An Expert’s Take on the Symbolism in Childish Gambino’s Viral ‘This Is America’ Video

Donald Glover released a new song and music video “This Is America” under his musical moniker Childish Gambino on Saturday Night Live this weekend — and the four-minute, single-take music video is laden with metaphors about race and gun violence in America.

The “This Is America” video, which has already racked up more than 20 million views on YouTube, reveals provocative imagery of the rapper as he guns down a choir at one point and dances while violence breaks out all around him. Childish Gambino/Glover‘s decision to wear just a pair of gray pants without a shirt in the video, allows viewers to identify with “his humanness,” as he raps about the violent contradictions that come with being black in America, says Guthrie Ramsey, a professor of music history at the University of Pennsylvania.

“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.”

Here’s Ramsay’s take on four key moments from “This Is America.”

The first gunshot
YouTube

The opening moments of “This Is America” show a man strumming a guitar alone to choral sounds. Within the first minute, Gambino shoots the man, who has been tied up with a head cover. Childish Gambino hands the gun to another man, who safely wraps it in a red cloth as the obscured man is dragged away. The moment goes right into the first rapped chorus: “This is America / Don’t catch you slippin’ up.”

Ramsay says the timing — that this happens during the song’s move from choral tones to a trap sound — allows Gambino to straddle contradictions and also allows the viewer to identify with his humanness.

“He’s talking about the contradictions of trying to get money, the idea of being a black man in America,” Ramsey says. “It comes out of two different sound worlds. Part of the brilliance of the presentation is that you go from this happy major mode of choral singing that we associate with South African choral singing, and then after the first gunshot it moves right into the trap sound.”

The early moment shows, too, that

Source:: Time – Entertainment

      

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