Hip-hop was far away from its humble beginnings Monday night when a packed crowd of mostly white college-aged kids gathered at Central Park’s SummerStage for rapper/comedian Childish Gambino. Gambino, who was joined by fellow rappers Danny Brown and Schoolboy Q, proved once again that he’s out to break boundaries and advance the culture.
The show opened with an animated Danny Brown and Top Dawg Entertainment member Schoolboy Q. Brown, with his signature asymmetrical haircut and Schoolboy Q, with his penchant for bucket hats, both wowed the audience with their short, but entertaining sets. Brown warmed up the crowd with fan favorites like “Blunt After Blunt,” but his childish antics, like sticking out his tongue out while referring to a woman’s private parts, made the concert that much more thrilling. Schoolboy Q, rocked the crowd with a couple of bangers like his A$AP Rocky collabo “Brand New Guy” while hipsters shared joints and nodded their heads.
After Q’s set, the audience anxiously waited for Childish chanting, “Gambino! Gambino! Gambino!” His live set, equipped with a band including electric guitars, drums, and violinists, was detailed by a huge projector, colorful lights, artificial spruce trees and lots of smoke to set the mood. It’s the kind of set you get when NBC pays $100,000 a year. Gambino confidently appeared within the smoke rapping “Outside” from his 2011 album, Camp. Almost everyone knew the words, including the N word, but somehow it wasn’t uncomfortable or offending. Maybe, it’s because these kids feel his music so much. “This aint a rap show. This is a Black Rock show,” he remarked. The crowd digs Gambino, because they relate to his awkward sense of fashion and upbringing. His passion, whether it’s comedy or hip-hop, should be, and generally is, respected across the board. He’s being himself and that’s why his fans can’t get enough.
The metaphors could use work but the audience falls for his literal punchlines. After a full set, Gambino duped the crowd into thinking the show was over, only to come out two minutes later and perform his remix to Tyga’s “Rack City.” The crowd went nuts. Afterwards he said, “Remember when I told y’all this wasn’t a rap show….Fuck that. It’s a rap show.” However you might define rap, Gambino must now be included.
Concluding the exciting set, he called out Danny Brown and Schoolboy Q for a cypher, further showing his passion for hip-hop. The drummer did an uptempo selection, while Danny Brown spit a fun, sexually perverted verse, followed by a strong fast flow from Gambino and a relaxed flow from Q. It was great to see three different acts celebrating their differences on the stage, comfortable in their own skin.
Previously, a concert with Danny Brown, Schoolboy Q, and Childish Gambino didn’t make sense. They all have different lanes in hip-hop, but throughout the show it became clear that hip-hop is becoming a gumbo again and the new alternative rap isn’t like Little Brother, or Tribe. It’s suburban hip-hop, that speaks on awkward social issues. While Joey Bada$$ is busy digging in the crates, Childish Gambino is taking the culture forward another step, by talking about awkward social issues most black rappers are afraid to speak on, or simply don’t have experience with. If his live set proved anything, it’s that Childish Gambino too, is hip-hop in its truest form.
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