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The 11 best Childish Gambino songs

Why have a Top 10 when you can have one more? We rank Childish Gambino's 11 best tracks ahead of his UK dates

COVID made us do weird things. But while half the population was hoarding toilet roll and chain-baking banana bread, artists had their own thing going on. With the usual music industry cycle: produce/market/tour on hold, they were forced to explore other options. For Donald Glover aka Childish Gambino, that meant creating perhaps the most unmarketable, un-SEO friendly record ever. 3.15.20, named after its release date, had an equally unmemorable tracklist composed of songs named after their time stamp on the record.

Four years later, Childish Gambino scrubbed the album from the internet and announced that he was going to release two new (and final) albums. One of these, Atavista, is a reworked and updated version of 3.15.20 while the other, Bando Stone & The New World will be his last as Childish Gambino and form the soundtrack to his upcoming film of the same name. More exciting still, the double release will be celebrated with a string of live shows – The New World Tour, which will hit the UK in November.

Now, Donald Glover has the tendency to throw claims around about final albums and tours before popping up again a few years later like a magician’s trick. But do you really want to take that chance? In preparation for The New World Tour we’ve revisited his best tracks…

11. ‘Freaks And Geeks

Kicking off the countdown where it all began, Childish Gambino’s debut album, Camp, saw him take the concept of being a rapper and use it as his playground. In ‘Freaks And Geeks’, that means some of the most clichéd tropes in hip hop (being the best, getting women, having sex) and blowing them apart into the most comically exaggerated bars. Take your pick from: “I am runnin’ this bitch, you are just a dog walker”, “E.E. cummin’ on her face, now that’s poetry in motion”, “An elephant never forgets, so my dick remembers everything”. Ridiculous. Entertaining. Brilliant.

10. ‘Sober

From rap clichés to the other end of the spectrum. In the opening track of his 2014 EP, Kauai, Childish Gambino ditches rapping to sing about a thorny break-up and plead with his ex to reconsider. It’s all tucked up in a lush softly funky coat, but tussles with Glover’s modern-leaning production before suddenly giving in to a beat switch in the last minute that cements it a Childish Gambino original. Thundering bass, the type that you can feel in your body when you’re too drunk and too emotional to be in the club, takes over and the full vulnerability of ‘Sober’ reaches its apex.

Childish Gambino - Sober

9. ‘The Worst Guys

Childish Gambino teamed up with Chance the Rapper for ‘The Worst Guys’, but don’t expect to hear a verse from the latter. Rather, he and Glover toss five words back and forth and somehow manage to make it one of the catchiest choruses in his discography: “All she needed was some.” Grabbing 90s sitcom references, sexual innuendo, and something a bit like a glam rock guitar solo, ‘The Worst Guys’ is one of the best examples of the weird genius of Donald Glover’s brain and his ability to make something out of just about anything.

8. ‘Feels Like Summer’

In 2018, Childish Gambino hit us with a two-track EP Summertime, one of which was ‘Feels Like Summer’ (which is so good it even made another appearance on 3.15.20). Don’t be fooled by the feel-good beat and dream-like vocals though, the track is actually about how the planet is slowly dying thanks to global warming, capitalism, deforestation and bees running out of clean air. Depressing? Maybe. But we’ve never heard a call to arms that sounds so much like you should be enjoying an icy margarita with your Out of Office on. 

Childish Gambino - Telegraph Ave ("Oakland" By Lloyd)

7. ‘Telegraph Ave (“Oakland” by Lloyd)

Things got meta on Childish Gambino’s second album, Because The Internet, as he released a whole screenplay to go alongside it, detailing the adventures of a protagonist called ‘The Boy’. In one scene, The Boy is driving to see an old flame as the fictional song ‘Oakland’ is playing by real-life R&B artist Lloyd. ‘Telegraph Ave’ chronicles the characters thoughts as he listens to ‘Oakland’ and frets about the repercussions of his road trip. Is your head spinning yet? Even without the Glover-verse happening in the background, ‘Telegraph Ave’ is a smooth, confessional classic. 

6. ‘This Is America

It’s hard to believe that ‘This Is America’ started life as a joke and a Drake diss track (yes, another one). Released against a backdrop of Trump, Black Lives Matter, and increasing political uprisings in the US, it’s a track best known for its music video’s acrid depiction of America and the black experience within it. Gospel-style choirs and discordantly happy stretches are interrupted by bass resembling machine gun fire as Childish Gambino dissects the political landscape with disgust, compressing it into a moment that has gone down in history.

Childish Gambino - This Is America (Official Video)

5. ‘Me And Your Mama

The opening track to 2016’s Awaken, My Love! makes the top five for a number of reasons. To start with, it was Donald Glover’s first release since suggesting he might retire Childish Gambino. It also marks a big musical shift for Glover, with the twinkling synths and choir chants of the extended intro giving way to uproarious guitars and a funkadelic sound that would dominate the album as Childish Gambino roars “Do what you want” with passion verging on mania. One of the best opening tracks in Childish Gambino’s locker, and perhaps of all time.

4. ‘3005

Childish Gambino landed his first charting song in the US and a GRAMMY nomination for Because The Internet track ‘3005’ with its instantly catchy chorus and romantic sentiment: “I’ll be right by your side ‘til 3005”. Donald Glover being Donald Glover, he did go on to slightly mar the track’s reputation as a love song by declaring it was more of an “existential thing”. Either way, we’re vibing with the flawless hook and dancing synths, whether it’s into an existential crisis or a relationship.

Childish Gambino - 3005

3. ‘Sweatpants

Staying on Because The Internet for number three with a track that deserves way more appreciation. Childish Gambino left no crumbs with ‘Sweatpants’ as he re-enters rapper mode with a confident flow and his favourite blend of lyrics swaying between ridiculously clever and just ridiculous e.g. “I got a penthouse on both coasts, pH balance”. With one of the best beats on the album, ‘Sweatpants’ also takes bed creaking imitations, something verging on bird calls, exaltations and more and submerges it in Childish Gambino’s alternative universe, never once coming up for air.

2. ‘Bonfire

A beat so hard you could literally headbang to it. Going all the way back to 2011’s Camp, ‘Bonfire’ is crammed with punchlines and ego-rubbing lines like “’Man, why does every Black actor gotta rap some?’ I don’t know, all I know is I’m the best one.” Childish Gambino’s flow is so breathless, so keen to get to the next play on words he’s actually hoarse. And the fact ‘Bonfire’ starts with a literal air raid alert tells you just about all you need to know about the energy heading your way.

Childish Gambino - Redbone (Live From The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon)

1. ‘Redbone’

The undisputed best Childish Gambino song and arguably one of the best songs of the last ten years, the top spot could only ever go to ‘Redbone’. The second single from Awaken, My Love! is indebted to the likes of funk heroes Bootsy Collins and Funkadelic, and has an intro so iconic it even made its way onto Jordan Peele’s seminal horror film Get Out. Slapping bass, one of the most memorable guitar riffs of all time, a whole new realm of vocal experimentation, and jarringly paranoid lyrics about possible infidelity, ‘Redbone’ has it all. 

Childish Gambino brings The New World Tour to the UK this November and December. Find tickets here.