The tangibility of success can be hard to compare and measure. Is success based on material possessions like glistening awards or lavish mansions? Or is it based on your influence in your field, like pushing the envelope or the amount of fame you procure? No matter how you measure success, Donald Glover is the epitome of every aspect of the word. In fact, Glover, who has expressed wanting to leave his Childish Gambino alias behind, is one of the most prominent Black leaders of this generation. Let’s ignore the fact that he is an adept lyricist and an amazing singer. Glover is an award-winning producer, actor, and director. He wrote for the hit television series 30 Rock fresh out of the prestigious Tisch School of Arts program at NYU. Not to mention his Comedy Central stand-up special is a classic. Glover has his hands in every aspect of the arts that Hollywood has to offer. He was meticulous in his ascension to superstardom, although it may seem like a quick come up to many. Donald Glover is a Black revolutionary, and his reign has just begun.
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This past week, Glover became the first Black man in over 30 years, and the second of all time, to win an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series (Robert Guillaume won in 1985). He was also the first Black man to win the Emmy for Outstanding Director for a Comedy Series. Yes, I know it’s 2017 and that shouldn’t even be a headline, but it is. Both awards were based on his work on Atlanta, a series he produced, wrote, directed, and starred in for FX. Glover as also been awarded two Golden Globes, a NAACP award, a Critics Choice award, and many more prestigious decorations for the series over the last year. Because of his work on Atlanta, FX has given Glover the duties of creating and producing a Deadpool cartoon television series. Currently, the Deadpool movie is the eighth highest grossing Marvel movie of all time, sitting in between Spiderman 2 and 3. For Fox Studios to trust a young black man in helming a cartoon spin-off of such a gigantic blockbuster is groundbreaking. Barely two years ago #Oscarssowhite was trending on social media. Of course, the lack of appreciation for people of color in the arts is not a breaking news story. The fact that black revolutionaries like Issa Rae, Jordan Peele, and Donald Glover are turning the industry on its head is front page material though.
The Deadpool Animated Series is not Glover’s first business venture with Marvel, which was purchased by Disney in 2009. He also played the voice of Miles Morales, a Black and Hispanic Spider-man, on Disney XD. Disney money must be good money because Glover has several projects in motion with the entertainment giant. He is playing Simba in the live action remake of Lion King, and he is also playing Lando Calrissian in the Han Solo Star Wars standalone film (yes, Disney owns Star Wars too). Billy Dee Williams originally played Lando in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. If that went over your head, let me run that back for you. Donald Glover played the first Black Spider-man, is playing the central character in Disney’s most Afro-Centric animated film, and is playing the younger version of the first Black Star Wars character. We love to praise activists like Colin Kaepernick for taking a knee. I believe infiltrating the white-washed infrastructure of Hollywood, and blessing the media with more black faces is just as important. Plus, who else do you know that would shout out “Bad and Boujee” at the Golden Globes, which boosted Migos’ Spotify streams by 243% immediately. The only other ATLien with that kind of power is Andre 3000. Like it or not, Donald Glover is currently Atlanta’s most influential artist, in every aspect of the word.
Musically, Donald Glover goes by the alias Childish Gambino. Although he released a slew of mixtapes beforehand, Gambino broke onto the scene with “Heartbeat” in 2011. He dropped the classic album Camp the same year and began to build a cult-like following. Industry legends took notice of Gambino, and he received co-signs that would help expand his audience, such as Bun B, RZA, and Ghostface Killah. His second studio album, Because The Internet, was nominated for Best Rap album in 2015, but it lost to Eminem’s The Marshall Mathers LP 2. I’m a die-hard Em fan, but Gambino’s album was definitely much better. His musical style has since matured, and Gambino’s latest project, Awaken My Love, sounds like a mix between The Love Below, Embrya, and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. “Redbone,” Gambino’s double-platinum smash hit from the album, was featured in the movie Get Out and the Netflix show Dear White People. Is it a coincidence that two polarizing works of the visual arts addressing race relations in America used Gambino on their soundtracks? I think not. Gambino’s whole style, sound, and aesthetic exudes Black excellence, something that other Black visionaries choose to highlight in their works of art.
Donald Glover’s has fully infiltrated Hollywood. If you, like me, are tired of seeing Tyler Perry run around dressed like your grandmother, Glover is the antidote. He is a Black visionary that isn’t rapping about guns and drugs, isn’t playing stereotypical roles (he’s one of the few comedians I have never seen in a dress), and he holds the directorial and production reigns to multi-million-dollar productions. On the song “Black Faces” featuring Nipsey Hustle, Gambino brags about the magnificence of black excellence and success. I find it fitting that five years later, he is the living embodiment of those same lyrics.