3.15.20, Revisiting Childish Gambino’s Most Mysterious Work After Two Years



SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – AUGUST 10: Childish Gambino performs onstage during the 2019 Outside Lands Music And Arts Festival at Golden Gate Park on August 10, 2019 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)

Ruby Harris, Copy Editor

Two years ago today Childish Gambino aka Donald Glover dropped his fourth studio album “3.15.20”. The mysterious album was released via live stream on Glover’s social media and given to the public devoid of an album cover, name, and song titles with exceptions “Time” and “Algorhythm”.

 Gambino’s latest project gave listeners some of his classic flow on songs like “12.38” in addition to the psychedelic funk fusion off his third studio album “Awaken, My Love!”. The actor, singer, and comedian infused the album with haunting mysticism and left the album up to the listeners interpretation. A departure from his earliest projects, Gambino carries themes of pride, loss, love, and self discovery throughout the track list, yet he continues to develop similar philosophical ideations seen in previous albums. On “Awaken, My Love!”,  Glover centered on the continual  marginalization of black people in today’s society, making astute comments on the state of America furthered by 2018’s “This is America”, which saw huge critical acclaim winning the artist four Grammy’s. Gambino took heavy inspiration from Funkadelic’s “ Maggot Brain”, a classic funk album which can be heard excessively on “Awaken, My Love!”. The dissent into funk expanded Gambino’s repertoire and allowed the artist to take his next project in so many directions. So when fans received “3.15.20”, they were shocked to see that Glover kept in those funk elements but also made a return to his days of rap. 

Gambino was still very racially motivated on the album with songs like 19.20 and 47.48, which portray a grim picture of society as it is and what it really means to be Black in America. Both songs have heavy lyrical content backed up by sunny production that offer a stunning juxtaposition. But rather than simply dispelling his experience in society, Gambino is passing this knowledge onto his children. A father of three, Glover ties the album together thematically by giving his children an idea of his experience in the world. The death of his father in 2018 gave Glover a new lease on life continuing his philosophical discussions of life and death, the fleeting nature of which is heavily discussed on his 2013 project “Because the Internet”.

 And although Glover attempts to explore some heavy topics such as life, death, the rise of technology, race, and violence, it becomes unclear as to what his true message actually is. His opinions are convoluted and it can be difficult to decipher. However it’s important to consider that convolution is probably the intention. We are able to understand the overall message, however Gambino leaves it up to the listener to glean their own takeaway. The album is a collective of contradicting sounds, and it couldn’t be defined by one genre. Gambino fuses a collection of different genres that create a messy yet intriguing overall sound. If the use of the chaotic production assortment  is intentional, then it’s genius, displaying the range Gambino has while breaking from the idealization that an album has to be completely cohesive. However if this was not a conscious choice rather one that comes from stringing a few songs together made at different times with no intention of creating a collective work, then it comes across as messy and uncoordinated.

 Whether or not the album is the pinnacle of Glover’s musical repertoire is up for debate and trying to pinpoint the purpose and message of the album is a futile attempt. The album made a mark in the career of the actor, singer, and comedian and that is undeniable. “3.15.20” is an album that should be known not only for its anonymity but its deep, haunting songs that stick with you long after listening.