In today’s social media we’ve become very normalized to worldstar celebrities such as Lil Tay or Kanye releasing music with the words “poopity scoopity” all for a little more run in the news. But amongst all the nonsense, a light has been casted upon us by the name of Childish Gambino. Often referred to by his real name, Donald Glover, the infamous rap artist and star of the hit FX series Atlanta released his critically acclaimed soul album Awaken My Love! over a year ago, adding to a discography of three previous studio albums. Also, having announced a tour in april, there was much anticipation for his new music to be released, and for good reason. Childish Gambino definitely made waves with his new song “This is America” that he released last saturday before his performance on Saturday Night Live. The track is filled with many themes, such as police brutality, current social media mentalities, and the struggle of being an African-American in contemporary society. Though that’s only the tip of the iceberg, Gambino is no stranger to creating controversial and thought-provoking content, but “This is America” puts a whole new meaning to his wokeness.
“At first I was just excited that Gambino released a new track. I immediately pulled it up on YouTube and was in awe.” senior Sean Trkla mentioned. “It was amazing to me how well thought out everything was from the dancing, to the backdrop, even just the ad libs.”
Though the song has a nice flow and a great beat, it definitely was not intended to be a new trap song for the summer. “I think that the complexity behind this video is hard for people to understand,” Sean continued, ”I don’t know one person using it as a banger like it’s a new Migos song or something. It was a really cool way for him to use his platform as a respected artist to address social issues.”
The LFHS New Media teacher and media literacy enthusiast, Mr. Douglass, also had a unique perspective about the video. “It’s absolutely disturbing, very intentionally so, in many ways.” Mr. Douglass states, “The mix track follows the visual tone of the video, introducing the hypnotic beat structures that accompany a backyard get together or a trendy club song. It jumps quickly on the gunshots and the lyrical tone changes. There is a lot there and it should challenge the listener to dig deeper into the artists context and intent.”
With the video being very politically and socially charged, many people on social media have uncovered some fascinating hidden messages in the video. Here we will highlight a few key moments from the music video and break down the songs most versatile verses.
Undoubtedly, the first shocking moment of the video is when Gambino is seen shooting a man in the back of the head as he raps the first line “This is America/ don’t catch you slippin up.” Many people have compared his odd stance to the famous images of the fictional character Jim Crow, a stereotypical character invented to degrade African-Americans first used in the 1800s. There have also been many claims made that it depicts inequality for African-American people in the US along with police brutality and excessive force. The gun is then carefully handed off into a red towel which people are saying could symbolize that “red America,” perhaps known as the Republican party, care more about the safety of its guns than its own citizens.
Shortly after, some children in school uniforms surround Gambino as they do popular dance moves, one of them a famous African move known as the “garwa garwa” taken from a famous Indian style known as “Garba.” He says the words “Guns in my area (word, my area) / I got the strap (ayy, ayy) / I gotta carry ’em.” Many think he is referring to the glorification of guns in music videos and social media when in reality gun violence has become an extremely prevalent issue in today’s society. The chaos becomes all the more more adamant as well in the background.As the video continues, Gambino enters a room full of choir singers and dances to the music, only seconds later to quickly be handed a semi-automatic Zastava M70 assault rifle and kill the entirety of the choir. This is has been seen as a possible reference to a mass shooting in 2015 where Dylann Roof, a white supremacist, killed nine African-American people in a church basement. As people rush over to the choir, Gambino is seen excitedly dancing away avoiding all the chaos.
A few moments later he is seen dancing once again with the school children. He raps the lines “Look how I’m geeking’ out (hey) / I’m so fitted (I’m so fitted, woo) / I’m on Gucci (I’m on Gucci) / I’m so pretty (yeah, yeah).” This is seen as a possible moment of reflection for our society. It’s basically establishing that among this world where we constantly exposed to violence and murder, we can easily scroll down to another picture and watch people dancing or people looking attractive for social media. It blatantly exploits the fact that we have let violence become so normalized in our society that we just let it blend in with everything else around us.
After all, “This is America” takes a few watches to fully process all that is being implicitly said by the socially woke spokesman of 2018, Childish Gambino. So whether you like the song, are transfixed by the video, or are in awe of the way they coalesce together to create a purely 21st century art form, “This is America” is certainly worth your time. So when you do watch, think about all that Donald Glover has to say, and hear him out, because perhaps in this day and age, this is the only way to fully get our attention.