Donald Glover is a hard dude to track down.
The 27-year-old star of NBC's hilarious, clever "Community" has just embarked on his first national tour, crude but charming hip-hop alter ego Childish Gambino in tow. Because I know the IAMDONALD schedule, and because he tweets his every move, I can keep tabs on Glover with relative ease. Still, his publicists are ninjas in the art of the runaround. "Slammed ... later in the week," one email reads. "Thanks for the support."
Huh. I do want to support; one, because Glover is a fellow Georgia boy (a graduate of the esteemed DeKalb School of the Arts), and two, because he's funny and smart and talented and OK, fine, maybe I have a little man-crush on him. I suspect I'm not alone. Troy Barnes and Abed Nadir — the dynamic "Community" duo played by Glover and real-life pal Danny Pudi — boast a Bill-and-Ted bromance for the meta generation, astute hyperconnectivity having long since replaced stoner cluelessness as the twentysomething stereotype du jour.
Given the effortlessness with which he plays the affable Troy, it's tempting to view the character as an extension of Glover's personality. Of course, he is not so easy to peg. The mindless merger of on- and off-screen existence and the resulting forced exposure to scores of socialite "stars" and reality TV un-personalities has instilled in us a certain expectation of the young, modern celebrity. With his myriad artistic endeavors, Glover subverts our nagging notions of New Hollywood's cultural vacancy.
Captain among said endeavors is Childish Gambino. Unlike most celeb vanity projects that wallow in slick, sludgy self-indulgence, Childish Gambino is honest and direct, with enough true nü-rap character to hang with the cream of the underground. Take the fiery "Bitch, Look at Me Now," wherein Glover waxes Weezy about "Shining Times Station," maxi pads and paying Mom's mortgage — all over a Grizzly Bear track. (His affinity for indie rock is well-documented; see Illin-Noise!, a tight, ambitious batch of Sufjan Stevens remixes from yet another Glover persona, MC DJ.)
As Gambino, Glover is hedonistic, vulgar, sex-obsessed and, despite — or maybe because of — the mounting fame and fortune, more than a little bit insecure. His method is Kanye-derived but Donald-specific — less paranoid megalomania than sweaty, truth-induced miasma. It's the real deal: Gambino's output serves as an instructive snapshot of the artist that even the highest-resolution cameras cannot portray.
Growing up in Stone Mountain, "people didn't like me," Glover is quoted as saying in a recent Village Voice profile, "because I was black." Instead of responding angrily to his classmates' prejudice, he explains, he tried to be the most likeable kid he could, in order to change their minds. Now, as Glover's dual careers gain speed and his (social) media clout skyrockets, he leads a rebellion against the attempted assuagement of his youth. Gone is the desire to please all. In its place is a massive middle finger to those fools who don't get it. Fed up with recent criticism from trap-centric hip-hop blogs of the ostensibly too soft Gambino, Glover mined a lyric from his tune "My Shine" and, unsurprisingly, took to Twitter with a hashtag that illustrates his paradoxical nature, approval-seeking but defiant, a newly minted insider living his childhood outsider's dream. It reads simply: #FUCKRAPCOOL.
IAMDONALD is billed as a variety show of sorts, featuring Glover's stand-up comedy, assorted crowd/performer interactivity and a set from the full-band version of Childish Gambino. (Per Twitter and his tour blog, it's also functioning as male-bonding ritual, drunken road trip and orgiastic brouhaha.) But though it may be a me-for-all, this ain't no Torpedo of Truth Tour — thank Christ. Glover's self-effacing sanguinity — and his, um, talent — guarantee that IAMDONALD will not be a Charlie Sheen-style disaster fest.
There are things I still want to know about Glover, things I wish I'd been able to talk to him about. Like, what do his parents, who raised him Jehovah's Witness, think of Gambino's uncouth, libido-driven lyricism? How does it feel returning to the South more an OutKast than an outcast? What does he want, and, mostly, does he have it yet? But there's a part of me that admires his reluctance to acquiesce to every interview request that comes along. Donald Glover does it his way, after all.
ooooohhhh, I'm so excited!! I can't wait to see them together!
come on man you know you got a bromance. you probably still rock that OutKast…
Yes, 14 is the correct answer. I'll pass your info along to the group's manager,…