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Childish Gambino's This is America - Official Video, Lyrics, and Commentary

Author: Various Sources


[Intro: Choir]
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Yeah, yeah, yeah, go, go away
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Yeah, yeah, yeah, go, go away
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Yeah, yeah, yeah, go, go away
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Yeah, yeah, yeah, go, go away

[Bridge: Childish Gambino & Young Thug]
We just wanna party
Party just for you
We just want the money
Money just for you
I know you wanna party
Party just for me
Girl, you got me dancin’ (yeah, girl, you got me dancin’)
Dance and shake the frame
We just wanna party (yeah)
Party just for you (yeah)
We just want the money (yeah)
Money just for you (you)
I know you wanna party (yeah)
Party just for me (yeah)
Girl, you got me dancin’ (yeah, girl, you got me dancin’)
Dance and shake the frame (you)

[Chorus: Childish Gambino]
This is America
Don’t catch you slippin’ up
Don’t catch you slippin’ up
Look what I’m whippin’ up
This is America (woo)
Don’t catch you slippin’ up
Don’t catch you slippin’ up
Look what I’m whippin’ up

[Verse 1: Childish Gambino, Blocboy JB, Slim Jxmmi, Young Thug, & 21 Savage]
This is America (skrrt, skrrt, woo)
Don’t catch you slippin’ up (ayy)
Look at how I’m livin’ now
Police be trippin’ now (woo)
Yeah, this is America (woo, ayy)
Guns in my area (word, my area)
I got the strap (ayy, ayy)
I gotta carry ’em
Yeah, yeah, I’ma go into this (ugh)
Yeah, yeah, this is guerilla (woo)
Yeah, yeah, I’ma go get the bag
Yeah, yeah, or I’ma get the pad
Yeah, yeah, I’m so cold like yeah (yeah)
I’m so dope like yeah (woo)
We gon’ blow like yeah (straight up, uh)

[Refrain: Choir & Childish Gambino]
Ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh, tell somebody
You go tell somebody
Grandma told me
Get your money, Black man (get your money)
Get your money, Black man (get your money)
Get your money, Black man (get your, Black man)
Get your money, Black man (get your, Black man)
Black man

[Chorus: Childish Gambino, Slim Jxmmi, & Young Thug]
This is America (woo, ayy)
Don’t catch you slippin’ up (woo, woo, don’t catch you slippin’, now)
Don’t catch you slippin’ up (ayy, woah)
Look what I’m whippin’ up (Slime!)
This is America (yeah, yeah)
Don’t catch you slippin’ up (woah, ayy)
Don’t catch you slippin’ up (ayy, woo)
Look what I’m whippin’ up (ayy)

[Verse 2: Childish Gambino, Quavo, Young Thug, & 21 Savage]
Look how I’m geekin’ out (hey)
I’m so fitted (I’m so fitted, woo)
I’m on Gucci (I’m on Gucci)
I’m so pretty (yeah, yeah)
I’m gon’ get it (ayy, I’m gon’ get it)
Watch me move (blaow)
This a celly (ha)
That’s a tool (yeah)
On my Kodak (woo, Black)
Ooh, know that (yeah, know that, hold on)
Get it (get it, get it)
Ooh, work it (21)
Hunnid bands, hunnid bands, hunnid bands (hunnid bands)
Contraband, contraband, contraband (contraband)
I got the plug on Oaxaca (woah)
They gonna find you that blocka (blaow)

[Refrain: Choir, Childish Gambino, & Young Thug]
Ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh, tell somebody
America, I just checked my following list and
You go tell somebody
You mothafuckas owe me
Grandma told me
Get your money, Black man (Black man)
Get your money, Black man (Black man)
Get your money, Black man (get your, Black man)
Get your money, Black man (get your, Black man)
Black man
One, two, get down
Ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh, tell somebody
You go tell somebody
Grandma told me, “Get your money”
Get your money, Black man (Black man)
Get your money, Black man (Black man)
Get your money, Black man (Black man)
Get your money, Black man (Black man)
Black man

[Outro: Young Thug]
You just a Black man in this world
You just a barcode, ayy
You just a Black man in this world
Drivin’ expensive foreigns, ayy
You just a big dawg, yeah
I kenneled him in the backyard
No probably ain’t life to a dog
For a big dog

An Expert's Take on the Symbolism in Childish Gambino’s Viral ‘This Is America’ Video, By MAHITA GAJANAN, May 7, 2018, Time.

