Meaning of “Redbone” by Childish Gambino

Redbone is a song by American actor and singer Donald Glover (also known by the moniker Childish Gambino). “Redbone” is a colloquial term used to refer to a Black person of fair complexion or a mixed-race person, and such a woman is the focus of this song. In the song, Childish Gambino is admonishing his “redbone” girlfriend for failing to give him the satisfaction he desperately craves for. He goes on to tell her to stay alert (“stay awoke”) because that is the only way their relationship can ever work.

Redbone lyrics

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 and that 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.
  • The song was released on November 17, 2016 as the second single from Gambino’s third studio album Awaken, My Love!
  • Redbone is a classic example of a sleeper hit in the sense that it debuted at number 75 in December 2016 and almost a year later in August 2017, it re-entered the chart and peaked at number 12.
  • Till 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.

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: Record of the Year, Best Traditional R&B Performance, and Best R&B Song. 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 Redbone?

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.

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

11 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.

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