Hatred, violence and racial stereotypes within American culture were forced into the forefront of mainstream rap on May 5 when Donald Glover, also known as Childish Gambino, released his new hit song and music video, “This is America.”
The powerful lyrics that convey raw emotion in the rap song add depth and personality to rap music today. Music nowadays almost always speaks to youth’s ideology about actions such as illegal drug abuse or alcoholism. Glover brings extremely difficult and taboo topics into the spotlight of mainstream culture.
Glover embeds tough topics into his lyrics such as police brutality, poverty and gang violence. In the song “Look at how I’m livin’ now/ Police be trippin’ now (woo),” Glover states. “Yeah, this is America (woo, ayy)/ Guns in my area (word, my area).”
Concluding the song, Glover speaks about the racial inequality in America today and how minorities are treated as if they are lesser than Caucasian Americans: “You just a Black man in this world/ You just a barcode, ayy/ You just a Black man in this world/ Drivin’ expensive foreigns, ayy/ You just a big dawg, yeah/ I kenneled him in the backyard/ No proper life to a dog/ For a big dog.”
The song has an extremely powerful message behind the dark lyrics, and the music video contains many subliminal messages pertaining to racial stereotypes.
The entire music video is drenched with allusions that reference current and past media. Focusing on social commentary, political controversy and Biblical implications.
As Glover dances around the abandoned warehouse where the video takes place, he is dressed in a pair of linen pants without a shirt on and many do not realise the context behind his choice of wardrobe.
The pants Glover is sporting are stereotypical pair that the Jim Crow caricature wears to stereotype African-Americans in the deep South. To further emphasize the caricature of Jim Crow, Glover mimics stereotypical movements and facial expressions of African-Americans depicted during the time when America struggled with equal civil rights.
Glover also includes allusions and reference to the Bible, as well as a 2015 Charleston, S.C., church massacre.
A man wearing a black hooded cloak can be seen in the background behind Glover and his supporting dancers. This is a direct reference to Death, a Horseman of the Apocalypse from the Book of Revelation. This Biblical reference can be easily missed by those who are distracted by the riot and dancing within the scene.
Another reference that can be implied within the video is in relation of the Charleston church massacre. Glover takes an assault rifle to a church choir who is singing about materialism, murdering every them all. In 2015, a white supremacist killed nine churchgoers during a prayer service.
“This is America” is an extremely powerful and eye-opening experience. Everyone should listen and watch the music video at least once to see one side of many socio-political arguments and commentary within America today.
Glover addresses the struggle in today’s society and some of the major flaws that American culture perpetuates. “This is America” is lyrical genius, and the music video is truly raw. It is an experience that all should partake in, even if it’s just for Gambino’s rhymes.
To check out the video for yourself, the link is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VYOjWnS4cMY