“And now that it’s over, I’ll never be sober.” Yep, it’s exactly what it sounds like: breakup city, atoned for by indulging in substance. Alternative rapper Childish Gambino drops the bomb on the opening track from his unique seven-song EP, Kauai, which is also the companion to his mixtape, STM MTN. Although Childish Gambino is characterized as a rapper, he lets the multifaceted nature of Donald Glover — actor, comedian, and musician — shine on Kauai. Arguably, Gambino “drops a bomb” on everyone throughout the fine effort. That bomb? R&B.
“Sober” sets the tone for Kauai given its pure shock value. No, Gambino isn’t tackling controversial subject matter or ripping off f-bombs left and right. Instead, he sings. Even knowing prior that R&B is the M.O. for the majority of Kauai, this fact is still surprising. With no rapping in sight, “Sober” is an enjoyable, well-performed modern, alternative R&B track. The vibe embodies being brokenhearted and drowning in sorrow.
Contemporary R&B continues to dominate the script on “Pop Thieves (Make It Feel Good)”, where Childish Gambino once more impresses with his singing pipes. Bright sounding production further enhances the experience, which is one of pleasure aka sex. The last minute and half is dedicated to spoken word performed by Jaden Smith, which is both is mysterious and poetic.
On “Retro (Rough)”, Childish Gambino dons a beautiful falsetto at the beginning, continuing to deliver highly impressionable vocals. Even so, much to his biggest fans’ relief, Childish Gambino delivers his first rhymes of Kauai. He still shows his gifts as an MC given his flow. Something of a pop-rap mix, Gambino oscillates between singing and spitting.
“The Palisades”, featuring Christian Rich, has an argument as the EP’s best song. Firmly planted in contemporary R&B save for a brief spoken word portion, the standout outpaces “Retro”, a sound statement in itself. Characterized by a rhythmic, infectious groove, catchy chorus, and spectacular vocals — particularly the marvelous falsetto towards the end — “The Palisades” is nothing short of brilliant.
“It’s those summer days / never fade away,” sings Childish Gambino on the hook of “Poke”. “It just stays the same / in my mind, no no.” “Poke” may possess the most balance of Kauai as far as approach. Gambino continues to sing rather than rap, allowing for Steve G Lover, Glover’s brother, to spit one of the most aggressive raps of the EP.
“Late Night in Kauai” once more features Jaden Smith. On his spoken world tale, Smith basically talks about being with his girl on the beach, soaking up the total experience. Mellow might be the best way to describe it, perfect given the title of the song as well as the EP. Following his poem, Childish Gambino breaks into a sick rhyme, spitting over the soulful, chill production work, referencing Jabari Parker, Tony Danza, and Willy Wonka. To make this alluring cut even stranger, it closes with more spoken word.
“V. 3005 (Beach Picnic Version)” concludes this surprising EP. True to its parenthesized title, “V. 3005” arrives with vocals drenched in effects and bright, sunny sounding synths. The vibe is perfectly established here and it clearly contrasts the version of the song that appeared on Because The Internet.
Ultimately, Childish Gambino delivers an enjoyable, quality effort on Kauai. It doesn’t supersede Because The Internet by any means, but Kauai does serve as nice extension, not to mention something to make fans’ mouths water. Glover shows just how versatile he is as a musician on this extended play.