There is a moment, two minutes into the slow burn of "Me and Your Mama," the opening track of Childish Gambino's new album Awaken, My Love!, that operates almost as an audio assault. With no warning, meandering synths give way to a wall of distortion; tentative, breathy chants become a menacing guffaw; tempo changes become the new norm and a realization comes into focus: This is not the Childish Gambino record you were expecting.
By the time Donald Glover's anguished, wailing vocals recede and the backing band returns to that initial groove, it's with the addition of a reverberating snare drum, a sound that's unmistakable to anyone who has ever tried to trace the roots of funk and psychedelic soul back to Funkadelic and, in particular, the 1971 epic "Maggot Brain."
"We actually built a drum room in Donald's house just to get the exact drum sound we wanted; it took a couple weeks to build," says producer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Ludwig Goransson, who co-wrote and and co-produced the entirety of Awaken, My Love! and has worked with Glover for nearly a decade. "There are small little ingredients and notes [on the album] that are very well-thought-out, arrangement-wise, and there's a lot of ear candy in there happening... I feel like it's kind of the natural evolution of [his] sound."