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

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 Gambino “could be anyone,” according to Ramsey. “You have him almost unadorned, as if he were totally without all the accoutrements of stardom,” he says, noting that Gambino dances in neutral colored pants, dark skin and with textured hair. “It’s just him, and therefore, it could be us.”

Gambino dancing with schoolchildren amid violence

Gambino and a group of kids clad in school uniforms dance throughout much of the “This Is America” video, smiling through impeccable moves as violence erupts behind them. The moment could be open to numerous interpretations — for example, Ramsey says, the dancers could be there to distract viewers in the same way black art is used to distract people from real problems plaguing America. But, Ramsey says, it’s better to absorb the video as a whole because America itself is a country of “very strange juxtapositions.”

“Even though we think of popular culture a a space where we escape, he’s forcing us to understand that there’s actually nowhere to run,” he says. “We have to deal with the cultural violence that we have created and continue to sustain.”

The style of dancing by Gambino in the video also calls out the way we consume culture. Gambino samples at least 10 popular dance moves derived from hip hop and African moves, including the South African Gwara Gwara dance, according to Forbes. Ramsey says the use of so many famous dance moves show how ultra-popular pieces of culture lose their specificity over time as they become more ubiquitous.

“It’s really a commentary on how much violence and contradictions there are in the consuming of pop culture, particularly in the violent elements of it,” he says. “With all the conspicuous consumption that global capitalism inspires, part of what we are consuming is this appetite for violence.”

The gunned down choir

Toward the middle of the video, a choir sings enthusiastically in a happy tone before Gambino shoots them all. The massacre and its quickness recall the 2015 Charleston shooting in which white supremacist Dylann Roof killed nine black people in a church basement, Ramsey says. The image and what it evokes shows how people struggle to reconcile with and separate different instances of violence, according to Ramsey. As we consume violence on all sorts of platforms, be it in the news, through music videos or television shows, it becomes difficult to absorb very real instances of mass murders.

“You can’t escape the violence,” Ramsey says. “But you’re being forced to separate how you feel about it in our digitized world. The virtual violence, the real violence, it’s all confused.”

Gambino running away in the closing moments

The final moments of the video show Gambino running, terrified, down a long dark hallway away from a group of people as Young Thug sings “You just a Black man in this world / You just a barcode, ayy.” Gambino’s sprint goes back to a long tradition of black Americans having to run to save their lives, according to Ramsey, who says one song dating back to slavery in the 19th century was called “Run N— Run.”

“A black person running for his or her life has just been a part of American culture dating back to slavery,” he says.

Unpacking all the references in Childish Gambino's phenomenal new video

The ‘Jim Crow’ pose, the dance moves, the Statue of Liberty, and what it all means

Text Natty Kasambala May 7, 2018

After a jam-packed night hosting and performing on SNL with new material, Donald Glover dropped a spectacular and timely new visual, as Childish Gambino, for his return track “This is America” on Saturday night.

In the video, we witness a slightly unhinged Gambino tackle the latest dance crazes as children dance and scatter around him in a chaotic parking lot that is no doubt meant to symbolise the nation of America. During the course of the video, we follow Gambino from space to space as he shoots a masked guitarist, mows down a church choir with a machine gun, and dances hard in between, before lighting up a joint and climbing onto a car for the final scenes. The video ends chillingly, with Gambino subsequently being chased through the dark. The final shot shows the fear flicker in his eyes as he strides to outrun the violent mob.

