Retrospective: @DonaldGlover's Because The Internet

When Because The Internet dropped, I'll be the first to admit this about my feelings towards it. I thought it was ambitious, showcased Childish Gambino as an artist who did Drake better than Drake sometimes did Drake (sorry guys), but it didn't register to me as much as it probably should have. In other words, I was sleep. So, in celebration of Donald Glover's Atlanta making people take notice, I've decided to take another look back at the 2013 album to determine one thing: why did some people (including myself) sleep on it? I'm not going to get up here and say, by default, it's the GOAT album or anything. But, it deserved more than the sleep it got from some listeners.

I hate saying this because it always sounds so cliched. But, Because The Internet was potentially ahead of its time. In 2013, artists weren't always going for overarching concepts in all of their works. You had Kanye doing abstract imagery and movies within his projects, but many artists were just delivering albums without any in-depth backstory with them. That's not a bad thing; some albums don't need them. But, it's fun to have that knowledge with projects, sort of like a by-the-artist version of Rap Genius.

BTI helped shape that idea of having amazing concepts upon concepts with albums in some ways. It's a project that doesn't make complete sense unless you, like with memes and other cultural phenomenons, understand its source material and understand why certain parts of the project are funny/dramatic/ironic and so on. It requires listeners to fully embrace every aspect of it and do some extra work to "get it." Is this off-putting? Well, kind of. Some listeners just want to enjoy the music put out. Those extra steps sometimes detract from the project.

But, at the same time, it's commendable as BTI is an experience versus just an album. Let's just look at its lead single, "3005." This song, on its surface is a love song. Looking at its videos, however, you'll see that it's deeper than just "I'll be right by your side, 'til 3005." First, let's look at the lyric video.

Gambino is by himself in this chatroom with Abella Anderson. We may see this as an "oh, he thirsty" moment. Hell, the end of the song itself has a clip saying someone is "thirsty." But, let's think about it for a bit. Anderson and Gambino are the only parties involved in this video, with Anderson saying things like "stay strong Gambino." The guy's lonely as hell and he needs someone by his side through the depression and darkness he's going through. The song is less about him loving someone and more about him needing someone to, in some ways, act as a crutch for him through some sticky situations. 

If we look at the stereotype of the cam girl (and keep in mind, this is just a stereotype) fulfilling a fantasy for their viewers, Gambino's still alone after Anderson logs off. There's no real connection. There's a sense of false dependence on a person who's there to get her money and do her thing versus serve as a real avenue to vent and voice feelings to. It's a pretty sad thing when you think about it, since Gambino's character is pouring his heart out and Anderson's just doing her job. 

You wouldn't get all that if you just listened to the song.

Looking at the non-lyric video for the track, this feeling of loneliness and needing a sort of security blanket is compounded by the fact that Gambino's riding on a ferris wheel with a somewhat worn stuffed animal. 

Typically, when we think of stuffed animals, we think of small children using them as a crutch. How many times have you seen a child blame a stuffed animal for a broken object or seen them use this fluffy compatriot as a device to tell all their "secrets" to. But, again, like the "relationship" presented between Gambino and Anderson, it's not real. 

We should also take a bit to look at Gambino's facial expressions. While they are all GIF-worthy, they're also indicative of disgust and pain. He's embarrassed that he's out and about with a Teddy bear as his only friend, but he knows that it's all he's got right now. Again, we wouldn't know this unless we looked at the album's short film and screenplay.

I think that's why we looked over BTI. It's a great album, but it's dense as hell. Without the context, we get an album that plays out like a collaboration between Big Sean and Drake at times and a commentary on society at others. In other words, it's solid but without the context, it can leave us in the dark. However, with that context, we get a multifaceted project that's ambitious as hell and serves as a biting analysis on the meme-obsessed society we live in and a reflection on Gambino's self. Additionally, we get a project that's just a great piece to look at. So, if you've got a couple hours, you owe it to yourselves to check out Gambino's short film clapping for the wrong reasons, the screenplay, and the album in their entirety.

If you don't, you should still check out the album, as it's a solid project even without the context.

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