The 28-year-old US rapper, actor, writer and comedian Donald Glover doesn’t talk about the usual stuff. He raps about peeing his pants and girls making fun of him on the bus. We hear his teenage confessions.
You’re well known in the States for starring on the hit TV show Community, but when did you start rapping?
At first I was just doing it for fun. I recorded an album in my freshman year [at NYU] all on my laptop and it sounds like complete shit. It was, like, super-emo. All about girls. Basically, all the stuff that’s on Camp [his debut album].
Did you have a treasured record when you were growing up?
Honestly? The Cranberries’ second album. I really liked “Ode to My Family”. I’m a big softy. It’s almost a cliché. I was talking to someone recently about losing your virginity… I lost it so late. Every girl I date it’s like “I lost it at 15, 16.” That is crazy to me. Girls lose it so early.
You have a song about wetting yourself at school. Were there any memories that were too embarrassing to put on?
Oh yes. Some things I pulled back. Like, I kind of… I jerked off in class once. I didn’t know I was jerking off. I was so young, but yeah, I did. It was, like, kindergarten.
So you masturbated early but it took you a long time to have sex?
Well maybe that was why I was OK with it.
Is your lyric “Donald Glover no relation” a Danny reference?
Yes, people think I’m Danny Glover’s son. I get called Danny all the time, because it’s a name that makes more sense than Donald. It’s not a popular name. I should be running an animation studio in the Forties. I like it, because it definitely shaped who I was. All the black kids where I grew up [in Georgia] were named Keith and Darius. They were like “What’s your name?” “Donald.” You know, you should be eating boiled eggs or something.
Have you ever discussed your music with your Community co-star Chevy Chase?
Yeah. It went something like this: The New York Times did an article on me, and he reads The New York Times. It’s the only way he gets new information. He does not know the internet exists. He came to work the next day and was like “Donald! I read you had a rap album? You know, I had a rap album…” And he did. He brought it to work and played it. And it is the dumbest shit I’ve ever heard. It was like: “A-hippity-ho and zippity-zooo”. It’s so bad.
Why do you think rapping about adolescence has resonated with people?
You ever watch those videos online of babies eating lemons? They’ll never have anything that sour again in their life. That’s what it is: your first love, your first real anger, there’s nothing like it. I made Camp for the 13-year-old me. The next album will be more jaded. You can’t sustain being that angry. Would Marshall Mathers-era Eminem be doing “Lighters” with Bruno Mars? No! He would fucking hate that guy. But he grew up.
Does that mean you’ll outgrow Childish Gambino for Middle-Ageish Gambino?
I hope not. That’s like, “Are the Beastie Boys ever going to be Beastie Men?” Childish Gambino will always be Childish Gambino, but hopefully it will grow with my audience. Right now it’s kind of cool.
New single “Heartbeat” and album "Camp" are out now