This past weekend Donald Glover hosted Saturday Night Live and performed his two new songs from his upcoming album, “Saturday” and “This is America.”
However, it was the video for “This is America” that created major buzz around the web. It was more than than fitting to choose Hiro Murai, director of Atlanta to depict the unconventional mind of Childish Gambino.
The video is not meant for the faint of heart. It is meant to be watched more than once and is a music video that is perfect for its time. It is best for its subtle symbolism and surreal messages.
Featured in an warehouse, the video starts off with a man playing an acoustic guitar on an airy beat that seems to inspired by old African American culture.
Then it gradually leads into Gambino dancing and eventually pulling a shotgun to this man’s head. His gun pose resembled a Jim Crow caricature, which was anti-black imagery portrayed in the 1830s and ‘40s.
After pulling the trigger, Gambino abruptly transitions the happy melody into a hard bass, grudge-like beat, showing how instantly white America can take away a group’s culture. Gambino is also seen to display the same concept when aiming an automatic to a black choir, reenacting the Charleston shooting in South Carolina.
Throughout the video, Gambino dances shirtless with a group of school kids while chaos and burning cop cars become their backdrop. Gambino cho dances portrayed in current pop culture to distract viewers from what is going on in the background. This proves a disturbing point that people get easily distracted by entertainment and let real issues go unnoticed.
“Look how I’m geekin’ out, I’m so fitted, I’m on Gucci, I’m so pretty, I’m gon’ get it, Watch me move”
In this scene, there are numerous cops who are chasing people in the background but Gambino continues to use dance moves and facial expressions to match his lyricism in order to draw audiences in. He also mimicked the superficial and materialistic aspect of being a rapper and how easily people become fascinated by it. The camera glides over to kids videotaping the action with their cellphones to hint that America uses social media to distract us from police brutality.
To propel this notion, the children who are normally seen around Gambino, end up running away when he angles his arm like he about to pull out a rifle. He ends up pulling out a joint, showing that this is a normalization of white culture to be terrified of an unarmed black man.
Lastly, there are times where Gambino echos “Get your money, black man,” mocking the African American male who is in pursuit of succeeding as an entertainer to distract himself from his suffering as a black man in American. This is a complicated relationship because the black community goes above and beyond to search for better outcomes for their themselves and their families but are still faced with discrimination.
Gambino makes it clear in the video how black people have been harmed by American culture. Gambino keeps up a character who embodies the spectrum of white America. In the very end it shows him running in the dark, similar to being a black man trapped sunken place like in the movie “Get Out” and his problems eventually catching up with him.
After Gambino’s 2016 single, “Redbone,” it should be known that is he is no stranger to keeping the black community woke but “This is America” surpasses a whole new layer of culture awareness and is a visual that is addictive but for the right reasons.
The video can be viewed here on Youtube. The video has already reached over 65 million views. [Warning this video contains graphic imagery.]