“Always leave them wanting more”
P.T Barnum said it over half a century ago, but in regards to the over saturation of the entertainment business today (tons of actors, directors, rappers shoving mix-tapes into people’s pockets) These words have never been more important than they are right now. the most effective way for an artist to increase their longevity is to keep the audience intrigued. A perfect example of an artist grabbing the audience’s attention is one of my own experiences rushing all the way downtown just to catch the end of a listening party by Donald Glover, A.K.A Childish Gambino
In anticipation of his upcoming album, Because The Internet, Gambino had announced he would be playing the album at a few parks around the country, and the minute he tweeted his location at Washington Square Park I knew I had to be there. I sprinted out of the middle of dinner with my friends all the way to the subway and rode for forty minutes to catch about ten minutes of music. I am not the biggest music connoisseur and if you had ever told me I would do this for any music I would have thought you were lying, but that’s the thing: I wasn’t doing it for the music, I was doing it for the world Childish Gambino was creating.
Childish Gambino is a perfect example of how artists should be adapting to the changing landscape of how audiences choose and consume entertainment;his constant independence and innovation has shown me his true Bohemian qualities.
Donald McKinley Glover has worn a variety of hats in the entertainment business: from writing for hit television shows to starring in them, but perhaps his most famous endeavor is balancing his comedic occupation with his alter-ego: Rapper Childish Gambino. Though he’s technically been putting out work under this musical pseudonym since 2008, the work he had been producing was a lot of the same that would be expected from someone of Glover’s talent and position. The albums were filled with catchy hooks and clever quips of wit, but ultimately nothing that special. It wasn’t until His second studio album that Gambino finally reached his true potential and accomplished something much bigger than a rap album, and it might have all been (as the title says) Because the Internet (Authors note: I HAD TO DO IT OK?).
Because the Internet came out December 10th, a nineteen track, Five-act (as evidenced by roman numerals next to the songs) Hip Hop album that was anything but just an album. Released around the same time as the album was a twenty minute short film and seventy two-page screen play: all three of these pieces centering around the same character, “The boy”, played by Glover. While the short film was a prologue to the screenplay, the screenplay and album work together: throughout it are points at which each song should be played, thus creating the album to be sort-of soundtrack to the album. Though Glover did not simply put out an album that matches up with a script, the album is an independent piece that doesn’t perfectly match up to the screenplay. Rather, the album (along with the short films) add more insight into this character that Childish Gambino has created, and the world the character lives in: and here is what Makes Gambino/Glover/The boy up to date with the times. By creating all these different forms of media, Glover is creating a world that his fans can participate and interact with, and thus draws them in more. I won’t be going into the plot or literary aspects of anything in this world, but rather how Gambino is using the world to draw his fans in.
On top of these written pieces, Glover adds and presents this world in a multitude of other ways. For example, an app was released to coincide with his tour for the album. This app allowed others to draw and post stuff onto a screen during the show, allowing fans to interact even more with the world that Glover was creating. Another example, And probably his most powerful, is how Glover has come to live the character now. In the months leading up to the release of Because the Internet Glover donned a very minimalistic outfit, and wore it exclusively in all interviews. Additionally he began to seem much more melancholic and posted a series of controversial ‘notes’ to Instagram, detailing his depression and fears. While these feelings could genuinely be those of Glover himself, The boy also takes on the same malaise and wears the same outfit. Glover’s twitter account, one up until then that had been an outlet for jokes, was wiped clean and began posting more cryptic messages, while still interacting with the fans. In order to create a world and draw more people in, Glover began to play the character he had created.
It is through the total immersion and detail of his art that Glover is able to draw fans in, and this method has been a total success as evidenced by his fandom. Recently, Glover’s album was nominated for a Grammy and his singles have topped the charts, but even more important is the fans interactions with his world. Numerous fans have discussed and analyzed Glover’s work, discussing many theories about what exactly he is trying to say (some ranging from basic to the craziest, such as Donald himself being an alien) but it is definitely reflective of the amount of time and thought people are putting into his art.
A perfect example of this is in regard to the secret track he coded into a website. In the website for the script he wrote, Glover announced that there was a secret track, indirectly encouraging fans to search for it. Almost a year after the release of the album, a few more computer science-inclined fans were able to decode the track (encrypted in the website) using some keywords he had tweeted from months ago. Besides the fact that this shows the true amount of dedication his fans have to Gambino, it also shows his trust in his project and his ability to hook in fans. It is quiet possible that no one would have been able to find that track, but Glover/Gambino/the boy believed that his fans would be intrigued enough to search it out.
Childish Gambino may not be the best rapper of our time, but he is definitely the most innovative, and in creating a world through his many different projects and pieces, He engages fans to think and look into his work more, and ultimately keeps them hooked. In a world where the traditional fifteen minutes of fame have been shortened down to the length of a vine, holding someone’s attention is where true power is, and Childish Gambino is showing the most power.