Childish Gambino – “L.E.S.” Lyrics Meaning

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Written By Joanna Landrum

Joanna holds a BSc in English Literature and uses her expertise in literary analysis to uncover the deeper meaning of her favorite songs.

Childish Gambino’s “L.E.S.” paints a vivid picture of a modern romance set against the backdrop of New York City’s Lower East Side. It’s a complex story of love and lust, with Gambino’s signature sharp wit and cultural commentary woven throughout.

The song is a narrative of an inconsistent relationship, one that captures the impulsiveness of youth and the intoxicating buzz of city life. Gambino touches on themes of authenticity, the pursuit of pleasure, and the shallowness of modern dating, all while depicting a connection with someone who stands out from the crowd. This isn’t just about a person; it’s about a place, a feeling, and a generation. He wrote this song to explore the contradictions of being young and in love (or something like it) in a city that never sleeps.

Keep reading to dive deep into the complexities of city love, modern dating, and the vibrant backdrop of NYC’s Lower East Side that Gambino intricately details through his sharp lyrics.

“L.E.S.” Lyrics Meaning

Childish Gambino’s “L.E.S.” is a multi-layered narrative set in the Lower East Side, often abbreviated as L.E.S. The song starts with the chorus, an ode to a girl who seems to embody the cool, edgy energy of the area. But Gambino’s words are more than just a love letter; they’re a sardonic take on the gentrified “cool” that the area represents.

“Baby, you’re the baddest” isn’t just a compliment; it’s a recognition of the girl’s ability to navigate the pretentious landscape of the city. The repetition of “nobody else matters” and the clandestine kisses in the bathroom hint at the intimacy and secrecy of their connection but also at its potentially superficial nature.

The song’s verses delve deeper into the narrator’s conflicted feelings. Gambino raps about the artificiality of the scene, where a “New York nine’s an everywhere else six” and the people he encounters are often striving for something more, whether it’s in their career, their artistic pursuits, or their social status. The lyric “I’m in a taxi, texting with my best friend” shows how communication is distanced and digital, even when it’s about intimate moments.

The song reflects on how relationships can be commodified and appearances can be deceiving. Gambino discusses how some people try to “gold dig” or “poke holes in Trojans,” revealing a mistrust in people’s intentions. His confession, “I’m a mess,” is both a moment of vulnerability and an acknowledgement of his own place in this complex social web.

The bridge and the latter verses of “L.E.S.” bring in a sense of self-awareness and irony. Gambino points out the hypocrisy of the hipster culture, even as he acknowledges his and his interest’s participation in it. From referencing indie bands and the cultural signifiers like ironic tattoos, to more personal admissions of his flaws and the performative nature of their relationship, Gambino paints a comprehensive picture of this cultural milieu.

He doesn’t shy away from self-criticism, describing himself as an “awful guy” who’s “always away” and admitting to being a “piece of shit.” It’s this raw honesty that cuts through the bravado and exposes the human desire for connection beneath the urban chaos.

The Story Behind “L.E.S.”

Donald Glover, the man behind Childish Gambino, is known for his incisive social commentary, and “L.E.S.” is no exception. When he penned this track, Glover was not just writing a song; he was crafting a narrative that reflected his own experiences and observations of New York City’s Lower East Side.

This area, known for its vibrant nightlife and cultural diversity, is also a hub for hipsters, artists, and young professionals—all trying to make their mark. Glover, a multifaceted artist himself, was in a state of reflection on the nature of success, relationships, and the authenticity of the people he encountered.

The song is permeated with Glover’s perspective on the gentrification of the L.E.S. and the commodification of culture. His lyrics suggest a cynicism about the “scene” and the people in it, while also conveying a sense of longing for something genuine. It’s a push and pull between enjoying the surface-level thrills of the city and seeking a deeper connection amidst the chaos.

Glover’s state of mind while writing “L.E.S.” was likely one of critical observation. As someone deeply involved in the entertainment industry, his experiences with fleeting relationships, superficiality, and the search for authenticity in a city as sprawling and diverse as New York would have been particularly poignant.

In crafting “L.E.S.,” Glover didn’t just give listeners a catchy hook and a beat to dance to; he offered a window into the complexities of love and life in a city that’s as notorious for its heartbreaks as it is for its skyline.