This is Donald Glover’s world and we are just living in it. Or maybe a better turn of phrase would be, this is Childish Gambino’s America and we are all complicit.
The actor / rapper / provocateur returned to his alter-ego this past weekend with some of his most challenging work yet. Taking to the Saturday Night Live stage as host and musical guest, he debuted two new pieces of original material; a steady groover in “Saturday” and a nightmare inducer in “This Is America.”
The latter, a melancholy opine on the fraught juxtaposition that is being black in America, engages with an initial spate of sanguine melodics before the bass kicks in and more ominous lyricism begins to preoccupy. ‘Look at how I’m livin’ now / Police be trippin’ now (woo) / Yeah, this is America (woo, ayy) / Guns in my area (word, my area)’ Gambino recites with ad-libs from a few cultural agitators in their own rights, Blocboy JB, Slim Jxmmi, Young Thug, and 21 Savage.
That lyrical contrast is central to the song’s portentous message, and when coupled with the Hiro Murai directed visuals, the examination of contradiction becomes stunningly exacerbated. In a cavernous warehouse the Gambino character ruthlessly murders black men and women, with dancing school children serving as unworried witness to the mayhem.
A dystopian outlook that is unfortunately all too familiar to many, engross yourself in the moment with a stream below, then support the art with a copy of your own c/o RCA Records.