My Strangest Musical Beef of 2010
As Joe Warminsky's recent post on Darwin Deez's self-titled album goes to show, music critics don't like every piece of music they stumble upon in a given year. And, as the comments for that post show, every once in a while a musician will respond to an assault on their creation.
Beefs between musicians and critics aren't new, but that's not to say it isn't odd when an artist responds in kind. Needless to say, I got a little flummoxed when L.A. rapper Childish Gambino—otherwise known as Donald Glover, who plays Troy on NBC's Community and wrote for 30 Rock—called out a criticism I had made of his latest mixtape, Culdesac.
I discovered Glover's rapper alias when a friend posted his first mixtape of 2010, I AM JUST A RAPPER, on her Tumblr. Despite the mixtape's sonic incompetence—it's basically Glover rapping over popular indie tunes with the original vocals intact—RAPPER was an unexpected treat, and Glover proved to be a sharp, witty rapper. And then Culdesac sucked a lot of the energy, voice, and sly wit out of the equation and made for an oft-vapid, over-produced, and mediocre mixtape. Needless to say, I felt a bit disillusioned and wrote a review that—I felt—reflected the issues I had with the album from the perspective of a listener who has enjoyed Glover's previous output.
And then, eventually, Glover responded.
In an interview with the Hip Hip Update, Glover called out some criticisms I made of Culdesac. Namely, my criticism that his lyrics were flawed and formulaic, and that the constant mentions of his mentor, Tina Fey, sounded strange. Beginning at the 1:35 mark of the video, Glover responded to those two criticisms I (and apparently others) made of his album (quote below):
I would read an article, and in the same article, it'd be like, 'this guy raps about the same stuff all rappers rap about,' and then they'd be like, 'you can't rap about Tina Fey.' Which one is it? Is it, like, I can't rap about Tina Fey, because that's not what rap is about? I get mad when people are just like, 'you rap about money and girls.' Money is a tool to do what you want to do, and I love girls.
I'm still baffled by the whole situation. Baffled how a handful of complaints about a musician I kind of enjoy snowballed into a black-and-white image of me as a "hater." Somehow, a humorous quip about how I thought Tina Fey's name is brought up in the album quite frequently translated into a message that I think Glover should not be allowed to do something. Which is probably more dumbfounding than the idea that a rapper name-dropping his mentor and spitting rhymes that fit into hip-hop's status quo are mutually exclusive.
When everyone has an opinion and a PC, some details are bound to get lost in the overflow of information. Misunderstandings aside, I certainly understand how Glover was upset. But, as someone who's enjoyed Glover's work in music and comedy, and someone who admires his creative drive, it was just a bit baffling to be his target.