"I don't want people to think that I hate Drake," he insisted, though he has had some choice words for him in the past. "I don't hate Drake at all. I really like Drake, if not for no other reason than he makes me better. He really does, for real. I had to fight that. I knew when I was doing Childish Gambino from the beginning, like, 'They're not gonna let me do this because they already have an actor/singer/rapper guy who's black.' If he was white, it would be different, because they'd be like, 'They're not the same.' It's very specific.
"But I don't dislike Drake," he continued, setting up a one-two punch of a compliment followed by a dash of shade. "I think he's a really good writer and rapper. Right now, I definitely think I'm better than him, but only because I'm working harder than him right now. If he came in right now like, 'Let's rap,' I'd be like, 'Oh, I'mma kill you.' But like right now. Maybe he's got something up his sleeve."
But enough about other rappers: On Sunday, Childish released "Sober" from his upcoming STN MTN / KAUAI mixtape, and his smooth vocals on the track are already getting comparisons to the King of Pop -- a comparison he tentatively agrees with.
"It's Michael Jackson-esque," he admitted, sitting cross-legged on his chair wearing a beige cardigan and patterned beach shorts. "It's weird, because I never said that. I mean, we would hear it, but I was like, 'I can't say that.' Like, 'I did it just like the best performer ever.' I just wanted to have that feeling. I just don’t think there's that feeling anymore. … Michael Jackson is just short-term for something that lasts a long time and you care about."
The rapper is inspired by MJ in many ways, but mostly he wants his music to feel as important as the late icon's did. "I want everything I do to be an event," he said. "I dropped 'Sober' -- we drop our things on Sunday so people will think about them. You know when you put them out on, like, Tuesday, people will be like, 'Oh, Donald's got a new song! And so does Rick Rozay!' No one's gonna think about it. On Sunday, everybody's chillin', the Internet's quiet, and then they have all Sunday to think about it, like, 'OK, what is this song about? Do I like this song? Or does the dude who tweeted it hate it so I have to say I hate it too because I'm not uncool?' I want people to like it… and maybe they hate it, but [at least] they think about it."
In addition to performing "Sober" for the first time, Childish played four other songs and even debuted a yet-unheard verse a cappella from his upcoming mixtape.
Full set list from the Grammy Spotlight event:
Verse from his upcoming mixtape