Glover and Gambino: The Effects of Fame and Persona

by: Marissa Morales

For those of us with nothing better to do but leave our Twitter homepage open all day, rolling our eyes at a friend’s lament of how awful their life is (“That cashier was so RUDE to me, my life is RUINED.”) or like me, waiting for something witty from the Rock, our pages were suddenly inundated on May 16th with the name Donald Glover, going on one of the most intense Twitter rants I have ever witnessed. To investigate, we will break down his fleeting (?) moment of intensity.

“Dear Twitter people,”

Thus it begins, us Twitter folks are being addressed, you have my attention Glover.

The beginning of the rant is Glover warning us, “This is my moment of honesty.” Yes, Glover is open about his feelings and life while performing his stand-up and while rapping under the name Childish Gambino. It’s easy to forget the mask that is being worn during these performances, because that’s what they are, Glover putting on a show. It’s the same way that writers are sometimes more honest behind the safety of a keyboard rather than face to face with a demon.

Glover expresses concern that the rant will be quoted or taken out of context, to which I say with complete love in my heart, duh. You don’t make something public over a social media site without having a full awareness that it will make its rounds. There’s no avoiding that.

Gambino is rarely mentioned within the hip hop community, and I think Gambino said it best in his track, “Let Me Dope You,” the common reaction is: “Who’s that rappin, yo it’s Troy from Community.” We are now at the point where Glover gets into it over the Coachella incident in which journalists and writers came at him for “ripping off Kendrick”, which refers to hip hop artist Kendrick Lamar and when Gambino came out with him for Lamar’s set; they said this even though Glover had written the beat for Lamar’s “Look Out for Detox.” This comes down to the unavoidable side of modern fame, the inescapable negativity. It’s there every time you log on to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc. It’s unfortunate, but you can’t blame the guy for holding onto that negative thing this time. We all have those moments, sometimes all it takes is that one minor thing that wouldn’t normally irritate you to send you over the edge. Hence, this rant, but now to dive back in…

We reach the point where Glover comes at the “white peeps” that come to the defense of “black peeps” that feel like Glover doesn’t like black people or himself. Now. Come on. Glover is a man that has admitted, yes through music and stand-up, that he never fit in with any particular race.  Even though Glover is indeed a “black peep,” he wasn’t “black enough” but also wasn’t white at all, so he never truly fit in with anyone. I may be speaking as a naïve Latina here, but I have never gotten the vibe that Glover dislikes other black people, and I find it completely laughable that anyone would defend such a ridiculous notion.

As far as Glover hating himself goes, well… Who doesn’t hate themselves sometimes? Especially if you were in Glover’s situation. Glover had the confidence and faith in himself to blow up, the question lies in, did he explode too quickly? This rant seems to be evidence that Glover wasn’t ready to become the star that many of us see him as. Oftentimes when a celebrity seemingly becomes and overnight sensation, within six months they have checked into rehab for “exhaustion.” Glover is just airing his mental breakdown out for everyone to bear witness. I see that as gutsy.

He also gets into the frustration of having people claim they know him and his “perfect” life story. While he acknowledges completely that he grew up in a very loving home with amazing parents and siblings, he’s also quick to point out that he grew up in the projects of Decatur, GA. This goes hand in hand with a line he had in a recent track, “EYV,” that mentioned Trayvon Martin.  Glover alleges that a lot of white people were upset and offended by the line, but the (extremely upsetting) situation of Trayvon happens all of the time. He didn’t mention Trayvon as a joke, because Glover knows there’s nothing funny about racial profiling.

Glover then begins to wrap it up by thanking the fans, it’s during this section that Glover makes my heart grown a little bit more, and feel even more respect for him: “But I’m also not looking to be ‘some dude’. I don’t do anything hoping to end with being ‘some dude’. / I don’t think anyone person on earth should be striving to be ‘just some dude’./ I don’t wanna be that. Or a coward. Those are the worst things you could be.” That, that moment right there is where he nails it. Those really should have been the three tweets that happened, this whole rant left too many people angry or scratching their heads, especially when he says that Childish Gambino started out as a joke. Oh, Donald.

That people come up to him tell him that his music has helped them through chemo or coming out, makes him feel guilty. Because his rapping started out as an inside joke, but he’s finally becoming aware that his words mean something to people. I know his music helped me through a rough break-up, which sounds petty in comparison, but believe me, it was rough.

What I got from the rant in its entirety is simply that he can no longer distinguish between Donald Glover and Childish Gambino. Gambino exudes swag and openness. As fans, we feel that we know so much about him. But Glover isn’t like that, he’s private and seemingly a bit insecure. And there’s nothing wrong with that. We can only hope that he figures out how to let the two coexist.

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