This weekend, Childish Gambino left our timelines in shambles when he dropped the music video for his new single, “This Is America.” The artists used his turn as host and musical guest on Saturday Night Live, to release a visually and sonically astounding piece of commentary addressing some of our nation’s most pressing issues. I think it’s safe to say that Donald Glover has officially shed his cocoon.
The thought provoking four-minute video sees Gambino start carefree with the lyrics “We just wanna party.” However, the scene changes when he guns down a hooded man as the chorus begins.
This is America / Don’t catch you slippin’ up,” He raps. “Look how I’m livin’ now / Police be trippin’ now / Yeah, this is America / Guns in my area (word, my area) / I got the strap / I gotta carry ’em.
These lyrics address the need for black men to be ahead and not be vulernable, the fear of police brutality, and the need to constantly protect themselves. After the shooting the intent of the video changes and the scenes in the video paint the imagery of the lyrics. The video is a graphic confrontation that depicts violence against people of color in America.
In another key scene, Gambino enters the room and sprays gun fire at a gospel choir as they sing the refrain. This scene harkens back to the Charleston Church Shooting, where 9 people were murdered during bible study by terrorist Dylan Roof. Childish Gambino’s limber dance moves mimic the minstrel show mainstay Jim Crow. Of course, Jim Crow laws were local and state laws that enforced racial segregation.
As Gambino dances from scene to scene it’s a distraction. The scene around him is constantly changing. The eye is not only drawn to Childish Gambino, but to the action happening behind him that symbolizes the Black Lives Matter protests, civil unrest at the Charlottesville White Nationalist Rally, police brutality, and other racially motivated violence. Gambino is literally telling us to pay attention. He shows us how easily we are distracted by fads, video memes, and viral videos.
After each shooting in the video you’ll see how carefully the guns are taken away. This represents law makers fight for pro-gun laws. After the deadly school massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida; students started Never Again, a student led advocacy group calling for stricter gun regulations to prevent gun violence.
“And I looked and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him.” Revelations 6:8. This bible verse is depicted at the 2:35 mark by a pale horse followed by hell, a police vehicle. For some, police represent the worst and any potential interaction could possibly take a wrong turn and end in death due to police brutality.
Fans have called Childish Gambino a genius for crafting this narrative of the times we are living in.
This is a America gives us a preview of what Donald Glover says will be his final Childish Gambino album. If this multi-layered masterpiece gives us any insight we should expect more thought provoking content.