rihanna that vagina, is not an inventive or cool line. One of them will ask if you’ve listened to his earlier mixtapes like Poindexter or I Am Just a Rapper 1 & 2. You won’t be able to answer them and feel frustrated that you weren’t able to make a rebuttal against kids who haven’t even entered high school yet, and for a moment you’ll wonder if you really even like Gambino. But you like his dumb lines. You laugh like a dork when he says, NBC is not the only thing I’m cumming on tonight. Gross! You’re a dork and that’s fun. And you’ll listen to this song, after all those other events happen, so you can remember the bliss you once had.
7) “Both Hands”
It’s the summer before your junior year of college and you’ve found this song, three years too late, already spoiled by good Gambino songs. This one is rough. The sample, “Black Rainbow” by St. Vincent, plays through out, but not in an elegant way where it feels like a sample. Instead it’s just Bino rapping over a song. But this feels different than the other songs on this mixtape. You like it. You really like it, this song of braggadocio, from a seemingly rising perspective. You wanna stay true to your nature as Gambino does with his, and this song makes you want to drink harder than you ever had before–you still don’t know how drinking fourteen bottles of Bacardi 151 over a year will affect your liver.
You’ll think of this song when you see St. Vincent on the second day of a music festival as you frustrate a swan and abandon your sister because you’re blacked out on complicated feelings and a rapper’s liquid diet of eight Henny shots and two glasses of Rosé, but that’s a story for another day, hopefully a story that’ll never need to be told.
It took you a week to master this song because the second verse is rapid fire and breathless, but you wanted to know every word. You wanted to be able to spit your triumphs out as though they were your role model’s, but as you looked at your life, you wondered if you actually had any triumphs.
6) “II. Shadows”
It’s spring break of your junior year in college. After a hazardous last night with friends, a mix of Svedka and Rite-Aid brand diet cola, a few shots of 151 for good measure, and a suite love seat covered in vomit by a friend in mid conversation, you wake up hungover and text the one female friend you have at the moment–the rest abandoned in an abyss of love lost and unattainable. You tell her that you should hang out, same words you said last night as you walked her home. You don’t like her, but you do, likely proximity and the point that it’s Tuesday afternoon and you ain’t got shit to do. You won’t hang out with her though. Too many hang ups.
After washing your couch in your stand up shower for half a day, you finally decide to wash yourself, but forget a regular shower, that’s too tame for a suite that contains solely you for a week. You take your suitemate’s speakers and make a shower concert, blasting this song and singing along. Love me better, kiss me back, listen more. You don’t know who the words are for, but you’re pretty sure they’re for an ex, and is she saying those words or are you saying those words? At any point in the relationship it could be applicable for either party.
Years later in grad school you’ll think of this song, not knowing who those words are for, but being pretty sure, and it’s a different woman this time and not the friend you drunkenly texted on St. Patrick’s day blasted on Long Island Iced Tea. Who takes fifty-two pictures of a couch?
And right now you’re thinking of this song. Thinking of love, and saying to yourself that if love feels like this, there are plenty of other things to do than fall in love with anyone.
When you heard this song after buying Camp a week or two before the Thanksgiving of your freshman year of undergrad, you instantly knew this would be a bop. The hard edm-esque beat helped you stay up when you practiced Japanese before your nine am recitation. At first you just admired the references. You loved how he mentioned Super Smash Bros. and bin Laden or the last lines, You say the nastiest shit in bed and it’s fucking awesome. You complimented, praised the genius of, I give you money, then you burn me, then you made off, but your poli-sci friend says lines about Bernie Madoff are a dime a dozen.
This was the song that you’d think of when trying to figure out how love, adult love should work. This simple, screwed up idea that despite being with someone else, you’d continue to care for a past flame. This flawed idea that as an adult you’d use relationships as a distraction from other problems. What you didn’t know is that everything becomes a problem with that mindset. It’s just misery.
But there was a line that stayed with you after the suffering, one you wanted to mold yourself after: I’m a ghost and you know this. You wanted to be a ghost. You wanted to ghost people, make grand disappearing tricks like the ones you used to do when you were in middle school. There was this one time at a renaissance fair, back when you were thirteen, you went missing for two hours and you worried your friends–it was great. As a college sophomore, you wrote stories based off of this line, a mallen-streaked boy crushed by familial expectations that jumps out of windows and disappears when he can–it’s all a thin veil, but you thought it was so beautiful.
