The Career Of Donald Glover: A Timeline From Sketch Comedy To Multitalented Artistic Icon


Donald Glover has already had a very interesting career by the age of 34. The highly versatile artist has successfully maintained his high profile position in both film and as a rapper under the name Childish Gambino. In the past we’ve seen rappers turned actors like Ice Cube, Mark Wahlberg and Will Smith, and even actors turn into rappers as was the case with Drake. However, it’s a rarity for an artist to have a a truly successful career in both worlds simultaneously like Glover has been able to do. 

The Grammy-winning recording artist is also an Emmy & Golden Globe-winning actor, writer, and director that’s somehow found the time to sustain a highly successful career in both fields concurrently. We’ve seen Glover make quite an impact already and he’s progressed his achievements more and more every year. In just the past couple years he launched an award-winning tv-show Atlanta that he both created and starred in while building a dedicated following, appeared in high profile movies while announcing more he's involved in as well as performing at and winning his first Grammy award. He’s such a rare and interesting creative individual we’ve decided to map out some highlights of Glover's story from his first roles in comedy to the present day pop culture icon he's become.

2002-2006: New York University (Comedy troupe involvement & dramatic writing studies)

Glover attended the prestigious New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts where he studied dramatic writing. While in school he laid the foundation for his comedy career as a part of comedy troupe Wicked Wicked Hammerkatz. After some time, he left the troupe to start a sketch comedy group, Derrick Comedy, alongside Dominic Dierkes and DC Pierson. The group had numerous videos go viral, helping Donald begin to make a name for himself and eventually catch the attention of 30 Rock

2006-2009: 30 Rock TV Show (Co-writer of the TV show)

When 30 Rock’s executive producer David Miner was sent some Derrick Comedy videos by none other than Amy Poehler, Miner reached out to Glover to set up a meeting with Tina Fey. After meeting with Donald, Fey hired him immediately as a writer for her show before he had even graduated college. Although he and the show won numerous awards (including Emmys) in the two years Donald was a writer, he made the decision to move on from 30 Rock to pursue his numerous other projects and ambitions.

June 5, 2008: Sick Boi (Childish Gambino debut)

Glover made his debut as Childish Gambino while still working with 30 Rock. He actually came up with his rapping moniker through a Wu-Tang name generator website. The mixtape Sick Boi was the start of Glover's hybrid career involving both music and film. 

Jan. 17, 2009: Mystery Team (First feature film)

The Derrick Comedy group premiered their Mystery Team feature film at Sundance in 2009. The independent, full-length movie was about a trio of high-schoolers who solved mysteries. Glover and his Derrick Comedy partners all wrote and starred in the film. 

2009 – 2013: Community (Starring role on TV)

Glover was picked up by NBC’s Community for the role of Troy Barnes, who was described by the creator as a “dumb jock.” While it was well known he was a talented writer, this role showcased his ability as an actor as he was so well liked on the series he began to build a loyal fanbase. Just when the show was at its peak, he had an early departure from the series after just the fifth episode of the final season to yet again pursue his many side projects, which led to him writing and landing Atlanta with FX. 

Sep. 17, 2009: Poindexter (Second mixtape)

Donald Glover self-released his second independent,14-track mixtape - Poindexter

Jan. 5, 2010 & Feb. 4, 2010: I AM JUST A RAPPER & I AM JUST A RAPPER 2 (Mixtapes)

These two mixtapes were what really first earned Glover some attention in the rap world. On these projects, we heard him rapping over indie beats from artists such as Grizzly Bear, Neon Indian and more. He was clearly building and experimenting with his sound on these releases. 

March 19, 2010: Comedy Central Presents: Donald Glover (Stand-up)

Glover earned his first Comedy Central stand up special “Comedy Central Presents: Donald Glover." The special was a 30-minute stand-up performance aired on Comedy Central as part of the network's main half-hour program that spanned 13 years. 

July 3, 2010: Culdesac (Mixtape)

Just a few months after I AM JUST A RAPPER & I AM JUST A RAPPER 2, Glover self-released yet another mixtape. At the time, he had his fair share of fans from Community and began crossing over as a legitimate artist in the hip-hop world. 

May 2010: #Donald4Spiderman (Fan Campaign)

When a list of prospective actors to play the role of Peter Parker in Sony’s Spider-Man franchise reboot were announced, many fans of Glover championed for him to be cast as the lead role. The hashtag #Donald4Spiderman began trending as he responded “I don’t want to just be given the role. I want to be able to audition. I truly love Spider-Man.” However, he didn't end up getting a chance audition for the role.

Feb. 28, 2011: “Freaks & Geeks” (Music Video)

Glover releases the first music video under his rapping moniker. Not only was this his first official video, but also the first glimpse of Glover as a rapper to many. This was not only his first song we covered on TSIS, but this was also the song that started earning him palpable respect as a artist in the hip-hop world. 

