Meaning of “This Is America” by Childish Gambino (Donald Glover)
“This Is America” is a song recorded by American singer, rapper and actor Childish Gambino (also known as Donald Glover). The lyrics of “This Is America” addresses a lot of social ills in America, including gun violence, police brutality, racism and the misdirection of the press in the United States.
However, the lyrics focus mainly on gun violence in the United States and the issues African Americans often have to deal with in the country.
Facts about “This is America”
“This Is America” was written by Childish Gambino (Donald Glover) in conjunction with his longtime songwriting partner Swedish music producer and composer Ludwig Göransson.
The song’s production was taken care of by Glover and Göransson. The pair was also responsible for writing and producing Gambino’s Grammy winning hit song “Redbone“.
The song was officially released on 5th May, 2018, on the same day that Gambino hosted the famous American late-night television show Saturday Night Live (SNL).
“This Is America” features background vocals from as many as 5 prominent rappers. They are as follows:
- Young Thug
- BlocBoy JB
- Slim Jxmmi
- 21 Savage
Just like its lyrics, the music video of “This Is America” is also politically charged and tackles important issues in the United States, most notably gun violence and racism.
On the US Billboard Hot 100, the song debuted at the number one spot, thereby not only making it Gambino’s first number one song in the United States but also the first song of his entire musical career to enter the top 10 singles in his home country. On the UK Singles Chart, the song peaked at number 14.
Having made its debut at number one on the Billboard Hot 100, “This Is America” became the 31st song in the entire chart’s history to achieve that feat.
Music Video of “This Is America”
The music video, which is widely regarded as one of the most powerful and provocative music videos of all time, begins with Gambino dancing shirtless in a warehouse. Suddenly Gambino pauses from his dancing and shoots a man point-blank in the head while imitating the pose of Jim Crow.
He then goes on to use a semiautomatic weapon to indiscriminately gun down a group of singers (a church choir) while they are singing. Many have likened the latter to the 2015 Charleston Church Shooting. The said event claimed the lives of 9 African Americans who were attending a prayer service at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Carolina, United States. The heinous crime was perpetrated by a white supremacist named Dylann Roof.
While all the violence and heinous crimes are unfolding in the music video’s background, Gambino continues dancing as though nothing is going on. But at the end of the video, Gambino is seen running desperately for his life because he is hotly being chased by an irate mob bent on lynching him.
Singer SZA makes a cameo appearance in the video
Towards the end of the music video, a woman can be seen sitting on a car. That woman is American singer and songwriter SZA. It is worth noting that this isn’t the first time SZA and Childish Gambino have appeared together in a music video. Gambino featured in the music video of SZA’s 2017 song “Garden”.
Who directed the music video of “This Is America”?
The video was directed by Japanese-born filmmaker Hiro Murai, who is famous for directing several episodes of the comedy series Atlanta. Murai has over the years also made name for himself directing music videos for such artists as David Guetta, Queens of the Stone Age, Bloc Party and Flying Lotus.
Did Trayvon Martin’s father Tracy Martin appear in the music video of “This Is America”?
Contrary to popular belief, the guitarist who gets shot by Gambino at the beginning of the video isn’t Trayvon Martin’s father (Tracy Martin). Who is he then? He is a musician/actor who goes by the name Calvin the Second.
Gambino’s dance moves on “This Is America”
Throughout the music video, Gambino performs a number of popular dances such as “Shoot” and Gwara Gwara from Africa (to be specific South Africa).
10 million views in 24 hours
Within just 24 hours of the music video being released on YouTube, it garnered more than 10 million views, thereby making it one of the most viewed video in 24 hours on YouTube.
Emelike Wesley Nwosuocha, an American who uses the stage name Kidd Wes, raised serious concerns about the originality and authenticity of the song. He claims, This is America shares substantial similarity with his song Made in America, which he released on SoundCloud in September 2016 and on YouTube months later.
He added that his song was registered with the U.S Copyright Office earlier in May 2017.
Kidd Wes sent documents that allegedly prove his claims about the song to the US federal court in New York. The defendants named in the complaint include, record label RCA, Roc Nation and Young Thug, who wrote and sang backing vocals for the song. He sought for a trial and sued for damages, including lost profits and opportunities.
Gambino, as of this writing has not yet responded to the allegations. However, his manager has said in interviews that there are computer files from 2015, proving the song is Gambino’s original.