The Street Cred of Childish Gambino

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Who makes the good art?

In addition to co-hosting Troy and Abed in the Morning, Donald Glover (aka Troy from NBC’s Community) has also been dabbling in the rap game under the pseudonym Childish Gambino.  I might have just lost my street cred by using the verb “dabbling” to describe what Glover is doing, but growing up in Iowa it isn’t like I had much of it to begin with. Which puts me in good company as many question Glover’s own “street cred” in the hip-hop world. (And that is what we call a “smooth transition” in the blogosphere.)

If you’ve seen more than thirty seconds of Community you know that Glover isn’t one of the hardest rappers around. But if you listen to any of his latest releases (Camp and Culdesac) you know that Glover isn’t a slouch or a jokester when it comes to his music. As Glover defines it on his album, this is “real” hip-hop.

Typically we like our rappers with a history of drug dealing (Jay-Z), jail time (Lil Wayne), or at the very least a pimp limp (50 Cent).  So how does a kid starring in a hit sit-com, who doesn’t even come from the streets, claim such a title?

But if it’s good, as I think Glover is, does it really matter who made it? Hip-hop seems to say yes, believing that the who is just as important as how good it is. Why does this exist in hip-hop? I can’t think of another genre or art form as wide-spread as hip-hop that puts so much stock in who the artist is and where he/she comes from.

I understand that hip-hop is seemingly inseperable from the culture it was born out of, but shouldn’t we be past this? Shouldn’t the art stand alone?  Is who made it really just as important as how good it is?

Glover seems to think that good art is good art, regardless of who makes it.  However, from a number of the tracks on his latest albums (see The Last below), it still seems that there are plenty of people who disagree with him.

The Last, off the album Culdesac [explicit]