Now, after straying away from those stories, then coming back, then leaving again, and starting to domesticate, you think of this line again, how you’re gonna disappear once more, regress, but this time it’ll hurt. You’ll look a precious friend in their eye, you’ll leave, regret, and assure yourself that this was the right choice, because you’re a ghost and they know this.
4) “This is America”
Look, I’m gonna break the awkward conventions of this post to say, Yeah. I know this is blasphemy. This song should be number one, but I’m…woo. Okay? If this were a right mind me, it’d be in the correct spot. I’m not. There’s a method to this idiocy. Anyways…
It was May 5th 2018. You wanted to watch SNL because Donald Glover was the host and musical act, and though Saturdays were usually bar days, go out days, you wanted to stay in and appreciate the comedy, the genius, of the one man you’ve constantly modeled yourself after. While watching his hilariously hosted skits, you checked Twitter, because that’s your addiction, and you found out Gambino released a new song. You watched the music video. Then you watched him perform the song for SNL. You hadn’t paid as much attention as you should have while watching either performance, but you’d watch the music video fifteen times in the next few days, you’d try to pick up the symbolism, decipher the lyrics, make a grand thesis, then stop and just tell yourself that you shouldn’t do that with such elegant art. And though you had believed that previous hits from Bino were his “making it” moment, you knew from your dad talking to you about it, your stepmom talking about, friends who hadn’t cared for Bino talking about it, the Bodega boys talking about it, and co-workers talking about it, that this would be his truest blow-up. You had wished that this song had been released earlier, just so you had another jam to bop to while writing your thesis.
This is the song you now mention when talking about your favorite artist. It’s the song you randomly break out into while shopping in Target. And if you’re in conversation with someone, don’t let this song play, because you’ll stop talking if it means you can jam to it. And though you’re happy for this artist, and glad that he’s finally getting his shine, glad that his work is being recognized, you feel a certain smallness. How much do you have to do? What exactly is your echelon of genius and how far must you go, to even reach the base of his greatness?
3) “Letter Home”
This was one of the first Bino sad boy bops in your kit. A song of singing rather than rapping and a hurt man, thinking of a woman, a missed connection, a kindle that never got to be a flame. This is the song, that at eighteen, you’ll think of when you look on Facebook and see how your junior prom date is doing or when one of your exes texts you. The next year you’ll think of this song for different girls, and you’ll wonder why you’re like this. Currently you’re thinking of this song for…you know who you’re thinking of this song for.
But the first line, You’re the only girl that I have ever wanted, is a lie. You know it’s a lie. Donald Glover knows it’s a lie. Because you’ve probably, and he’s probably, and everyone has probably, felt this feeling for multiple persons in their lives. So you can’t say that anyone is the only one you’ve ever wanted, but when that song comes on, and you think of that person, whoever it maybe at that moment, for that moment, and probably a few more before feelings wither or perspectives become jaded, it’s true. You’re all I’ve ever wanted.
2) “The Last”
The last track of Bino’s Culdesac mixtape. Another sad boy bop. You have a lot of sad boy bops. This is the song you listen to when you’re in self-wallow. This is a song you consider one of Gambino’s best, which doesn’t make sense cause if you actually believed that it’d be on the previous list and not this one, but maybe you’re forgetful?
No. Stop. We’re getting too meta.
This song, one of his best, was Gambino’s origin story. It was something you could relate to. Not fitting in with black people because you talked “white” and were different. Not fitting in with white people and private schools because you were actually black and different. A desire that you were someone, anyone else. This song is a story. No chorus. No hooks. Just Gambino talking about life. This is the song you play when you just wanna be yourself. But I’m happy that that shit happened to me/ Cause it taught me most important is to do me.
But what you love the most about this song is the last few lines. Gambino saying he wants to call his dad, crying, that he wants to just vent about his problems, but then refuses because his dad probably has to deal with his own bullshit. And you just want to reach out to people, but everyone’s dealing with their own bullshit, and why burden others, right? You’d repeat the lines to yourself when you suffered at night, only letting loose in drunk texts as an undergrad. You’re slowly letting go of that mentality, but prioritizing it towards the wrong people.
