Donald Glover — otherwise known as the rapper Childish Gambino — is a particularly potent kind of celebrity today. He’s certainly prolific: having gotten his big break writing for 30 Rock, he followed that up with standup specials, a celebrated role as Troy Barnes on NBC’s Community, and a string of rap albums that culminated in 2011’s Camp, his first studio release. However, he also manages to balance his freewheeling creative life with a sizeable digital footprint: He tweets in torrents. He does guest appearances on podcasts as disparate as The Nerdist and Rosenberg Radio. He has performed in numerous viral videos with the Derrick Comedy troupe. The list goes on.

So it was surprising that the actor all but vanished from the public eye earlier this year. He’d scrubbed his Twitter and Instagram accounts. He wasn’t doing many shows. So great was the alarm that Time Magazine wondered aloud, “Where Is Donald Glover?”

Actually, he was recording an album — perhaps his most ambitious to date. Because the Internet is the artist’s second studio effort, and listeners might find it’s very much a post-fame record at first blush. It has all the trappings of a work crafted by an artist grappling with success, excess, and the exhaustion that comes with it. But what’s interesting here is how he plays with that trope from a net native’s perspective. His fame is a distinctly online-driven kind of fame, after all. As such, the language of the work is colored by internet life as he’s lived it. What results is a thoughtful if somewhat ungainly commentary on how people relate on- and offline.

“[The internet is] very powerful, but it becomes very dangerous if we let it,” Glover told The Verge at a mansion party promoting the album. “I just want people to be thinking about what we’re doing.” That sentiment permeates the entire album, with frequent mentions of trolling, social media, and WorldStarHipHop, all the way down to the GIF-inspired lenticular album art. Meanwhile, metaphors for the web, including lyrics about surfers and spiders, abound, all alongside the lines about race and Clarissa Explains It All. It’s a solid record, even as it verges on over-produced and even maudlin at times. Make no mistake; fans can still expect the hyper-clever, oversexed lyricism that put Childish Gambino on the map. There’s still fun to be had here. But the lyrics are also suffused with his own mixed feelings about being caught up in his digital persona. This is no dissertation, but he makes a fair argument for how his use of the internet contributed to his burnout — especially in the latter half of the album.

Paradoxically, Glover has also gone out of his way to create a veritable concept world surrounding the work, all made with the virtual keenly in mind. This was clearly a massive effort, but it kind of undermines his already hazy thesis. First there’s the Groundhog Day-esque short film, “Clapping for the Wrong Reasons,” he released in August to set the stage.