‘Late Night in Kauai’ by Childish Gambino analysis
By Sonam Kaloti, Arts Editor
A major part of the art community worldwide is the distribution of art—in terms of how it is produced, how it is presented, and which artistic creation is granted supremacy over another. Really, no single person, nor even a group of people, should be able to decide what deserves to be popular. Yet sadly, this formula basically runs most industries.
Donald Glover’s (Childish Gambino’s) “Late Night in Kauai,” released in 2014, features Jaden Smith and Glover’s frequent collaborator Fam. The song’s outro—which is written and performed by Fam—is heavy on its criticism of social norms.
Fam begins by saying that Jaden Smith is “dropping jewels” but people don’t believe him because he’s Jaden Smith. Smith has become something of a meme due to his odd statements made on Twitter, such as “How Can Mirrors Be Real If Our Eyes Aren’t Real.” Fam’s statement suggests that people may just dismiss any deep truth Smith may be saying due to this perceived lack of seriousness. Fam proceeds to say, “But it’s all about packaging, right?”
Packaging can refer to a variety of things, one being how we may perceive something from only the outside, which inhibits us from truly understanding the deeper messages on the inside. This would certainly explain the previous line referring to Smith.
However, production and packaging are a much larger part of consumerism than would be expected. For starters, everything from album covers and book jackets to live show visuals drastically changes how much an individual will spend on something like a novel or a concert. Yet, as the saying goes, we can’t judge a book by its cover—because the packaging may not be reflective of the content within.
“We don’t even know what we like anymore. We just know what the most hype is,” Fam continues later in the outro. This is a scary concept that focuses greatly on the effects of bandwagons, mob mentality, popularity, and of course, fitting in. The entire world seems to be in love with Drake, but is it because people enjoy the lyrical and musical content or because their radio, television, and friends are all playing (and loving) it?
The most thought-provoking line in “Late Night in Kauai,” in my opinion, is when Fam goes on to mention a joke made by Dave Chapelle, who is an American stand-up comedian. In one of Chapelle’s shows, he compares Pepsi and Coca Cola and starts by saying that he has made advertisements for both. Chapelle then says, “If you want to know the truth, can’t even taste the difference. Surprise! All I know is Pepsi paid me most recently, so it tastes better.”
This line alludes to celebrity brand endorsements and following celebrity trends with sheep-like obedience, even though that entire system is corrupt. We might just like whatever it is that has the most money.
The question Fam poses is always important to think about: “Do you really like that shit you like? Or you like the way they gave it to you?”