Directed by Glover’s longtime collaborator and Atlanta director Hiro Murai, there is so much to unpack in the visual beyond Gambino’s own erratic and brilliant performance. Arguably, the focus of the video is to illustrate just how easily we are distracted from the abhorrent truths of our society, when presented with the spectacle of pop culture through dance moves and viral content, just as Gambino’s dance moves distract us from the chaos constantly unfolding behind him. Here’s a breakdown of some of the most powerful elements of the video.


The most immediate feature of the video is the gun. By displaying the violence of the weapon so openly in the first scene, we are thrown into a state of shock from the get go – but the commentary goes further than that. Every time Childish executes someone with the weapon, a child rushes in to collect the firearm and carefully place it into a cloth before removing it from the scene. Conversely, when Childish Gambino shoots the first victim, the body is dragged from the scene as he walks on unstirred, while the church choir are left as a pile of bodies in disarray. Here, the disconnect between the care with which the gun is treated, in direct contrast with the blatant disregard for human life is both jarring and palpable; impossible to look away from. This is America.


It’s also been suggested that the pose Gambino pulls before shooting his first victim, played by artist Calvin the Second, is a reference to Jim Crow, a theatrical racist black stereotype created in the 19th century. The name was later used as the name for racial segregation laws in the US, before evolving once again into a term to describe the politics of mass incarceration in America by Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow.

Alongside the performative element of the video and the range of dramatic facial expressions pulled by Childish Gambino, he could be seen to embody different stereotypes throughout the video: from the violent aggressor, to the entertainer, to the hunted.

Shook by how fast I caught this reference. I haven’t seen a Jim Crow picture in years. Donald Glover did not come to play with y’all today.


The inclusion of a choir as the targets of Gambino’s sinister rampage has huge symbolism here. When we find the choir, they are actually sectioned off in a room removed from the commotion, somewhat innocently providing backing vocals for the track. Gambino enters the room innocuously and dances along before quickly becoming disinterested and murdering the members within seconds. As he exits the scene scot-free, crowds from the parking lot rush in the opposite direction and populate the once-quiet room.

The choir here likely makes reference to the particular menace of church shootings, such as those in Charleston and Sutherland Springs, as well as the vulnerable presence of religion within black communities.


Throughout the video, Childish Gambino and his youthful entourage use dance as a distraction from the brutality unfolding around them. This can be seen as a reflection of how we live and function in online spaces in 2018. The forums we use allow two opposing forces – of joy and horror – to coexist, as spectacles of black death and viral memes fill our feeds interchangeably. As Gambino rattles off the lyrics “hunnid bands, hunnid bands, hunnid bands, contraband, contraband, contraband”, he demonstrates a hip hop trope of drugs, money, and the pursuit of superficial success as a distraction topic from the real oppression and violence taking place on the ground.

While we watch the dancers in the foreground, scenarios of police brutality and rioting play out in the background. If you blink, you might miss a car on fire or a hooded figure riding across the screen on a white horse – thought to symbolise one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Death.

In true Black Mirror style, as the camera pans between shots, we also catch a glimpse of a few teens recording the events on their phones from a safe distance. In this way, pop culture content is (and always has been) both a subconscious smoke screen and a conscious coping mechanism for many.

Childish Gambino, "This is America"


Choreographed by Sherrie Silver, an African dance teacher and choreographer, the dancing itself has layers to it. Spanning across continents, Gambino and the children cover moves like ‘Shoot’, made viral by Memphis rapper Blocboy JB’s tune with Drake, ‘Look Alive’, all the way to the ‘Gwara Gwara’ a South African dance move gaining popularity worldwide (and performed by Rihanna at this year’s Grammys). This choice feels deliberate, giving the commentary global scale.


