With his 2013 album Because the Internet, Donald Glover sought to construct a transmedia world by weaving together physical, sonic, visual, and online material Under his pseudonym Childish Gambino. For the most comprehensive compilation of the world’s components, visit S7 co-writer Camden Ostrander’s piktochart.
The album’s opening track titled “The Library” marks the first act, and propels us into the world of Because The Internet.
According to Glover, “The Library” provides the effect of logging on and connection.
The Library also refers to the origin point of the album, as BTI was recorded in the library room of the mansion they dubbed “The Temple.” (see below)
“Who is this?”
Rick Ross is cast as The Boy’s father in the screenplay. A correctional officer before embarking on a music career, Ross achieved musical success by painting a picture of lavish living, even though it wasn’t his real life, exemplified in his video Hustin’ (left) and the subject matter of his feature on Kanye West’s Devil in a New Dress (right).
Author Kurt Vonnegut warns of such pretenses above in his novel Mother Night. In casting Ross, Glover emphasizes the idea that we all construct characters for ourselves, especially in the age of the internet. What we then have to figure out, is whether we are those characters we build up, or if we even have a true identity.
An image of The Boy’s bookshelf, featuring three Vonnegut novels and his memoir, A Man without a Country. Vonnegut’s literary material was known for its irony, dark humor and exploring the absurd in relation to existential dilemma — all things Glover himself will utilize and explore in BTI.
Nigerian twins Christian Rich who produced the track Crawl.
The chaotic, unsettling nature of the Crawl’s production is accentuated by vocals from the rapper Mystikal, best known for his 2000 Neptune-produced hit, “Shake Ya Ass” (left). The majority of Mystikal’s ad-libs on “Crawl” can be traced back to a live performance by Rick James of his song “Mary Jane” (right). We might speculate that the Rick James samples were used first in the song’s production, and Mystikal was brought in later and re-recorded them, plus added his own original ad-libs.
“Where we were, kinda thing, betcha crawl, all alone.” The first of Glover’s handwritten notes, which suggests Donald Glover (as opposed to The Boy or Childish Gambino) in an existential crisis of self-exploration, an infancy of a new self in a sense, emblematic of Crawl’s refrain.
“Y’all B-String like a broke guitar“
Gambino criticizes other rappers as “B-string” backup players on a team, as well as the B-string on a guitar. The highest string on the guitar is the E-string and is the one most likely to break, exposing the second-highest string, the B-string.
“Yeah I murder some, murder one / explain it all, Ferguson.” This line rather refers to Ferguson Darling, the annoying younger brother in Nickelodeon’s 90s hit show Clarissa Explains It All.
“Cut a white girl with the same black gloves on”
1. The term “white girl” in drug vernacular means cocaine, and the process of cutting, or mixing and preparing the drug, requires handlers to wear gloves. Thus, Glover makes a clear connection between the previous musical touchstones and the distribution of drugs, a metaphoric bond that he will continue to employ throughout the album.
2. Also potentially alluding to the trial of O.J. Simpson in the murder of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson in 1995, at the time was the most talked about scandal in the nation. The key piece of evidence was a black glove found at the scene of the crime. Considering that Nicole Brown Simpson, a white woman, was stabbed to death by someone wearing the black glove, this line seems to clearly contain a reading centered on racial tension and 90’s nostalgia.
3. A third plausible interpretation: a magician’s iconic trick of cutting their assistant in half. This illusion commonly involves a woman assistant, wearing black gloves, lying in a box, and apparently being cut in half by the magician.
What’s the rationale?
An existential question that will reverberate throughout Because the Internet: Why? Why be alive?
Glover keyed audiences in on the existential quality of this world before it was released, repeatedly mentioning reading Soren Kierkegaard in interviews. He 0penly carried the book Dostoevsky, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche & Kafka, by William Hubben, which surveyed the life and ideas of these pioneers in existentialist thought. Like the question “who am I?” posed at the beginning of the track, he asks “what’s the rationale?” openly, making clear that this album and world seeks to address it.
“I scorch winters, I burn autumns / gut [n-words], so Kurt Vonne.”
The line name-checks famous American author Kurt Vonnegut, cleverly crafting an image of violence. The influence of Vonnegut’s work is essential to the transmedia world of BTI Glover created. For instance, many of Vonnegut’s novels appear on the bookshelves of “The Boy’s Room,” as mentioned earlier. Also, given the violence surrounding this line, the way Vonnegut’s last name is cut off reflects dismemberment. Gambino literally ripped the “guts” out of Vonnegut.
“Ain’t nobody got time for that”
A reference to a viral 2012 news report of a woman named Sweet Brown detailing her experience of an apartment fire. Sweet Brown became a viral sensation inspiring countless internet memes, adding to Glover’s collection of internet-references.
Sweet Brown’s entire life was changed as a result of becoming an internet meme. While this presented a few economic opportunities (like acting in a Tyler Perry movie), it also meant that everywhere she went, or every new opportunity she got, she was connected to a moment frozen in time by the internet.
Left, her presence in a local dental ad revolved around her infamous soundbite; right, when her original news clip was remixed into a song, she didn’t receive any of the proceeds, and was not consulted or asked before it was released.
“You think I could be a superstar?”
Watch this early news report when the clip started to gain internet steam, and see how Sweet Brown reacts.
While becoming fodder for the internet content machine can freeze you in time or tear you apart, there is the scintillating, unavoidable allure – you could be a superstar.
But what are the implications of this situation? When we consume people as content – what do we do to them? And what do we do to each other? How does this affect the way we see each other?
It’s these questions and more that concern us as we keep learning how to use the internet – because while it offers new heights, if we’re not careful, we’ll fall into new lows.
After The Boy came home from summer Camp, the script flashes-forward 15 years. The Boy is somewhere in his late 20s, still living in his father’s huge mansion. This clip from the screenplay shows The Boy’s desk, including a flash-drive labeled “hackz.”
The “hackz” flashdrive was duplicated and given out to lucky fans who purchased the record on release day from certain stores. You can download the contents of the flashdrive here.
Included in the drive: The BTI Movie Poster, the script, “what kind of love” (a rough track that was seemingly intended for BTI) and a full recording of his performance at Life is Beautiful Fest on October 26th, 2013.
Inside The Boy’s mansion. Left, the Buddha statue; right, the spiral staircase.
The Boy’s Twitter: “You Are Unimportant – @thegoldmolar” Glover made a real Twitter page for The Boy (above).