Widgets Magazine


DO’s and DOO-DOO’s: Identity theft

Today’s tip is guaranteed to make you cooler. Or maybe make you a hipster. Probably both.

DO: Listen to Childish Gambino.

DOO-DOO: Do The Cha-Cha Slide.

I’m usually not into rap, but I’ve been spinning the new Childish Gambino album all week. (When I say I’m not into rap, I mean I don’t know how to listen to it. I know you’re supposed to make an angry face, bob your head and drop some “uh’s” and “mmh’s” here and there, but I still look like an Orange County Asian Kid Trying To Be A White Kid Trying To Be A Black Kid while doing it.)

Childish Gambino is the rap moniker of actor-comedian Donald Glover, most famous for playing Troy on NBC’s Community and writing for NBC’s 30 Rock. (Ya, that’s right. Pop culture columns two weeks in a row. You can stop reading now, Grandma. Sorry about it.) I would highly recommend Glover’s commercial debut album, CAMP, to anyone that enjoys music and isn’t easily offended by offensive language, suggestive lyrics, racist and homophobic slurs, or tracks that will make you poke your roommate while he’s sleeping and say, “Yo, these beats iz tiiiiight!” (In Glover’s defense, most of the derogatory titles are satirically directed toward himself.)

Thematically, the album is about searching for identity. Glover, a black rapper, dishes about the difficulties of not belonging; being “too white” for the black community, but still not being white. He raps, “No live shows, cause I can’t find sponsors/ For the only black kid at a Sufjan concert.” Furthermore, he refers to himself as “the only white rapper who’s allowed to say the n-word.”

There’s also the element of Glover being a crossover act. While he’s been releasing music for the last three years, he fears people view his music as a secondary gimmick to compliment his primary role as a comedian (As for comedian, he has a hilarious bit about how he had to change his Twitter name from @DonGlover because people kept calling him “Dong Lover.”) He wants to be respected as a musician, and not as a gimmick, saying “I used to get more laughs when I got laughed at/ Oh you got a mixtape? ‘That’s fantastic.’”

And I can relate with the fundamental question of identity; the difficulty in negotiating “How People Perceive Me” against “How I Want To Be Perceived” against “Who I Actually Am.” More often than not, how I want to be perceived by others is a direct response to my fear of how others perceive me, and neither honestly depicts who I am.

I don’t own Stanford clothes. No sweatshirts, no shirts, no nothing. (And not just because it’s #NoShirtNovember.) Pre-admission to Stanford, I remember seeing students from elite colleges strutting around in their school paraphernalia acting like snobby, elitist ____________. (It’s a mad-lib. Feel free to write in your best, nastiest derogatory word in the comments section online. Winner gets a prize!)

So I don’t wear Stanford clothes for fear people will think I’m a snobby, elitist [insert same word]. Is it illogical? Probably. Does the logic fall apart even more once I’m on campus surrounded by thousands of (mostly) humble and kind-hearted people? Definitely.

It’s dangerous to allow your fears and desires dictate who you are. If you place your identity in being successful, you’ll hold onto success like it’s your life (because in a way it is now.) You may start only seeing people as obstacles to reaching your goal or as stepping stones to boost you higher. It works for anything. If you place your identity in beauty or good looks, you’ll start doing everything to keep it (until you’re a plastic Botox’d vegetable owned by Armani.) Worse, you start valuing others for how they fit into your shallow scale of worth.

I have a deep desire to be creative and rebellious–to be an individual–which is not bad in itself. But when I refuse to do the Cha-Cha Slide dance when the song comes on because “I’m an individual” and don’t want to dance like everyone else, then it becomes prideful and stupid. (However, I also think it’s a brainwashing tool by the government to make humans accustomed to taking orders from robots.)

Donald Glover raps about how he can get any girl he wants (like every other rapper ever does). But he gets really vulnerable when he admits that after whatever sexual conquest with whatever girl, he never gets what he really wants. The problem with rooting our identity in our fears or our desires is that both eventually fracture and fall away. And then who is left?

Chase is happy to make you even more connected to pop culture. Just email him at ninjaish “at” Stanford “dot” edu.

  • R.Johnson

    USC fans.  It’s the most derogatory thing I could think of/