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Donald Glover: Renaissance Man?

Not actually a question.

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Photo by Kevin Winter via Getty Images

Presenting this as a question is a joke in itself. Donald Glover is the 21st century Renaissance Man. Maybe you know him better as Childish Gambino. No matter the name most familiar to you, absolutely nothing can refute this man’s lengthy resume, and, more importantly, outstanding quality of work. What area of Glover’s career do you vibe with most?

#1 Music

After entering his name into the Wu-Tang Clan name generator, Donald Glover soon took on the stage name “Childish Gambino,” releasing his first studio album, Camp, in 2011 after signing with Glassnote Records. As of 2018, Gambino has since signed with RCA. Prior to signing anywhere, though, Gambino independently released 12 mixtapes and 2 EPs, bringing his complete discography to comprise of 4 studio albums, 14 mixtapes, and 4 EPs.  

Gambino’s first two albums Camp and Because the Internet received positive attention from critics, demonstrating his expertise in hip-hop and rap. Release of Awaken, My Love! in 2016, however, shocked the world, officially heralding Gambino as one of the top artists alive today. Unlike Gambino’s prior work, Awaken, My Love! fused sounds of R&B, psychedelic funk, soul — many calling it a masterful work of afrofuturism. Most recently Gambino released what he claims is his last album, 3.15.20, which features collaborations with artists like Ariana Grande and 21 Savage. 

Since the release of Because The Internet in 2013, Gambino has received numerous Grammy nominations. The single “Redbone” off Awaken, My Love! won Gambino his first Grammy for Best Traditional R&B Performance in 2018. The next year, Gambino’s single “This Is America” had a clean sweep, picking up every Grammy it was nominated for, including Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Best Rap/Sung Performance and Best Music Video. 

#2 Writing

After graduating from NYU Tisch in 2006 Glover began writing for Tina Fey’s hit sitcom, 30 Rock, under Fey’s own discretion no less. In 2008, the show won the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Comedy Series, marking Glover’s first major award. 

In 2017, Glover received two Writers Guild of America Awards, Best New Television Series and Best Comedy Series, for his self-created series Atlanta. This is especially notable considering Atlanta’s writers room is made up entirely of black creators, which is basically unheard of in American television. 

#3 Comedy

Glover is a founding member of the highly popular sketch comedy group Derrick Comedy that dominated YouTube in the late 2000s. In addition to its own channel, the sketch group also created content for CollegeHumour. 

In 2011, Glover’s stand-up special, Weirdo, aired on Comedy Central. The year prior, Glover received the Rising Comedy Star Award at the annual Just For Laughs festival, the largest international comedy festival in the world.

#4 Television

While writing for 30 Rock, Glover made a few cameos on the show, proving his magnetic stage presence and natural comedic timing. Therefore, it was no surprise when Glover was cast in NBC’s new sitcom Community, which premiered in 2009. Community received positive reviews from critics, as did Glover’s wackily endearing performance. To this day I quote-sing “Troy and Abed in the Morning!” For real, Glover’s chemistry with Danny Pudi is unreal. 

In 2016, Glover premiered his new series, Atlanta, on FX which was met with critical acclaim. Glover is a vital creator in the series. In addition to starring in it, he also writes, directs, and produces. Atlanta has received numerous award nominations, like the Primetime Emmys, the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild. In 2017, Atlanta won the Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series for a Musical or a Comedy. Additionally, Glover’s performance in the series won him a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Television Series for a Musical or Comedy and a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series.  

#6 Film

Glover writes, produces and stars in first feature film. Derrick Comedy’s film Mystery Team, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2009 and then had a limited theater release after high demand from fans.   

Since then Glover has shown endless versatility. His work ranges from science fiction with the critically acclaimed The Martian to the Marvel universe with Spider-Man: Homecoming and musicals with the recent Lion King remake — and those are only a few titles. One of Glover’s most notable performances is as a young Lando Calrissian in Solo: A Star Wars Story, with many critics calling it one the film’s main highlights. 

Not talked about enough, though, is Glover’s musical film, Guava Island, which first premiered at Coachella in 2019. Glover co-stars with Rihanna (yeah.) in addition to writing and producing. Glover’s long time collaborator Hiro Murai (a frequent director on Atlanta) directs the film, marking his directorial feature film debut. 

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Written by Nina Slowinski

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