Is Pitchfork’s Childish Gambino Review Ironic Or Clueless?
Between Ian Cohen’s rabble on Donald Glover’s latest musical odyssey (you know, the black guy from Community) and a bout of indigestion, I lost a lot of sleep this morning. Yeah, I realize Pitchfork’s scribble came out some time ago and I don’t know how I missed it because I knew it’d be some arbitrary score removed from the zeitgeist. I was right. We gave the album a 10 out of 10 and while it’s not a perfect a perfect disc, it’s got catchy, fun songs and it serves well, as our review mentions, as a gateway to other rap. Looking over to Metacritic’s handful of scores, Pitchfork stands alone at a lowly 1.6, so either reviewer Ian Cohen is completely right, or he’s simply an Armond White for music.
I don’t know how Pitchfork evolved from a web site created by a high school graduate in Chicago to a hoity-toity league of music trolls, but they’ve certainly taken the flack for it. In fact, on the track “All the Shine”, Childish explains:
My nigga like, “I’d get you MTV if I could, man
But Pitchfork only likes rappers who crazy or hood, man”
Back in 2005, they even brought in comedian David Cook to do a Top 10 list for them, which he then spun to criticize their review style, which includes bizarre, elaborate allegories and genres of music to reference that simply don’t exist. (In good taste, they published it.) Pitchfork works so very hard to look legitimate through complex wordplay and easy references to bands you’ve never heard of, but they really just come off as jerkbags. Honestly, I don’t even mind Pitchfork from time to time, I’d take them over Rolling Stone any day of the week (who seem to only get off on Top 40 rap albums and super-indie folk), but it’s cases like these that rile the crowd.
In his review for Camp, Ian Cohen explains:
…but Glover’s exaggerated, cartoonish flow and overblown pop-rap production are enough to makeCamp one of the most uniquely unlikable rap records of this year (and most others)
No, I’m pretty sure people are liking it. It’s a good thing they don’t feature a User Reviews section alongside their literary monoliths or they’d see the contrast to their worldview.
Glover’s not doing himself any favors with a rap handle taken from the Wu-Tang Name Generator…
He’s a comedian doing a tongue-in-cheek rap album, how is this a criticism? Are the listeners of rap music really so serious? So austere?
Yes, that’s a lot of Yeezy talk, but the most insidious aspect of Camp is how Glover operates from a pre-Kanye inferiority complex where he senses that any dismissal of his music stems from gangsta rap still being the predominant aesthetic version of hip-hop (never mind that the most commercially relevant guy who can be feasibly be called “gangsta rap” right now is Rick Ross, and even he’s widely beloved on account of being an acknowledged pathological liar).
…see, this is the kind of stupid crap I’m talking about. Yes, it’s fair that Glover pulls from the Kanye West train, but is that really such a bad ride to be on? Isn’t Kanye just slathering on thousands of layers of super-complex pop samples to create music that white people will buy? You gave his Dark Fantasy a perfect score, but I don’t see how Camp is simply ripping him off, they’re merely in the same county on parallel train tracks. (See, had to get my Pitchfork on there…)
In the same paragraph where Cohen addresses Glover’s “crazy or hood, man” comment (with Drake as a response, okay…), he also goes crazy over racial demographics at a Sufjan concert. Dude, whatever. It’s nice that Pitchfork is so incredibly satisfied with itself and its musical taste, but it’s obvious that they works best when it operates in its own self-referential bubble. Whenever I need the best opinion on a lo-fi gig performing out of a laundromat, I’ll seek you out first. You just keep on trollin’.