Childish Gambino dropped his new track, ‘This is America’ alongside a haunting music video during his performance on Saturday Night Live this past weekend.
Ludwig Goransson is back with Gambino on this fused-up, gospel, trap-hip-hop madness. Longtime visual collaborators Hiro Murai and Ibra Ake are present too, thus it only makes sense they would produce an explicit and exciting piece.
Gambino contrasts images of gun violence, mass shootings, Jim Crow-esque brutality and apocalyptic chaos with pastimes of popular culture, dance and celebration, social media and materialism.
I think the intention here is to firstly, portray directly just how crazy America still is. For example at 00:52, Gambino shoots a tied up black man. In an article on OkayPlayer, Abiola Oke believes it is a reference to a 1828 performance titled “Jump Jim Crow”, where a white comedian imitated a disabled black man. It could also serve as a reminder that graphic events such as these are still happening in America today – police brutality and radical right-wing activity spring to mind considering they’re at the forefront of daily news broadcasts.
Secondly, Gambino deals with how easily distracting popular culture can be while painful reality plagues America. At 02:36, Gambino has school children dancing around him while chaos ensues in the background – a car burns while people flee and a hooded man dressed in black rides a white horse across the chaotic warehouse. The man is an ominous figure and conjures up images from the biblical story of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse, implying the end is nigh if things carry on like this.
It is a dark and intense portrayal of 21st century America. Watch the video below.
Follow Saul on Twitter.