Childish Gambino Strikes Again With ‘Guava Island’!

Last year, I remember reading that Donald Glover aka Childish Gambino and Rihanna were in Cuba working on a super secret film project.  I hoped they were shooting a music video with a similar vibe to “Telegraph Ave. (‘Oakland’ by Lloyd)” for the track “Saturday” (the song Gambino performed on SNL when he hosted last May) or perhaps for a duet they recorded.  As time went on and a few more (but not many) details about the project came to light, it was clear that the finished work would be a lot more ambitious than that.

Fast forward to this past Friday (Apr. 12, 2019), it was revealed that Guava Island was actually a feature length film, and it would premiere during Childish Gambino’s Coachella set.  For the people that weren’t fortunate enough to snag a ticket to Coachella this year (me), the film became available to stream on Amazon.com for 18 hrs., as well as You Tube, staring 12:00 AM PST on Sat. Apr. 13.  After 18 hrs., the movie would only be available to Amazon Prime subscribers (also me)As most of y’all know, I fell in love with Childish Gambino last year.  With his insane multi-talent (he’s a writer, comedian, singer, rapper and actor), and his phenomenal career in entertainment, this man could do no wrong in my eyes.  So, it should be no surprise that I woke up in the middle of night on Friday (which was technically Saturday morning) and checked out Guava Island for myself.

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Guava Island tells the story of Deni (Gambino) and Kofi (Rihanna), a young couple that live on the titular Caribbean island (I’m assuming it’s Caribbean, considering most of the people there are black and half of them speak Spanish).  Guava Island is beautiful, but po’—and yes, I meant to say po’—thanks to industrialist Red Cargo (played by my boy Nonso Anozie, who’ll always be Renfield from Dracula to me).  Red’s family took control of the island a long time ago by making a profit off the blue silk produced by the island’s silkworms, and as Red became richer, the other inhabitants of the island became poorer, being forced to work day and night for peanuts on the docks or in sweatshops.  Deni, who is a local musician, hopes to bring the island together with a music festival, but Red’s greedy ass isn’t feelin’ that concept.  The festival is supposed to take place on a Saturday night, and Red knows that if everyone’s having fun all night on Saturday, they won’t get up and go to work on Sunday, because God forbid these folks actually have a day off.   With that being said, Red pays Deni with 10 G’s to make him cancel the festival.  What will Deni do?

Guava Island was written by Stephen Glover (Donald’s brother) and directed by Hiro Murai (who also directed the “This Is America” video), both of who whom work with Donald on Atlanta, which tells you that this film won’t have your typical ending.  The film was described as a thriller with elements from the Brazilian film City of God and Purple Rain.  I personally have to disagree with that assessment.  The movie has the aesthetics of City of God, due to the grainy picture and tropical setting (plus, the characters are in abject poverty, much like the ones in City of God), but that’s about it.  The film is a musical like Purple Rain, but the difference is Prince’s film debut had more of a semi-autobiographical feel (like 8 Mile, which most folks have deemed the “hip-hop version of Purple Rain“), whereas Guava Island doesn’t have that same effect, and it shouldn’t, considering that Deni has very little in common with the real Childish Gambino.  As for Guava Island being a thriller, the last few moments were pretty tense, but if that alone makes it a white-knuckle type movie, you might as well say Under the Cherry Moon is one as well, considering Christopher Tracy and Tricky spend the last 20 minutes running from goons and cops.  I know, I’m using a lot of Prince references today.

This isn’t to knock the film, however.  Despite disagreeing with Gambino’s perceived vision of it, I really enjoyed it.  In my opinion, Guava Island is a cute, extended music video (the film runs at about 55 min.) with a beautiful message.  The animation sequence used in the opening credits and the start of the film was especially adorable.  It reminded me a lot of The Princess and the Frog.  A lot of people were upset that Rihanna didn’t contribute a song to the venture, and although that would’ve been great, I can’t say that I was disappointed.  There were so many Gambino tracks to enjoy—new and not-so-new—that I was in hog heaven regardless.  Some of my favorite Childish Gambino songs were included in Guava Island, such as “This Is America,” “Summertime Magic” and “Feels Like Summer,” and nearly all of them were performed as musical numbers.  I loved it.  The acting was on point as well, but with the cast appointed to the film (which also included Leticia Wright, who plays Shuri on Black Panther), that was to be expected.  The only real issue I had with the movie is that it was supposed to be on a remote island in the Caribbean, and nearly everyone had an accent…except Gambino.  Right before the “This Is America” musical number begins, one of Deni’s co-workers mentions migrating to the US for a seemingly better life, and Deni immediately shuns the idea, all the while, speaking with an accent that’s as American as apple pie.  Right.

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Y’all, this film was really good for what it was.  Unless you have an Amazon Prime subscription like me, the 18 hr. window of opportunity to see it has since passed, unfortunately.  However, in this age of technology, I’m sure there’s some other ways to get around the limited screening time to see the movie.  My advice is to try to check it out any way you can; no judgment.  Guava Island is like City of God in visuals only, and all it has common with Purple Rain is the fact that there’s music throughout the film, and it doggone for sure ain’t no thriller per se, but it’s still a great way to spend an hour.  Plus, Gambino and Rihanna make a cute couple.  😃❤️

—Written by Nadiya

Have you seen Guava Island yet?  What did you think of it?  Did you see it at Coachella during Gambino’s set, or did you stream it at home?  Did it put you in the mind of Purple Rain and/or City of God?  Did you like the musical numbers?  Let me know in the comments section!

 

Unsung Hero (Sort Of): Childish Gambino

My first introduction to Donald Glover aka Childish Gambino was July 3, 2015.  I remember the exact date because it was my 34th birthday (I know, I’m old).  I decided to spend my birthday at Myrtle Beach with my best friend (my mom) and since I missed all the Black Diamonds shows in Columbia, SC that year, I wanted to go to the theatre at Broadway at the Beach and watch Magic Mike XXL.  That’s when I saw Donald Glover.  He played a stripper named Andre, who wasn’t super buff like the other men but had a cute factor and a very pretty singing voice.  He left an impression on me with the way he used his voice and overall swag to make the women around him swoon, plus he reminded me of one of my current favorite TV characters…Jamal from Empire.  Little did I know that he had an actual singing career.

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Fast forward a year and a half later, I heard “Redbone” on the radio for the first time.  I loved the song upon my first listen.  Like many others, I thought it was a woman laying down the vocals, but I soon learned that it was Childish Gambino.  At first I figured that was the name of a group, but when my nerd senses kicked in and I decided to research the “group,” I found out it was none other than Donald Glover, the slender stripper that made me love the song “Marry You” long before I heard Bruno Mars’s original version.

After discovering who Childish Gambino really was, I gathered more information on him.  It turns out that he wasn’t just an actor turned rapper/singer, or vice versa, but he was also a comedian, a director, writer and producer.  “Redbone” continued to get heavy airplay on the radio stations, and I eventually uploaded it to my iPod (along with a kickass remix of Tupac’s “Hellrazor” set to the “Redbone” instrumental).  As time went by, I heard a few more songs in Childish Gambino’s catalog and enjoyed them.  However, I recently came across Watch Mojo’s “Top 10 Childish Gambino Songs” on YouTube while enjoying my morning breakfast, and I found myself drawn to the music.  I decided to check out the songs included on the list in their entirety, and I wasn’t disappointed.

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Childish Gambino has something that a lot of today’s Hip Hop is lacking: the stellar combination of nice beats, clever lyrics, and a smooth delivery.  What’s makes him even cooler is that his songs are musically unorthodox, yet they still manage to captivate the listener.  Lyrically, he reminds me a lot of Kanye West before he allowed his confidence to morph into arrogance.  With his combined talents of rapping, singing, and acting, he could also be considered a male version of Lauryn Hill.  Listening to Gambino’s music took me back to a time when listening to new Hip Hop music was enjoyable and it would leave me with an insatiable thirst for more when the record was finished.  It had me thinking:  Why wasn’t Childish Gambino more popular?

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Childish Gambino has seven mixtapes, two EP’s, three studio albums and a ton of singles.  The first mixtape, Sick Boi, was released circa 2008.  However, I didn’t know Childish Gambino existed until late 2016, eight years later.  I had only just learned who Donald Glover himself was a year and a half earlier.  Now, it’s arguable that I never heard of Childish Gambino because I don’t listen to Hip Hop quite as much as I did as a teenager, and don’t keep up with the new school artists as much (and I didn’t watch Community).  However, there’s a lot of new school artists that I heard about before I listened to their music—or, if I’m being honest, I heard of them but never listened to their music—such as Drake, Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, Kodak Black and Takeshi 6ix9ine (the last two belong in the latter category).  Childish Gambino didn’t get half the press coverage the aforementioned men received, and he’s just as talented.  I don’t recall Gambino ever really trending on Twitter (not counting the weekly trends for #AtlantaFX), unlike Kendrick and Drake, with the exception of Grammy night.  Don’t get me started on that subject.  I will say that it’s even clearer to me now why Childish Gambino was nominated for Album of the Year…that doesn’t mean that Bruno didn’t deserve his win, though.  I’ll leave it at that.  Sadly enough, after finally discovering what a fire MC/singer Childish Gambino truly is, I soon learned that he’s going to retire in the near future.

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For this reason, I consider Childish Gambino to be an unsung hero (kind of).  Yeah, he’s been around for ages, and I’m late to the party as usual, but it can definitely be said that Gambino doesn’t have the same popularity as Fetty Wap, Lil’ Yachty, Big Sean and a dozen other new school rappers I can name—but I won’t because I don’t have the time and I can’t think of too many others—but he damn well deserves it.  Donald Glover aka Childish Gambino, I salute you.

Since we’re on the subject of Donald Glover, did anyone see the “Teddy Perkins” episode of Atlanta this past week?  It was creepy and unsettling.  I recommend you watch if you haven’t.  Dude’s a genius.  😉😉

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—Written by Nadiya

So what do y’all think about Childish Gambino?  Do you like his music?  Do you think he’s an unsung hero (in a way)?  Or do you believe he gets the kudos he deserves?  Let me know in the comments section!