Childish Gambino’s album juxtaposes contrasting sound

Childish Gambino, following in the wake of his latest studio album “Because the Internet,” recently released a joint concept album that contains the mixtape “STN MTN” and the extended playlist “Kauai.”

Both works are a departure from Gambino’s previous albums, like “Camp,” and mixtapes, like “Royalty,” and in general are less angst-ridden and abrasive, showcasing how Gambino is developing as an artist as he settles into the fame and acclaim he’s gained since transitioning from acting to music.

What’s great about this dual release is that Gambino makes both releases distinctive in their own ways: “STN MTN,” being a mixtape, leans more towards traditional hip-hop and its general theme is focused around Atlanta — Gambino’s hometown. “STN MTN” also has a few transitional tracks that serve up sporadic doses of humor that go along with the playful tone of the mixtape.

Things even get a bit meta as mixtape tropes, such as DJs repeatedly screaming their name randomly, phrases getting repeated endlessly, weird skits and interludes, are harped upon and toyed with. A shining example of this is the track “Childish Gambino @ The Atrium,” which has a great part about the Atlanta Twerk team. Lyrically, Gambino’s pretty solid throughout most of the 40 minute run time for “STN MTN.”

Stand out tracks are “All Y’all,” “Nextel Chirp” and “Dream / Southern Hospitality / Partna Dem” and the only track that disappoints is “U Don’t Have to Call” — unfortunately, the song is ruined by DJ Drama’s aside halfway through about how some girl didn’t call him back — though it’s relevant and a sly nod to the song’s title, I came to listen to Childish Gambino, not DJ Drama.

It’s not a big deal, but it’s enough to make listening frustrating and a bit annoying — the music on the song is great but it’s a pity it was put to such poor use. More so, this odd juxtaposition of Gambino and random guest’s verses, weirdly enough, is also something that leaks into “Kauai,” and it’s here that it actually becomes a problem rather than a nuisance.

But first, the good about “Kauai.” Gambino is really impressive here as this EP is strict R&B, and his passion for the genre shows. “Pop Thieves (Make It Feel Good)” and “Sober” reveal that if Gambino really wanted to, he could probably make it as a new-wave R&B artist akin to someone like Frank Ocean.

These tracks are catchy, tropical sounding and overall an impressive reflection, tonally and sonically, of the EP’s title: “Kauai” (which the oldest main Hawaiian island).

The features here are all okay except for one, Steve Glover, Gambino’s brother, makes an appearance on “Poke” and for the most part he’s decent, but sadly, he’s outshined and overshadowed by his brother.

The problem surfaces when audiences are subjected to listening to spoken word poetry by one of the most surprising guest appearances in musical history — Jaden Smith. At the end of the EP, audiences are blatantly told that “Jaden Smith is dropping jewels and people don’t believe him because he’s Jaden Smith.”

Here’s one of the few of the “jewels” Smith imparts to audiences: “I like to stare at you and look at you when you sleep.” Though the transition from Gambino to Smith on some select tracks mostly likely is trying to indicate a yearning for past innocence now lost, or the magic of youth, Smith’s verses are a painful ordeal, almost like passing kidney stones, that audiences are forced to endure.

Regardless of the small problems both of these releases contain, they’re still worth a listen if you enjoy Childish Gambino, hip-hop or R&B at all. You can find “STN MTN” on Datpiff where it’s available for free and you can listen to “Kauai” on Spotify.