British Columbia

Childish Gambino's groundbreaking creativity inspires young Vancouver artists

Childish Gambino's This is America tour lands in Rogers Arena on Friday night.

Donald Glover's success across many genres and media encouraging local artists to take risks and aim high

Donald Glover as Childish Gambino performing in the viral hit music video for This is America. (YouTube)

Childish Gambino's This is America tour lands in Rogers Arena on Friday night — in a city where he's having a profound impact on local artists.

At 35 years old, Donald Glover, a.k.a. Childish Gambino, has done it all: acting, writing, directing and touring the world as a musician.

Glover's success in all these media at such a young age is helping others find their own identity and carve their path through a career in entertainment, say many Vancouver artists.

Missy D says Donald Glover's role in the show Community showed her an alternative black identity that's not commonly seen on TV. (Courtesy of Missy D)

For R&B and hip hop artist Diane Mutabaruka, who goes by Missy D, seeing Glover play a lovable nerdy character named Troy Barnes in the TV show Community exposed her to a black identity that's typically not seen in mainstream media.

"He was an uncommon black character in the show. Usually, when you watch shows, you have this 'cool' stereotype of an African-American character, but I think he was giving a different narrative," said Mutabaruka.

Actor and musician Eugene Mundowa admires Glover's versatility and wants to emulate that in his own work. (Courtesy of Coleman Williams)

Versatility as an artist

Actor and musician Eugene Mundowa, who goes by the stage name Makadi, says Glover's refusal to be pigeonholed into one genre or medium has given him the confidence to carve his own path.

"I've always had a tough time deciding, 'am I just a singer?' Or 'am I just a rapper?' What mould do I fit in?" Mundowa explained.

"The industry tries to put you in a pocket and my album is a response rejecting that … Donald Glover was a huge inspiration."

Vancouver hip hop producer and artist Kasera says Glover has helped him find his own identity through music. (Courtesy of Koju Kojwang)

Finding your identity

Local producer and hip hop artist Koju Kojwang, also known as Kasera, relates to Glover. Kojwang grew up with a mostly white group of friends and struggled to find himself.

"I've always had this identity issue ... then Childish Gambino comes along and he is this image of the in-between," Kojwang said.

"He found this art and this way to express himself and all of a sudden he's relatable to anyone, black or white, old or young, it doesn't really matter."

Hometown hero

In 2016 Glover released a TV series called Atlanta, based on his hometown. The show has already won two Emmy Awards, including a historic win as the first black director to earn an award for a comedy series.

This return to his hometown is also a source of inspiration for Vancouver artists who want to make their city a hub for creative talent.

"Sometimes in Vancouver, we look to other places like Toronto or California and think 'why do they have all the amazing artists?' But really, this is an incredible city," Kojwang said.

"For Donald Glover to do something like that for Atlanta, [to] double down on the place where he's from, it's really important because it gives people confidence."


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