15 Essential Pre-Camp Childish Gambino Songs

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8. “The Last” – Culdesac
_What I wanna know is why I never fit in right
Like a fat dude getting on a packed flight_

There are countless lyrics from the last song on 2009’s Culdesac that personify Glover’s biographical insecurities, but those two lines above are the simplest that we all can imagine. He grew up in Stone Mountain, a heavily white populated suburb of Atlanta where he was one of the only black students.

7. “The Longest Text Message” – single
_Texting on my day off, “Hey babe, what’s going on?
Sorry I can’t make it out” Sad face emoticon
It’s funny how I see you with these bad boys you hanging on
I told you, I’m a soldier, need a Girl Scout to tag along_

This is another song putting a girl on blast. It starts off with, “First off, let me say I’m drunk off of shitty wine” and it turns out that was true. In a Tumblr post he explained, “I forgot about this. Me and Ludwig [Göransson] made this during Thanksgiving. We spent a week in Brooklyn makin’ shit. It’s not mixed or mastered and I wrote/recorded this drunk, but yeah.” It’s energetic, raw and features extremely clever puns that have become a staple in his songs.

6. “Difference” – Culdesac
_Salad backstage, I just wanna eat alone,
Crowd at my shows more mixed than Rashida Jones,
Haters say I’m changing, but I haven’t changed at all
Indie kids saying that I ruined all their favorite songs_

The opening track to Culdesac features a plethora of self-reassuring lyrics that are all true. Most songs feature Childish praising himself and then cutting himself down, but “Difference” praises his various characteristics that he had been criticized for so often for in the past. Plus, the line about Rashida Jones is referenced later in a different song, which is something he does quite often—one of the most endearing characteristics of his rapping.

5. “It’s On” – single
_Vastly these rappers are slow
Asking to get back in the know
When they lackin’ a passionate flow
Trust in Gambino, he has never failed us
Cause I have got “S” plus what a dog’s tail does_

If March 2011’s EP introduced the world to Childish Gambino, this song let his already die-hard fans know that 2011 would be something special. Released on New Year’s Eve 2010, the song was written for the fans. Gambino blogged, “Feel bad about some people not making it to the show tonight. So I made this this morning (not the beat, obviously). Enjoy. Play it at midnight or else.” It turns out 2011 would be his biggest year yet.

4. “Got This Money” – Culdesac
_You’ve got your yellow sun dress on
I’m tryin’ to write you the best song
With your wayfarer shades, you drive me insane
I wanna hold hands, and call you pet names_

One of the softer songs in Childish’s catalog, “Got This Money” is a true love song and his least self-referential one. If any song could be considered ‘cute’, it’s definitely this one. It’s vastly different from nearly all of his songs, but is a prelude to some of the slower jams on Camp.

3. “Not Going Back” – EP
_I am not a thug, aka what they pretend to be
I am just myself, aka my worst enemy
… I’m sorry, babe, but I act me
I don’t act black, what ever that be_

The last song on the EP, “Not Going Back,” is a perfect transition to Camp. In the song he claims, “It seems like they all want me to fail / But I’m not goin’ back / Not goin’ back, baby” and he means it. Everything he releases up to this point has been free because he wanted to share what he loves. Now he’s a full-fledged rapper and has more memorable tracks than half of the people in the game.

2. “Break (AOTL)” – single
_They tellin’ me I’m the rapper for these white kids
‘Cause black kids can’t possibly like the same shit_

Sampling beats and lyrics from Kanye West’s “All of the Lights” this song has so many pop-culture references and and wordplay that it won’t make sense unless you know the name of the villain in The Smurfs, Huey Lewis’ band, the crimes of John Wayne Gacy and the deliciousness of McCallan. The song is even a little inspirational with Gambino tells us, “There’s a million ways to shine, choose one / Instead of what you’re doing tonight.”

1. Freaks and Geeks” – EP
_Running the game
Fuck am I sayin’?
Running the Earth
Give me a month
Told all you ni**as I’m in it to win it
‘Cause havin’ an Emmy just wasn’t enough_

Was there really any doubt to what the most essential Childish Gambino track was? With three albums, two mixtapes and a dozen single already released, this was the track that smacked the world in the face and welcomed it to the world where Gambino Girls #cangetit and nerdy guys can rap along without feeling out of place.

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