March 8, 2011: EP (Debut EP)

Glover's first EP arrived as a 5-track project in 2011. Although it was originally uploaded as a free download, we wouldn't see it on Spotify till 2018 where it became available to his fans on the streaming platform for the first time. This EP marks a turning point in Glover's music career, as it's the first time we see Glover and Swedish film composer Ludwig Göransson working together. The two met on the set of Community, as Göransson worked as composer for the show. The duo would continue producing together throughout all of Glover's future releases.

Sep. 6, 2011: Glassnote Records (Signed Label Deal)

Glover signed with indie tastemaker label Glassnote in preparation for his debut studio album, Camp. The label was an interesting choice as he was the only rapper signed at the time alongside indie acts such as Phoenix and Mumford and Sons.

Nov. 15, 2011: Camp (Debut Album)

Donald Glover's debut studio album as Childish Gambino,Camp, was released via Glassnote records. The album was co-produced by Glover himself and Göransson. Camp gained a large number of Childish Gambino fans and hit number 11 on the Billboard 200, selling 52,000 copies in its first week. Each track on the LP has since racked up quite a few plays, with “Heartbeat” currently having over 78 million streams on Spotify. 

Feb. 18, 2012: Donald Glover: Weirdo (Stand-up)

Donald Glover landed his first hour-long stand-up special on Comedy Central. This was a big step in his career as a stand-up comic and helped grow his fanbase even further as a multi-talented artist. 

Aug. 15, 2013: Clapping For The Wrong Reasons (Short Film)

Donald Glover teamed with director Hiro Murai for a near 25-minute, absurd short film in which Chance The Rapper makes an appearance. Glover and Murai's relationship would prove important, as Murai is now the director for Glover’s Atlanta FX show.

Dec 10, 2013: Because the Internet (Album)

Childish Gambino’s second studio album Because the Internet was also eleased via Glassnote and Universal. The LP debuted at number 7 on the US Billboard 200 charts selling 96,000 copies in the first week. Because the Internet went on to earn a Gold certification and was nominated for Best Rap Album at the 2015 Grammy's, as well as “3005” being nominated for Best Rap Performance. The release also came paired with a screenplay of the same name, uploaded by Glover to Supposedly, Clapping For The Wrong Reasons acted as a prequel to the screenplay for Because the Internet. The screenplay was also written to sync up with the album and came complete with visuals. A copy of the screenplay and related content can be found here.

Oct. 10, 2014: Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (Actor)

Donald Glover's acting career continues to progress with a small role of “Greg” in the children's book-based family movie starring Steve Carell. 

Oct. 2-3, 2014: STN MTN / Kauai (Mixtape / EP)

Glover's seventh mixtape, STN MTN, was released as a free download a day before his second EP, Kauai, was released – again via Glassnote records. Both parts of the joint project is considered as one cohesive concept album with dual sides. With this release, we saw a more story-based approach to Glover's music as STN MTN followed a story of Childish Gambino in a dream where he “ran Atlanta” only to wake up in Hawaii, which is where Kauai picks up. Kauai hit number 18 on the US Billboard 200 selling 16,000 copies its first week. 

Mar. 21, 2015: MTVU Woodie Awards, Best Video Award For “Sober” (Award)

Childish Gambino’s “Sober” took MTV’s 2015 award for best video. The Hiro Murai-directed video beat out fellow nominees including Beyonce and a Flying Lotus x Kendrick Lamar collaboration. 

Oct. 2, 2015: The Martian (Actor)

Donald Glover landed the supporting role of Rich Purnell in the Matt Damon-starring film, The Martian. The film went on to earn Oscar nominations and even won several Golden Globe Awards. 

Sep. 2016: PHAROS – (First  Childish Gambino Festival)

Donald’s three performances showcasing new music were bizarre to say the least. The shows were first announced through Glover launching a new app titled Pharos.Earth with a mysterious countdown. A few days later it was revealed he would be hosting three shows called PHAROS in Joshua Tree, California with new music and a “full album experience.” The shows required attendees to lock their phones in cases to create a “phone-free” experience. The actual performances took place in a dome with video projections. He premiered a new album that was described as island / tribal influenced much different from previous Childish Gambino releases. He also screened the first episodes of Atlanta ahead of the official TV debut. This album he debuted was later revealed to be titled Awaken, My Love

Sep. 2016: Atlanta (TV Show)

Glover is the executive producer, writer, and lead actor of his ongoing FX series Atlanta, of which he also directed two episodes in the first season. It almost seems that everything in his career has lead up to this point, where he takes his experiences in hip-hop to the TV screen for his comedy show about two cousins trying to make it in Atlanta’s hip-hop scene. Glover has received Golden Globe nominations for Best Actor in a Television series as well as Atlanta getting a nomination for Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy. 

