More than two hours before comedian turned actor turned rapper Donald Glover took the stage at Pittsburgh’s Stage AE, the concert hall was filled to capacity.
While some had come early to see opening act Danny Brown – an MC from Detroit who manages to blend hood and hipster into one unique rap experience – the majority had waited in line in order to see Childish Gambino, the man currently running the nerd rap movement.
Predominantly consisting of white high school students, the crowd – much like the rapper they adored – was an anomaly. Hipsters mingled with jocks, as youth of all shapes, sizes, and colors came together to enjoy a rapper who had made being cool less about wearing bling, and more about personality.
Hailing from Stone Mountain, Georgia, Donald Glover was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness in a large family. Overcoming racism and ridicule, Glover was accepted to New York University where he earned a degree in Dramatic Writing in 2006.
It didn’t take long before Glover ascended the ranks of writers, quickly earning himself a spot as a writer for NBC’s 30 Rock. With a successful writing and acting career which includes one of NBC’s latest programs Community, Glover decided to try his hand at rapping. Two mixtapes and a full-length album later, Childish Gambino is a star.
After a nearly hour long set by Danny Brown – one which consisted of a series of hood vocabulary lessons and lackluster stage presence – the light’s dimmed, leaving the four fake pine trees and full instrumentation on stage clouded in darkness.
Seething with anticipation, the crowd began their attempt to bring the multitalented rapper to the stage. Soon, the chant “Gam-been-oh! Gam-been-oh!” enveloped the concert hall, as the fans made it clear that they were ready.
Answering the crowd’s plea, a hooded figure wearing skinny jeans emerged from the left hand side of the stage. Trailed by his band, the man wearing the everyday outfit would quickly prove that he was no ordinary human being – he was Childish Gambino.
With enough flashing lights to warrant a video-game like seizure warning, the stage exploded in an impressive visual performance as Childish Gambino jumped across the stage. Starting with his debut album’s first track “Outside” Gambino implored the use of the crowd on the chorus. Happy to oblige, the crowd nearly drowned out the sound of Gambino’s flawless high note, as their hands pointed towards the Stage AE ceiling.
As the concert rolled along, so did the Camp album. Firefly, the album’s second song, made use of the band’s guitarist who was able to support Gambino and his fans during the chorus, giving the song a much deeper, richer feel. This was echoed throughout the show, as the live band added energy to the performance and gave each song extra intensity.
Making good use of his time, Gambino quickly moved onto some of his biggest tracks. As the video screen behind the band’s drummer went blank, text soon occupied the space which read: “John Legend’s voice – (keep clapping).” The crowd roared their approval as they realized they were in for a treat; this was Gambino’s hit “Rollin’ in the Deep” a remix of Adele’s track which helped propel the budding rapper to stardom.
Further proving his wide range of talents, Gambino went airborne, showing off his athleticism as he jumped high in the air to the beat of the drums behind him. As if this wasn’t enough to set the crowd on fire, Gambino proceeded to leave the stage, joining the front row of fans as the crowd performed their own rendition of the popular track along with their newfound friend.
After running through nearly all of his most well-known tracks, Gambino thanked the crowd and exited the stage, his band following suit behind him. Refusing to let their hero leave just yet, the crowd made one more attempt to bring the rapper back to the stage. Within seconds the “Gam-been-oh!” chant went racing through the crowd once more.
Before the crowd had a chance to stop their chant, the beat to the hit track “Rack City” by Young Money Entertainment, Cash Money Records artist Tyga flooded over the crowd. Taking the stage once more, Childish Gambino spit his own verses over the well-known beat, at times rapping so fast it was as if rap veteran Busta Rhymes had replaced the nerd rap king who had previously occupied the stage.
As if his already stellar encore hadn’t been enough, Gambino proceeded to perform some of his newer work, making his own attempt to boycott the show’s end. On top of acting, writing, and touring, the 28 year old wonderkid from Georgia had managed to work on a new mixtape, presenting the crowd with unreleased tracks off of his latest project such as “We Ain’t Done” which sent the crowd into yet another frenzy.
When the bright lights of Stage AE finally turned on, signifying the end of the show, the crowd was in awe. What they had just witnessed was a testament to hard work and dedication to a craft, and their support would continue long after the performance ended.