Childish Gambino’s “Redbone” Lyrics Meaning

The lyrics of “Redbone” aren’t really straightforward, as perhaps to be expected from Childish Gambino. But what it most simply boils down to, as inferred, is the vocalist coming to the realization that the addressee, his partner, is cheating and responding accordingly, i.e. cutting her off in the second verse. And whereas the chorus reads as if he’s warning her that she’ll eventually get caught, that might just not be the case. All lyrics considered, it can also be taking as a warning for others to be alert against such injustices, i.e. being so deceived by their own partners.

On the brighter side, the pre-chorus seems to imply that a person can defend him or herself against infidelity by properly valuing the romance they are in. But it can also be taken that Gambino is telling the addressee that if she behaves properly, he too is willing to reciprocate the favor.

What’s the meaning of “Redbone”?

Meanwhile to note, the word “redbone” is never actually mentioned in the lyrics. Such is a colloquialism commonly used within the African-American community, primarily pointing to a light-skinned Black girl. So the implication would be that the addressee is of said body type.

Moreover, ‘redbones’ are SADLY generally considered to be prettier than darker hues of Black women. Or put more accurately in a Western dating context, ‘redbones’ are more mainstream-acceptable, so to speak. In other words, yes, there is a racial connotation, whether intended or not, behind using that word.

The subject of how different shades of Black people are regarded aesthetically is a recurring theme in African-American academia and arts such as, in the latter sense, Spike Lee’s musical School Daze. And it’s also clear that Childish Gambino, though we haven’t researched him a lot as of yet, is an artist who recognizes skin color and what it entails in his works.

Important to note:

A lighter redbone can be called a yellowbone. However, for the most part the two terms are interchangeable. For instance, if you call Beyonce a yellowbone, no one is going to say ‘no, she’s a redbone’, except for maybe a White person. 

I know this because I grew up speaking that slang. If you rely on the internet to understand African-American slang you’re going to get confused. And why? This is because most of the definitions available were written by people who didn’t even grow up in Black neighborhoods. 

In Conclusion

All in all, the narrative featured in “Redbone” is relatively terse, and there doesn’t appear to be any type of hidden meaning behind what’s being put forth, as detailed above. 

So in conclusion the vocalist’s significant other, obviously, has cheated on him, and logically she is a “redbone”. There may be a particular reason why Childish named the song so, i.e. the woman who inspired it being a real-life romantic interest of such a hue. But nothing like that is explicitly stated in the lyrics.

Lyrics of "Redbone"

Facts about “Redbone”

The song was written by Gambino and Swedish songwriter, composer and producer Ludwig Göransson (also known as Ludovin).

The song’s production was handled by both Ludovin and Gambino.

Contrary to popular belief, Gambino’s vocals were never pitched on the track. Speaking on a show on the Australian radio station Triple J, Gambino said he never pitched his vocals on the song. According to him, the pitched-like vocals that make him sound like a woman on the track was just him singing differently.

Many have said that on the song Gambino sounded just like the late American singer Prince.

Gambino released “Redbone” on November 17, 2016. It was the second single from his third studio album “Awaken, My Love!”.

“Redbone” is a classic example of a sleeper hit. Why? Because it debuted at number 75 on the Hot 100 shortly after its release. However, almost a year later in August 2017, it re-entered the chart and peaked at number 12.

To date, “Redbone” is Gambino’s most successful single. It even won Gambino the first-ever Grammy Award of his career in 2018.

In addition to peaking at the 12th position on the US Billboard Hot 100, the song also peaked at number 51 in the UK Singles Chart.

In 2021, Rolling Stone published a revised list of their compilation of their famous “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” list. In the list appeared “Redbone”. It was placed at the 383rd position in the list.

Childish Gambino's "Redbone"

Frequently Asked Questions about “Redbone”

Q: Is the song based on a true event in Childish Gambino’s life?

A: It is currently not clear if the song is autobiographical or not as Gambino has so far not said anything in relation to that.

Q: Has “Redbone” won any Grammy Awards?

A: At the 60th Annual Grammy Awards, which took place on January 28, 2018 in New York City, the song was  nominated for three Grammy Awards in the following categories:

At the end of the day, the song won the Grammy for the Best Traditional R&B Performance.

Q: Did Gambino play any musical instruments on this track?

A: Yes, he did. He played the drums and glockenspiel. He also contributed backing vocals to the track.

Q: Which films and TV series has “Redbone” been featured in?

A: The song was used in the 2017 American horror film Get Out.

Q: Which genre(s) can “Redbone” be grouped under?

A: The song falls into a number of genres, most notably R&B, soul and pop.

Notable Live Performance

Below is Childish Gambino’s legendary live performance of “Redbone” on the Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon:

13 Responses

  1. Love this song, the lyrics & music hit home!

    • Kojo says:

      Hi Christina, we’re so glad to hear that you love this beautiful song by Childish Gambino. Without a shred of doubt, “Redbone” was one of the best songs of 2017. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us.

  2. SwishTom says:

    Can “Redbone” be classified as in the RAP genre as well? I love that song, and this is a doubt of mine ever since I saw how most of Childish’s songs are from this genre

  3. Gerardo Valenzuela says:

    Redbone….any connection to the band “redbone” from the 70″s?

  4. Mikall says:

    I think it also means, basically, what the article says plus “n—as creepin'” means dudes “creeping on her” and waiting for a moment for her to slip-up on her relationship to be sensually intimate with her. In other words, if she’s not careful and sleeps on his love (doesn’t appreciate it), she will find herself cheating on him and she’ll lose his love forever and she’ll never be able to find a real love like his due to her aloofness of it.

  5. Getitoverwith says:

    Redbone does not mean mixed or fair skin, that’s what yellowbone means, literally means a yellow undertone in their skin, Redbone refers to black women that are chocolate skin with a red undertone….Sick of people mixing those two up.

    • Bree says:

      Yes that annoys me as well. It’s obvious when someone picks up on African American terms and don’t really understand what it means. Redbone is a black women with red undertones- that’s all. Yellowbone is the one that is very lightskin black woman.

  6. Redbone gone woke, very sad. Gone after decades of listening. says:

    And when grandma hit you over the head with a no 9 frying pan, it don’t matter what color you are.

  7. Melmom618 says:

    Omg thank you all for clearing that up about the incorrect description of redbone! I re-read it 3 times thinking maybe I misunderstood what he was saying, but nope…..he is totally wrong and I appreciate you saying something!

  8. Melmom618 says:

    I mean the picture is literally of a “Redbone” woman with dark skin and red undertones. Lol

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