Dec. 2, 2016: Awaken, My Love! (Album)

Childish Gambino's latest album arrived on Dec. 2. While all of his previous musical endeavors have been rap, he switched things up on his latest project, delivering an amazing album filled with funk and soul. Awaken, My Love took his fans by surprise and while some of his fans were dissuaded by the matured direction, he gained a new following that wasn't quite present for/into his hip-hop projects. Even Questlove took to Instagram with excitement, saying, "Dude I'm so fucked up right now. I can't even form the proper hyperbolic sentence to explain to D'angleo why I woke him up at 4am to listen to this. I'm like—when is the last time someone sucker punched me on this level…..I mean I knew #AroundTheWorldInADay was coming & it was a left turn—I'm about to blow the wigs off music historians… but I thought I was getting some fresh millennial 2016 hip hop shit and I got sucker punched…" We too were blown away by the project and the ever-expanding versatility of Glover.

Jan 8, 2017 Golden Globes (Award)

Donald further solidified his position as one of the top entertainers at the 2017 Golden Globes. He won awards for Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy as well as Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy, both awards for his Atlanta series on FX. 

Jan 12, 2017: Signs overall deal with FX Productions (Actor / Writer)

Following his massive success with Atlanta, FX has inked a deal with Donald to develop new projects for the network. Nick Grad, president of programming for FX Networks and FX productions said “Atlanta is just the beginning, the breakout comedy of the year and a series revered as much for its originality as its honest look at the experience of being aspiring, young and black in that legendary city. We’re proud to partner with Donald in an overall deal that will allow him to continue turning his creative vision into incredible television.” They had announced he would be leading the project for their animated Deadpool series, but they have since pulled the plug on the adaptation series. 

June 4, 2017: Announces next Childish Gambino album will be his last

During his performance at Governor’s Ball music festival, Glover made the announcement that his next Childish Gambino album will be his last. He later confirmed this statement at the 2017 Grammy awards, saying “I stand by that. I’m really appreciative of this. I’m making another project right now, but I like endings. I think they’re important to progress. I think if a lot of things had death clauses in them, we wouldn’t have a lot of problems in the world, to be honest. I think endings are good because they force things to get better.” 

July 7, 2017: Spider-Man: Homecoming (Actor)

Donald Glover delivers a roll in the latest Spider-Man movie as Aaron Davis years after a fan-led campaign to see him as Peter Parker.

Sep. 17, 2017: Emmy awards for Atlanta (Award)

Donald Glover won awards for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series and Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series. This was a huge milestone not only for Glover, but for all aspiring directors of color as he became the first black recipient of the award for best directing in a comedy series. 

Jan. 22, 2018: Signs new record deal with RCA Records (Record Deal)

After making comments that his next album would be his last as Childish Gambino, Glover inks a new record deal with RCA Records saying it was a “necessary change of pace.” A date for his next release has not been announced at this time. 

Jan. 28, 2018: Grammy Awards (Award + Performance)

After being nominated in 2015 for both Best Rap Album and Best Rap Performance, Glover earned himself five nominations and a performance at the 2018 Grammys. The performance was a huge milestone in his musical career and was followed by winning a Grammy for Best Traditional R&B Performance on “Redbone.” In an interview he confirmed he still planned on this next album being his last. 

March, 2018: Atlanta:  Robbin Season (Actor, Producer, Writer, Director)

The anticipated follow-up to his award winning first season for FX's Atlanta officially debuted on March 1 and concluded on May 10. Following up on his Golden Globe award, the season two premiere had the best ratings of any cable comedy in the past year.

May 5, 2018: "This Is America" (Music Video)

In perhaps the most significant move of his musical career, Glover drops "This Is America." The music video alone, directed by Hiro Murai received enormous amounts of praise, amassing hundreds of millions of YouTube plays in just a couple of months. "This Is America" went on to debut at number one, Glover's first number one and top ten single in the U.S.

May 5, 2018: Saturday Night Live (Performance + Host)

Not only did Donald Glover show up to host Saturday Night Live with a handful of hilarious sketches, but he doubled down and performed (and debuted) his latest single, "This Is America." 

May 25, 2018: Solo: A Star Wars Story (Actor)

Glover's appearance as the charismatic and sleazy Lando Calrissian in the Star Wars spinoff Solo was highly anticipated, and ultimately critically acclaimed. Some claim that his character stole the screen, even though he only showed up in the later parts of the film.

Upcoming projects:  

The Lion King – Simba (Actor)

Donald Glover has been announced as playing the voice of Simba in the upcoming live-action remake of The Lion King. The movie is expected in July of 2019 and also includes the voice of Beyonce for the role of Nala.

Collaborative mixtape with Chance The Rapper (Mixtape)

For years there have been hints and rumors surrounding a collaborative mixtape between Childish Gambino and Chance The Rapper. At the 2017 Emmy awards Glover spoke about the project, saying “In music I don’t want to do anything because I’m forced to. I think once you do that things start to get bad… Also I feel like if I don’t make a Chance The Rapper mixtape, like double mixtape, a bunch of 14-year-olds are gonna kick my ass. They stop me on the street and it’s kinda scary so I think I gotta do something and probably will.”