As a standalone concept album, Because The Internet is exceptional, but the accompanying script and visuals elevate it to an artistic level far beyond the music.
Originality is a rarity in modern hip-hop, and when an experimental album comes along, it tends to polarize listeners initially. Take Kanye West's new album Yeezus, for example. Its minimalism, raw emotion and amalgamation of genres was difficult for many diehard fans to stomach at first (not to mention the left-field visuals). Childish Gambino's Because the Internet has similarly polarized opinion in the hip-hop community. There's no middle ground here.
'Bino is already an anomaly in the game, and he's unafraid to show it. His use of double entendres, metaphors, sly name-drops and pop culture references require multiple listenings to fully appreciate. When his first album Camp dropped, critics found him abhorrent and voiced a negative opinion of him unanimously. The album divided fans but was generally well received, evidenced by the turn out at his subsequent tour. Many of his fellow rappers saw the originality in the album, though, as well as the authenticity of addressing issues in black culture that've long been ignored. They respected him, shouting him out, collaborating with him on his follow-up project Royalty and generally showing him the kind of support that propelled him to his current status as one of the most talked about figures in the game.
Because The Internet, Gambino's second studio album, is the last major project to drop in 2013, and it may be one of the year's best. Whereas Camp found 'Bino searching for respect from the hip-hop community, BTI is a pure, unfiltered look into his current emotional state and his self-imposed solitude in today's internet-obsessed society. The multitalented emcee does an excellent job portraying the loneliness one can feel amongst human beings in real life, while simultaneously finding company and love within the world wide web.
The fourteen-track album is split into sub-sections and and includes several instrumental interludes that tie the album together. It's also accompanied by a 73-page multimedia script. Internet references are spread throughout the project in song titles, quotes, and intrinsic one-liners within Gambino's rhymes. The conclusion of Because the Internet may leave the listener a little puzzled, but Gambino's sequencing of each act is undeniably on-point, the project potentially doubling as a theatrical play or short film. It's quite unlike any other hip-hop project that came before it.
The production on BTI floats between several different genres, which, although slightly incoherent, complement the script and visuals like a lost puzzle piece. Tracks like "IV. Sweatpants", which was initially interpreted as an ode to material wealth and narcissism, is viewed in a completely different tone with the screenplay. "III. Urn," which most listeners would've deemed irrelevant and skipped over, is given paramount significance via the bonus features.
Honest experimentation and a grander vision are what make Because the Internet a brilliant piece of art. Instead of taking a one-dimensional approach, Gambino allows the reader to interpret the album through various lenses; whether experiencing it as a standalone project or an extensive multimedia art piece, there's no denying its significance as one of the most groundbreaking hip-hop albums to drop in recent memory. And it's all because of the Internet.
(Peep the BTI script at becausetheinter.net, and pay special attention to the third page.)