Childish Gambino Speaks About Black Oppression in “This Is America” (Lyrics Review and Song Meaning)
Childish Gambino’s latest single “This Is America” is many things. It is a very well composed track with a unique beat. It has a very strong theme or a meaning supporting it. Also, the song is accompanied by a very powerful and effective music video. We will break down each of these in the latter parts of this article.
“This Is America” is Gambino’s first single after an extended hiatus since 2016 album release. As of now, there is no mention of an album related to this single. However, this unique track is already achieving substantial commercial and critique success. The song also features guest vocals by Quavo, 21 Savage and Young Thug.
In a nutshell, “This Is America” talks about the social issues in the United States of America. The entire song revoles around gun violence and Black oppression in the country-which is given a blind eye by the authorities. Gun violence statistics are on the rise, supported by the aministrative bodies, and Black oppression is on the rise with separatist ideologies.
Watch “This Is America” Music Video
The music video directed by Hiro Murai, shows Childish Gambino doing some amazing and unique dance choreography to the beat of the music. The music video is carnage, as Gambino does a carefree dance choregraphy, all sorts of hell break lose in the background.
Gambino shoots an innocent guitarist and a group of choir crew quite mercilessly, showing how heartless America has become now. The even cringier part is that both times Gambino’s gun is greeted by a red satin clothe. Red satin clothes symbolize power, wealth, influence and even nobility. So, is he hinting that gun violence occurs under the shade of the powerful? Also, the guns, at both instances, are accepted on this red platter (sort of) while the dead bodies are dragged away. The video is clearly saying guns have a better place in society than a Black life.
In a blurred backdrop, we see mobs chasing mobs, fights, burning vehicles, police cars without police and even a white horse rider. The horse is predicted to portray one of the Four Horsemen of Apocalypse. The dance of Childish and the school children distract the viewers from the real violence that is going on in the background-much like what happens in the real world.
Gambino is dressed in a grey pant, which looks quite out of place from the modern world. This dress looks awefully lot similar to what African American slaves used to wear back in the days.
Gambino is also aided with his crimes and dance choreography by what it seems like a group of school children. This is a clear indication that the school system is corrupted with violence now.
We have to give props to Donald Glover AKA Childish Gambino for his amazing dance choreography. It’s uniqueness has really set the video on a viral track.
Lyrics Review and Song Meaning of “This Is America”
The choir has been an integral part of the African American community and “This Is America” is often flooded with choir vocals. However, later on in the video, Gambino shoots down an entire choir group, probbaly sparking the memory of Charleston shooting inside a church, which cost the lives of 9 African American Methodists.
Young Thug supports Gambino is performing these lyrics. This entire bridge speaks about the lifestyle of African Americans in the US. They just want to party and live free. They mean no harm to any other race or culture, but they are still being hunted down.
The chorus happens right after both the murders as the tone intensifies from a soft-happy and a cheerful melody to a right down aggressive tone. The chorus goes on repeat how what is shown in the video is a portrayal of America. What Gambino is ‘whipping’ is a pistol and what seems like an AK47 in the latter instance. Although, ‘whipping’ is more in line with ‘making’ something, the context suggests it means what he is carrying on him.
Watch Gambino Perform “This Is America” Live on SNL
Verse one of “This Is America” is a combined effort of Gambino, Young Thug and 21 Savage.
Gambino goes on talking about how police turns a bling eye towards the injustices happening, mostly because they, too, are responsible for a lot of it. He also speaks about the very lose rules and regulations being practised when it comes to gun control in the country. Most people are trying to glorify the owning of a gun. Slang such as being ‘strapped’ often soften the image of the real threat of guns.
Getting ‘the bag’ could be a reference to getting a bag of money from rapping, and he says if he doesn’t, he will hit back to his pad and paper and continue writing until he cashes out.
This section is a huge slap to the social injustice prevailing in the country.
Black man has no way out of this oppression unless he makes himself a fortune and buys his respect. So, we hear Gambino screaming at the Black man to go make their money. However, the last two lines turn into an even worse cringe as “get your money” outcry transforms into “get your black man” chant. This is a very strong hint at the slavery memories upon which the country has been built on.
In verse 2 of “This Is America,” Childish Gambino says how easily people are manipulated and distracted by popular culture that they fail to see or completely ignore the real issues at hand. Some people geek out, some people focus on getting fit, a few others on luxury products, a lot more fixate on their looks, and a whole lot more focused on making it. So, artists such as Gambino and Kendrick Lamar try their best to not let these harsh realities bury down the dunes of time.
Drugs, illegal weapons, and even human trafficking some of the things being sold to the highest bidder, oftentimes in open market as well.
The outro of this song is completely performed by Young Thug. This solemn cry is about being a Black man in white country and the harsh realities of it. You could probably be a big dog in the country, but there still will be a bigger dog biting you down.
The excessive facial expressions on Gambino’s face is an enactment of Jim Crow, who was a theatre character created by Thomas D. Rice for plays of African-Americans. In these theatricals, white men would wear black paint on their faces and over-act the facial expressions to ‘imitate’ the African Americans as per their idea.
This song is an absolute pleasure to listen to, watch and even try to understand the lyrics. We had fun in annotating these lyrics and trying to uncover the meaning. Hope you did as well.
If you have any other explanations of the lyrics of the song, do let us know in the comments below. Also, make sure to share this with your friends.
Here are some hidden messages in the music video by The Insider: