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Earlier this week I was reading up on the Renaissance for my Western World history class. The era’s prominent characters are now referred to as “Renaissance Men”: A person with many talents or areas of knowledge. As I read about Lorenzo De Medici, Michelangelo, and Leonardo Da Vinci, I was stunned by their ability to master numerous crafts throughout the arts and sciences. I began to wonder if we had any Renaissance Men in 2017. It didn’t take long to realize that we do, and we’ve had one for quite a few years now.
At the age of 33, Donald Glover has already graced the covers of Rolling Stone and Complex. Unlike his home-team Atlanta Falcons, Glover’s trophy case is filled with awards. It seems like the acclaimed Renaissance Man has excelled in everything he has attempted including writing, stand-up comedy, acting and recording.
Donald Glover’s professional career began 11 years ago, back in 2006 when Glover joined 3o Rock, the acclaimed NBC sitcom, as a staff writer. He finished off his tenure there in 2009 when he won the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Comedy Series. Later that year, Glover, along with a group of friends, wrote and starred in a thriller film: Mystery Team. Now, Glover writes for his own acclaimed show, Atlanta on FX.
Many people forget that Glover spent a few years as a stand-up comedian. In 2011 Glover taped a one-hour comedy special, Weirdo, that aired on Comedy Central. It’s nearly impossible to choose my favorite Glover joke from this special as nearly all of them brought me to tears. From Little Hitlers to the N Word, Glover discusses everything as a earthquake of laughter erupts in the crowd. Here’s my favorite clip:
Glover’s stand up comedy was so good that it almost led him into a new profession. After one of his stand-up specials that aired on Comedy Central, a fan suggested he become the next Spiderman in the upcoming movie, The Amazing Spiderman. Unfortunately, that never happened. By then, Glover was already starring in NBC’s hit comedy, Community. For five seasons, Glover flourished on camera as Troy Barnes, providing nothing but laughs. He decided to leave Community at the end of the fifth season, to start his own new show, called Atlanta. Three years later, after much speculation and criticism, the show debuted in 2016 on FX. And it was a hit. The show itself won a Golden Globe for Best Music or Comedy TV, and Glover won Best Actor on A Comedy Series. The show was so good, FX quickly signed Glover and the cast for a second season that will premier in 2018 (because Glover will be starring as Lando Calrissian in the upcoming Star Wars movie. Duh.).
One day, Glover decided he wanted to become a rapper. No biggie, right? One obstacle stood in his way: his name. Shawn Corey Carter, Marshall Mathers, and Dwayne Michael Carter Jr. all brainstormed new identities through their rapper names. In order to join the likes of Jay Z, Eminem and Lil Wayne, Glover needed a new name. How did he think of a new rap name? He did what you and I would do (if we were bored out of our minds), and visited the Wu-Tang Name Generator, typed in his name and *poof*! Childish Gambino was born.
In 2008, Gambino released his first mixtape, Sick Boi. Two years later he released acclaimed mixtapes I Am Just A Raper and I am Just A Rapper 2. Gambino followed up on the success of his mixtapes with Camp, his 2011 EP that included one of his most famous songs: Freaks And Geeks (the song was featured in an Adidas commercial with Dwight Howard). ‘Bino spits fire. He channels his inner nerd through geeky, hilarious, and quirky lines that express his enlightening opinions. In response to the strong public backlash against him portraying Spiderman, CG answered in Do Ya Like “Baby I’m your hero, Donald the Spiderman.” His ability to not only freestyle, but put together a jaw-dropping, easygoing, and fun rap on the spot separates him from other greats.
Gambino acknowledges his innate and unique ability to switch back and forth from the music industry to acting in a Heartbeat. In Be Alone, Gambino raps that “Music was my side chick, but now we’re moving in together.” People are amazed at Gambino’s polymathic brilliance, and he knows it. In Not Going Back, before he acknowledges his ability to excel in everything, he once again addresses the public’s unwillingness to see him as a candidate for the role of Spiderman.
“couldn’t see me as spiderman but now I’m spittin’ venom/Now you payin’ attention, pick your fucking face up/When I wanna be a superhero I just wake up/RENAISSANCE man with a hollywood buzz.”
Call him Childish. Call him Donald. Call him Mr. Glover or Mr. Gambino. Call him whatever you want. Either way, chances are he’ll make his way on to your TV, car radio, phone screen, or computer, one way or another.