Childish Gambino’s “This Is America” is One of the Best Music Videos in a Long Time

The cover for Childish Gambino's new hit single

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The cover for Childish Gambino's new hit single "This Is America."

Michael Quinn, Writer

Can you remember the last time you ever watched a music video? While there are definitely people that still watch them, many people tend to skip over them, only really taking a peek if there’s anything controversial in it. And no better music video represents this than the perfectly executed video for Childish Gambino’s latest single “This Is America.”

When he’s not an actor or a comedian or any of the countless professions Donald Glover, known as Childish Gambino by his music fans, is writing and producing music for his massive audience. Glover has been able to secure an immense following while juggling music with one of his other passions: filmmaking. His proficiency in these talents never ceases to amaze, with “This Is America” being a perfect fusion of his talents. For the first time in a while, the music seems to be the secondary item in this video because of how simply captivating it is. The details that were put into this video can be a little subtle to find them on the first watch, but rest assured you can go back and find them, as the video is good enough to require a second watch.

The video opens with a smooth and soulful choir of singers with a happy and calypso sounding beat in the back, with short lyrics about partying and dancing. A man sits playing an acoustic guitar in the forefront of the video, taking place in a lit parking garage. The video cuts away from the gleeful guitarist to show Glover, shirtless and wearing ragged, burlap-looking pants with no shoes, dancing cheerfully to the music. The video pans out to reveal the guitarist again, now with a bag over his head, as Glover pulls out a handgun and shoots the guitarist.

Suddenly, the beat switches to a tense, gritty trap beat with enough bass to give you a concussion. Glover begins his verses, repeating the lines “This Is America, Don’t catch you slippin’ up” with several trap inspired whooping refrains like ‘ayy’ and ‘skrrt.’ Glover dances in the same jolly style as before with a group of school children, only now the background is swarmed this chaos and villainy, all the while Glover is dancing without breaking a smile. The rest of the video follows this pattern of switching between beats and backdrops to reflect the rose-tinted America many people see and the dark and gritty America that is reality.

The video has subtleties front to back that many people have noticed as a collaborative. For example, the pose Donald strikes as he executes the guitarist at the beginning of the video is a reference to an original Jim Crow sketch penned in 1828, portraying a heavily discriminatory picture of African-Americans in general. Glover makes a very odd and noticeable facial expression where he winks one eye and aggressively widens the other, a possible reference to the character Uncle Ruckus of the adult cartoon The Boondocks, a shown known for its heavy African-American themes. In the backdrop of one shot of Glover’s dancing is white horse being rode by a hooded figure as a cop car trails behind him. This horse is a clear reference to the white horse of death foretold in the Bible as one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The cop car trailing behind could be symbolizing the controversy of police brutality and shootings involving the black community over the past several years. These are just a few of the details in the video and are but a fraction of the creative imagery that Glover has saturated this video in to get his message across. With this powerful song and video as the starter to what he claims will be his final album, it leaves much to be desired from Childish Gambino.