This song has your second favorite line from Gambino, well your second favorite serious line, your second favorite is: fell in love with a nigga like a mermaid. Daddy I love him! That’s a first date. (“II. Worldstar”) Anyways, this song has: If anything ever happens want you to know this/ I always took the time to smell the roses/ And wherever I am, I am doing fine/ I’m here for a good, not a long, time. They were simple lines that anyone could have rapped, but there was something so true, so radiant in the distance, it allured your ears, like a siren’s song lures sailors to the deep. You let this line wreak havoc on your life. Bad choices? I’m here for a good, not a long time. Ten shots of Bacardi 151 in one night? I’m here for a good, not a long time. Abandoning friends, burning bridges, not making amends, being a loner…I’m here for a good, not a long time. And you’re past that point now. You’re a few years removed. You’re progressing, becoming better, but now, now you wonder if you’re really here for either.
It’s the summer before your junior year of undergrad. You’re working where your stepmom works, next to where your father works, the security has nicknamed you a fact, that you’re your dad’s son. On your commute from your mom’s house to this summer job, you clutch your iPod touch and play Bino with the Beats headphones your father bought you for your birthday. You’ll later break them during the second semester of your junior year, be sad about it, and replace them with Audio-Technicas. But that doesn’t matter right now. After your subway ride, head bops to “LES” and “Difference,” pantomime rap gestures as your silently spit fire to “Both Hands” or “Bonfire,” a chuckle because the chorus to “Let Me Dope You” reminds you of talks you had with your best friend Jimmy while people watching, You see in the chorus it goes, Don’t start no shit, won’t be no shit. Though it sounds simplistic, it is quite artistic, because it explains such simple logic with a double negative, while still fitting in the rap genre. Simply put, if you start shit, there will be shit. Mmm. Urban music is so delightful, you’d say in a faux British accent resemblant of Jane from Tarzan. But as you jaywalk across the street from the end of the line subway station to your summer job, you smile as somehow, like clockwork, the words, Childish Gambino, yeah, my voice is annoying, blares in your ears. Nothing like self-deprecating lines from your role model to end your morning. By time you get inside, flash your security card, take the escalator, and hear a patient on the piano playing either A Thousand Years or Jar of Hearts, both by Christina Perry, and both very interchangeable, you’re at the chorus of this song, Life goes fast and I’m holding on tight/ I let things go and I’m holding this mic/ And it’s six in the morn’, I’ve been writing all night/ If I keep on going, I’m hoping I might be untouchable. And later this chorus will drum in your ears during your junior year when it’s six in the morning and you’ve been writing since three because you sleep for four hours, head to the library, and write stories about a boy who liked to disappear after deciding you wanted to write and not become a translator. You hope with this lifestyle, this lack of sleep, and dedication, you can become better, and maybe become untouchable in the same manner Bino aspires to be. Just a little spoiler alert, you don’t and there’s a chance you won’t. You’re walking down the steps and almost at your office for the summer job, but don’t want this song to stop, because Bino’s on a roll, he’s heated, he’s gotten his “nahs” and you don’t know what rejection is yet, he’s persevered and continues to climb and it’ll be five years till he can really say he’s untouchable, and you’re nowhere near that. You pace back and forth before opening the door, because you want to hear the last few lines before the chorus and rap along, Fuck the old Donald Glover, yeah I’m glad he’s deceased/ Cause that old weak being’s been replaced with a beast, except you replace Donald’s name with yours since it runs the same syllables and you sincerely wish, desire, that you could replace the weak version of yourself with something greater. But no matter how much you rebrand, go through the phases, and learn something new, the old you, the weak you, keeps popping up. No matter how much of a new person you change into, you keep making the same old mistakes. And no matter how much you run, a previous version of yourself never ceases to follow, like a shadow forever bound to whatever you want to be. The song ends. You walk into the office. You start your day. A weird, splendid, and agonizing future awaits you.
If you’re still here, thanks for trudging through this sad, self-deprecating yet somehow self-indulgent writing. I’ll be better eventually, maybe, who knows? Who really cares? I leave you with 3005 (Beach Picnic Version) or the secret track. At first it was two tracks, and while people figured it out and combined the music files, I wanted to do it myself, so I downloaded an audio software program and tried to combine them. I failed miserably. Anyways. Here’s the track. Later days.