If anyone's going to make a statement that's just as powerful sonically as it is visually, it's Donald Glover. Over the years, his sound has become more and more cinematic (perhaps in line with his acting career), but with his last effort Awaken, My Love!, he's taken on more statements with his music. Childish Gambino slams society in his politically charged 'This Is America,' painting a dark picture of what America really is.
The music video is perhaps the most important element of the message. Beginning seemingly innocently with a gospel background and a jolly man playing some guitar, Glover cheerfully dances over before shooting the man in the back of the head. The quick change of pace serves as a stark reminder of perception versus reality. Throughout the video, Gambino is seen doing trendy moves and smiling, seemingly ignoring the consequences of his actions (shooting up a choir, for example) and the chaos around him. The whole idea of the video portrays the fact that while we all look at what's hip and new, we fail to see what's destroying us, as seen through the representations of gun violence and brutality.
The song itself really captures that sense of perception versus reality, too. The gospel choirs sing loudly and soulfully, adding to the African-American influences in the track. Gambino comes in with a beat change, ominously chanting "This is America / Don't catch you slippin' up" atop the new aggression. The choir returns for a refrain, before the aggressive beat comes back with another verse, with ad libs by Quavo, Young Thug, and 21 Savage (fellow Atlanta rappers who know all too well the message Glover is sending across). At the end of his verse, Gambino lays out the conditions of black America, and what they must rely on to survive: "Contraband, contraband, contraband / I got the plug on Oaxaca / They gonna find you that blocka."
When Donald Glover sets out to make a statement, he stops at nothing to achieve it. Childish Gambino slams society in his politically charged 'This Is America,' touching about black America, pop culture, and more and how it all adds up to hide whats truly going on under the surface. It's eyeopening and powerful, all the while being one hell of a song.
Rating: 90 / 100
Stream or buy 'This Is America' on Apple Music, and follow our 2018 Playlist on Spotify: