TV show “Atlanta” is back one air for its second season, and with it, Donald Glover is on the front page of every culture and entertainment publication (at least in North America). This has me digging through the discography of Glover’s musical persona, Childish Gambino, and brings us to this week’s track: “III. Telegraph Ave (“Oakland” by Lloyd)” off his 2013 album Because The Internet.
If you’ve never heard of the track, you might be thinking “What the fuck kind of name is this?” Glover has made a career out of defying convention. The Childish Gambino name itself is from the online Wu-Tang Name Generator, which nobody is supposed to seriously use, right?
Because The Internet isn’t a standalone album, it’s the soundtrack for a larger, multi-platform project that includes a screenplay, short film, and art installation in NYC. Each come together to tell the story of “The Boy”, who spends his time trolling online and throwing parties at his mansion, but is increasingly lonely and desperately searching for companionship. The album (like the screenplay) is split into four acts, each song telling one story that contributes to the larger narrative.
“Telegraph Ave” is the third song of the second act, and tells the story of The Boy driving from LA to Oakland, where he makes a desperate and ill-advised attempt to reconcile with his past girlfriend. The song starts with The Boy getting into the car and turning on the radio, which plays a new song by real life R&B singer Lloyd: “Oakland”, a snippet written by Glover and Lloyd for this album. The Boy sings along with the track, strongly connecting with its story of love in the Bay area, until the track engulfs him, and The Boy is no longer just a character in the story, but the singer of a new song: “Telegraph Ave”, which is a street in Oakland.
While Lloyd’s “Oakland” is a tale of two lovers who can’t get enough of each other, “Telegraph Ave” is a sad story of The Boy arriving in Oakland unannounced to profess his love for an ex-girlfriend. The journey to Oakland builds a romantic suspense — we’re cheering for The Boy, we want him to find happiness. Then he arrives and his ex reminds him how treated her — he was selfish, reclusive and constantly distracted. He didn’t prioritize her. She tells him, you don’t want me, you just want someone, and closes her door. The Boy, with no other contacts in the city, is left to wonder what there is to do in Oakland.
Much like the rest of Because The Internet, the story on “III. Telegraph Ave (“Oakland” by Lloyd)” isn’t terribly unique, but the way it’s sonically explored is exciting. At some point, we all lose ourselves in our music when driving, hopefully we don’t lose perspective like The Boy did.
You can learn more about Childish Gambino :
About the curator – Cormac McGee
Cormac McGee is a DJ, artist manager and concert promoter based in Toronto, Canada. He’s played in front of crowds from 10 – 1,000 people and has run concerts with some of today’s top hip hop artists, including Drake, Future, Mac Miller, 6lack, Ab-Soul and more. He also runs the Music Den at Ryerson University, a business incubator for entrepreneurs in the music industry.