Childish Gambino explains how Kanye West changed hip hop forever
(Credit: Daniel Patlán)

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Childish Gambino explains how Kanye West changed hip hop forever

Donald Glover, aka Childish Gambino, wasn’t raised on the mean streets, and by no means does he fit the bill of gangster rap. Glover believes it wouldn’t have been possible for him to have become accepted in the hip-hop community if it wasn’t for Kanye West.

In the 1990s, it was all about the East Coast vs West Coast rivalry, and if you weren’t part of that, then you weren’t relevant. Once that came to an end, the most famous rappers were still privy to a life full of crime, and as much as he loved them — Glover couldn’t relate to the lives they rapped about.

Then, Kanye arrived, and it became acceptable to be a rapper while staying true to yourself rather than conforming to the traditional hip hop cliches. You didn’t need to have experience shotting drugs or in the criminal underworld to be respected. As long as you remained authentic to yourself, that’s all that mattered.

“Rap used to be silly and now it’s sillier than ever and I find that idea very freeing,” Glover told The Guardian in 2011. “After Tupac and Biggie died and Jay-Z took over, there was this idea that you had to be from the streets to be a rapper – people like the Pharcyde and KRS-One just disappeared. You had to be a hustler, and I’m no hustler.”

He continued: “A hip hop manager I know has this theory why Kanye West blew up when he did. 50 Cent had gone to the absolute pinnacle of thuggishness. He had been shot nine times. He had a slur from the shootings. He was huge. No one could ever be thuggier, so people reacted like they always do and went all the other way. Suddenly Kanye is a huge pop star.”

Ye never tried to be like 50 Cent, even when other new faces on the scene were trying to replicate his image. West wore whatever he wanted, talked about things that mattered to him, and showed it was possible to break the archetype of hip-hop stars.

Glover added: “He had a bag, a leather bag! What the hell is he carrying in there? The whole of rap had become so codified that even tiny things like that would throw people off. It’s funny because black guys love all that stuff, but no one was talking about it because it wasn’t allowed.”

Whatever people say about Kanye West in 2022, nobody can take anything away from how he single-handedly transformed hip-hop and made it a place where figures such as Childish Gambino or Tyler, the Creator can shine.