By Jared Chausow
By Katie Toth
By Elizabeth Flock
By Albert Samaha
By Anna Merlan
By Jon Campbell
By Jon Campbell
By Albert Samaha
A suburb of Atlanta, Stone Mountain sits in the shadow of a large relief sculpture of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and Stonewall Jackson carved in the side of the mountain of the same name. It is the place where the Ku Klux Klan was rebooted in 1915—and Martin Luther King references it in his 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech.
There was a television in the Glover household, but the kids, being raised Jehovah's Witness, were not allowed to watch it. So Glover would take his Talkboy, record the audio of episodes of The Simpsons, wait until bedtime, and listen to them as he lay in his bed. (He would later write a spec script for The Simpsons in which Homer is arrested for stealing a single song off the Internet and taken to court by the RIAA, where he must face his victims, Hall & Oates.)
His parents, mother Beverly and postal-worker father Donald Sr.—contrary to what you might read on the Internet, Glover is not the son of Lethal Weapon actor Danny Glover—were also foster parents, which meant a steady stream of kids entered Glover's home.
Glover says he was happy growing up, but always had a fear that something would go wrong—that something bad would happen around the next corner. "I was the type of kid—I felt like I was always being blamed for things that weren't my fault. So I always wanted things to go smoothly. And growing up in the South, people didn't like me because I was black. And it took on this thing: I'm gonna be me so much, and be sooo likeable, that I will change their minds. And I know now that that's impossible. But I had to try."
The kids who would come through his front door had often been through a lot already in their lives. When his parents brought home a child who had been molested, they had to explain to Glover that the boy needed a lot more attention. As a kid, Glover remembers asking himself, "What about me?"
So he would do anything to get his parents' attention—puppet shows, plays, skateboarding.
For a while, he was the only black kid in his school. A black kid who liked the Muppets and Korn. A good student but a disruption in class, he migrated to the DeKalb School of the Arts, where he starred in plays like 42nd Street and Pippen, and then used his performing as a way to escape Georgia to New York for school.
"NYU is like a Jurassic 5 concert—there are supposed to be black people there, but there aren't," Glover says in his stand-up. Studying dramatic writing in the hopes of being a playwright, he began performing in sketch comedy troop Hammerkatz, where he met current writing partners DC Pierson and Dominic Dierkes. The three split off to start Derrick Comedy with director Dan Eckman.
The sketches of Derrick are teeming with frat-boy, racial, and homoerotic humor. But underneath the dick and fart jokes is a sincerity that makes them work.
In even the smallest roles in the sketches, Glover's star power is evident. But it's the ones in which he takes the lead that you're likely to wet yourself, such as the student-film-as-revenge epic "Girls Are Not to Be Trusted" and the most popular Derrick sketch, "Bro Rape: A Newsline Investigative Report," a Dateline send-up involving Natty Ice–drinking, Jack Johnson–listening male predators.
And then there's "Jerry," in which Glover plays a high school student who tries to fart but accidentally shits his pants in class, then spends the rest of the sketch trying to pass it off a million different ways while bawling his eyes out. It's ridiculous and over-the-top, but there is a believability and earnestness in Glover's performance that makes you care for him. At that point, we are all that kid. And it's a microcosm of Glover's range—wild and heartfelt . . . with poop.
Glover landed in New York a virgin who had never tasted alcohol. His first drink took place in a dorm room at NYU's Brittany Hall as a sophomore. He sat in the corner of a room full of people, his hoodie pulled over his head, debating the whole night whether to take a swig or not. When he finally did, he thought for sure he might die—the fears that nagged him while growing up ruling over a lot of what he did.
In his junior year, he lost his virginity—to another R.A. in his dorm. Never having been in any kind of intimate relationship before, he was unsure of what to do when the deed was done. Was he going to have to marry this girl? But she told him, "No, it was just fun. It doesn't mean anything." "Doesn't mean anything?" Glover thought to himself. "Oh, OK."
It was then that the Childish Gambino was born.
He had been mixing beats since freshman year with a ripped version of Fruity Loops, but now he began rapping over them with rhymes about girls and love. The name "Childish Gambino" popped up on a Wu-Tang Clan name-generator site, so he kept it and put the first tracks on tape.