A dingy, cramped Shoreditch basement: the appropriately titled CAMP was the perfect venue for self-effacing hipster rapper Childish Gambino in his first London gig upon releasing his first album Camp.
Opening it's doors ninety minutes later than scheduled, leaving the 200-strong crowd out in the cold, literal warm-up act Josh Osho breezed through a few new tracks with a voice similar to and an easy charm exceeding that of John Legend. Despite the capable support act, the crowd grew restless chanting for Gambino amidst Osho's soulful acoustic set.
Nearly at the main event, the marked confidence of the man was made clear in the time-killing playlist: a set of club bangers and a general array of modern hip hop's classic singles. The crowd were pumped even though a number of muppets refused to acknowledge that, no, I did not care how much MDMA they had had and, no, I do not want to hear them rap all of the words to "Gold Digger".
Entering via the side entrance, Childish Gambino - real name Donald Glover, star of cult America sitcom Community - was met by a barrage of cheers. "I love London, you've supported me from the start. We haven't played a venue this small in a long time so let's burn this place down", he said. Burn it down he did.
Barnstorming opener "Hero" from his free mixtape Culdesac certainly helped. With the hilariously arrogant refrain "I'm a hero/ I'm a hero/ I'm a hero/ Yeah" it sets out his stall early.
Barnstorming opener "Hero" from his free mixtape Culdesac certainly helped. With the hilariously arrogant refrain "I'm a hero/ I'm a hero/ I'm a hero/ Yeah" it sets out his stall early. "Actor, writer, rapper/ Nigger I do all of it", just for those who don't know.
Burning through tracks at an ungodly pace, bouncing around like a rap Zebedee and generally looking like he's loving every single second, Gambino proceeded to give the people what they wanted. Mixing new tracks from his stellar debut LP Camp ("LES" and "Heartbeat" being particularly high highlights) and tracks from his early mixtures ("Freaks and Geeks" from Culdesac is already something approaching a cult classic). The inherent irony of a number of try-hard fans in “Le Dope Merde” wooly hats and oversized rucksacks was lost on them as they chanted merrily along to the hipster-damning “Backpacker”.
Diving in and out of the crowd, both Gambino and the enraptured audience were electric. The physicality of his performance is especially notable, hitting every punchline like the seasoned stand-up comedian he is, hitting every emotion with ever strained sinew he had. Upon accidentally dropping the mic on a female fan after getting too excited, Gambino proceeded to rap ferociously into the fan's camera - a very special moment capping a very special night.
Forgoing the usual pantomime encore, Gambino just came right out with it. "We usually do an encore, but I have to do this radio show… I guess I'm gonna be late 'cos I'm gonna do some more", he added to the baying crowd.
A fantastic performer with a growing catalogue of great songs, Childish Gambino surely will not be playing such small venues in this country for very long.
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