What People Are Saying About Childish Gambino’s ‘This Is America’

Written by Dana Sanchez

How we consume guns and violence as culture and entertainment — and then have to deal with it in our real lives — is at the heart of Childish Gambino’s new song and music video, Time reported.

Rapper, actor and producer Donald Glover released a new song and music video, “This Is America,” on Saturday Night Live. The four-minute music video was heavy with metaphors about race and gun violence in America.

Glover was both the host and the musical guest on SNL, performing two new songs. The performance and subsequent music video release of “This Is America,” is what had everyone talking, NPR reported.

In the video, Childish Gambino/Glover raps about the violent contradictions that come with being Black in America.

Less than three days after its release, the video has already amassed more than 39 million views on Youtube and ranks No. 5 on trending videos.

In the video, the rapper guns down a choir and dances as violence breaks out all around him, wearing just a pair of gray pants without a shirt. This allows viewers to identify with his vulnerability, according to Guthrie Ramsey, a professor of music history at the University of Pennsylvania, in a Time report:

“The central message is about guns and violence in America and the fact that we deal with them and consume them as part of entertainment on one hand, and on the other hand, is a part of our national conversation,” Ramsey tells TIME. “You’re not supposed to feel as if this is the standard fare opulence of the music industry. It’s about a counter-narrative and it really leaves you with chills.”

Rolling Stone described the scenario in “This Is America” as “a nightmare we can’t afford to look away from”:

In it, Glover showcases “a darker, more sinister vision than anything he’s done before,” according to Tre Johnson. Like the second season of Glover’s FX series, “Atlanta” (Robbin’ Season”), the audience is taken “on a macabre journey through a nation where entertainment is more important than justice. People are dying in ‘This Is America,’ but all they want us to do is sing and dance. It’s an upsettingly vivid illustration of the Faustian bargain that Black America makes on a regular basis, trading our bodies for our expression and freedom.”

“‘This Is America’ is about absorption,” Johnson wrote in Rolling Stone:

“Onscreen and in real life, the black body gets exposed to so much terror and injustice and keeps going. How does the black body endure, and in what ways or spaces is it allowed to live out its emotions?” … ‘Black Panther’ is about a hero who has the ability to absorb the violent energy thrown at him and reflect it back. But this is America, and while there are no superheroes here, Glover’s video calls back to the long history of black folks coming up with ways to barter our physical existence for a slice of the pie.”

The amount of buzz and coverage that “This Is America” is getting with its indictment on gun violence suggests it is likely to go even further, Business Insider reported.

It’s blowing up faster than some of the top trending videos of 2017, but it isn’t yet in the neighborhood of pop videos like “Despacito” and “Gangnam Style,” which got billions of views.

At the beginning of “This Is America,” sweet South African melodies suddenly give way to “this really dark Southern American trap music,” NPR Music hip-hop journalist Rodney Carmichael said. “The rest of the video is this barrage of symbolism and chaos”:

“I think in a lot of ways what Glover is trying to do is really bring our focus and our attention to Black violence, Black entertainment (and) the way they’re juxtaposed in society. They seem to cancel each other out in the greater public consciousness,” Carmichael explains.

Having recently earned Golden Globe awards for his FX show, “Atlanta”, Glover is using the spotlight “to bring attention to the perils of his people, especially following Kanye West’s controversial statements on slavery and public alignment with President Trump,” NPR reported:

“We’re really kind of grappling with what our entertainers at that level do with the spotlight they have on them; what kind of message are they projecting out into the world,” Carmichael says. “I think with Glover, he wants to be putting out the concerns of black folk, of folks who are voiceless in this world. And I think he wants to present it in a way where it’s as challenging to his audience as it is to those outside on a mass scale.”

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