Donald Glover Is Dominating Pop Culture

A Jack-of-all-trades, Childish is the best entertainer today’s generation has to offer

(Joe Pugliese/WIRED)

Donald Glover, aka Childish Gambino, unlike any other artist, is showing what it means to be a renaissance man.

At 33, Glover has a level of creative freedom and individuality that you hardly ever see in the entertainment industry. He’s basically juggling four separate careers, all of which would be a full-time job for most people.

He is the living embodiment of his generation’s belief that people can be whatever they want when they want. From writing for Tina Fey on 30 Rock to starring in Community as Troy Barnes, to recording music as Childish Gambino, to running his own television show, he can do it all.

As his ever-expanding resume illustrates, he has a head full of ideas that can’t be contained by any single genre, much less any single art form. Of all the different titles attached to his name, he wants to be known, above all, as a builder of worlds.

Earlier this year, Glover kick-started what will likely be a year-long victory lap when he won two Golden Globes for his television drama/comedy Atlanta–one for best actor, and one for best television comedy.

“He’s remarkably multifaceted,” says FX president John Landgraf. “I look at Donald first and foremost as a creator, but also as an entrepreneur–someone who is almost boundaryless, who can do almost anything they set their mind to.”

His instant hit, Atlanta, explores race, class, relationships, parenthood, and other endlessly complex subject matters. It’s so rare and refreshing to see creative risks taken at all, let alone to the extent Glover put forth in Atlanta. It’s a show that has the comedic elements of an Adult Swim program mixed with the dramatic writing you would see on a show like Breaking Bad.

The premiere episode drew 1.8 million viewers, the biggest comedy debut in FX history. While critics and members of the television industry praised the new series, Black Twitter applauded and hipsters approved.

Over the course of its 10-episode run, the show built an impressive audience. When the show reached its finale, Atlanta was averaging more than five million viewers per episode across platforms, making it the most-watched comedy in FX’s history.

The latest addition to Glover’s television achievements is FXX’s announcement that Glover will team up with his brother, Stephen (who also worked as a writer on Atlanta), to bring an animated version of Deadpool to television.

Of all the trades and talents Glover embodies, his growth as an actor has been fun to watch. His acclaimed show Atlanta, his role on the hilarious Community, and performances in Magic Mike XXL and Ridley Scott’s The Martian are just a taste of what’s in store to come in his promising acting career.

His recently announced turn as Lando Calrissian in a future Star Wars installment, a leading role in Marvel’s take on a solo Spider-Man film and the live action The Lion King (as the voice Simba) film slated for 2019, goes to show how in-demand Glover has become.

Since he was in college, Glover has been making music under the name Childish Gambino, building a fanbase of obsessives who will follow him just about anywhere (check out his ‘PHAROS’ event).

There is a two-year gap between Kauia, Glover’s second EP, Awaken, My Love! and Atlanta but Glover somehow still felt omnipresent to me.

(AP Images)

Gambino released his third album, Awaken, My Love! — an unexpected funk-inspired LP — roughly three months after the Atlanta premiere. The album sold 72, 000 in its first week and debuted at number one on the R&B album chart.

The album’s best song and lead single, “Redbone”, which has recently gained enough popularity to become a meme, finds Gambino singing a grainy falsetto that would make Prince proud.

The album features a number of other standouts, including “Me and Your Mama,” “California” and my recent favorite “Zombies.”

For me, the combo offering of Atlanta and “Awaken, My Love!” cemented Donald Glover as the most talented entertainer of his generation. No one comes close. His range is too great.

His heavy ambition is evident in his concept-heavy music-making as it is in Atlanta, and it stems not from mere whimsy but from lifelong feelings of alienation.

He’s likely to score a Primetime Emmy nomination later this year and “Awaken, My Love!” is a shoo-in for Best Urban Contemporary Album at the Grammy Awards next year.

Considering his relentless pace over the last 24 months, he has cemented himself as one of the entertainment industry’s most versatile creatives.