The new release contains many low-key collaborations with other artists, featuring ad libs and backing vocals from Blocboy JB, Young Thug, 21 Savage, Slim Jxmmi, and Quavo. Most strikingly, SZA makes a cameo leaning on a car after the chaos seems to have subsided. On Instagram, she later posted a picture of her from the shoot that suggests she was embodying a Lady Liberty watching on passively. The visual message is a clear comment on America’s hypocritical, poisonous rhetoric of ‘freedom’, while it abuses and silences the marginalized members of society.

‘This Is America’: Breaking down Childish Gambino’s powerful new music video

While hosting “Saturday Night Live,” Donald Glover dropped a music video for the new single “This Is America” by his rapper alter ego Childish Gambino. Watch it once, and your eyes will naturally be drawn to his movements and facial expressions. Watch it again, but focus on the chaos reigning in the background. Watch it a third time, and the reason for this juxtaposition becomes increasingly clear.

Let’s break it down.

“This Is America” begins with a man seated in a warehouse, playing a guitar. Many misidentified him as the father of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager killed in 2012. The man is actually Calvin the Second, a Los Angeles-based artist who shared on Instagram that he “got to be a part of history.”

The camera soon finds Glover. He stands behind Calvin the Second, whose head has been covered with a bag, and shoots him with a gun pulled out of his back pocket. As several have pointed out on Twitter, his stance while holding the weapon mimics that of the minstrel character Jim Crow, the origin of the term used to describe pre-Civil rights-era segregation laws.

Glover’s erratic dancing, choreographed by Sherrie Silver, distracts from everything happening in the background throughout the video — purposefully so, it would seem. Paired with exaggerated expressions like the one pictured above, his movements further the connection to minstrel shows, a form of entertainment popularized in the early 1800s that mocked black people in the United States. The stock characters were usually played by white people in blackface, though some all-black groups performed under white directors.

Glover’s character, who appears to represent how white American culture oppresses black people, periodically kills innocent performers. As a choir joyfully sings the refrain — “Get your money, black man, get your money” — Glover slips out from behind a door and dances in front of the choir. He is handed an assault weapon, shoots all 10 singers and walks away. The imagery evokes the 2015 Charleston church massacre, in which attendees of a prayer service were murdered by self-described white supremacist Dylann Roof.

As Glover tells listeners to “watch me move,” people in the background are chased by cops. A police car is parked in the viewers’ line of sight, and orange glares suggest fires burning throughout the warehouse.

The camera quickly glides past young people with their phones out as Glover says, “This a celly, that’s a tool.” Cellphones have been used to record police officers shooting or choking black people in the past few years.

As Glover continues to dance amid the chaos — with another police car parked in view — a hooded figure rides past on a white horse. Some on Twitter have drawn connections to the Horsemen of the Apocalypse from the New Testament’s Book of Revelation, in which death rides on a pale horse with hell following behind.

Calvin the Second plays his guitar with the bag on his head as Glover climbs atop a parked car. All the cars pictured — including the one SZA sits on, in a surprise cameo — arefrom the 1980s and 1990s,in contrast with the new, luxury vehicles often depicted in today’s music videos. Some Twitter users theorized that the cars’ age represents the “stalled socioeconomic and political mobility” of black Americans. Others pointed to images of vehicles during the 1992 Los Angeles riots, which began after a jury acquitted police officers of using excessive force while arresting (and beating) Rodney King.

The video ends with Glover chased down a dark hallway, and some point to the darkness behind him as a physical representation of the Sunken Place, a mental prison where the Armitage family matriarch sends black people in Jordan Peele’s “Get Out.” How fitting, then, that “Get Out” actor Daniel Kaluuya presented Glover’s performance of the song on SNL.

Whether this reference was intended, the video makes clear how black people have been trapped and/or harmed by American culture. Glover’s character keeps the darkness at bay by acting within white-imposed boundaries for most of the video — hence the rich depth of field, with his giddy dancing layered in front of violence — but it eventually catches up with him.

“This Is America” is a painful yet perfectly timed masterpiece, what Glover seems to do best.

DMU Timestamp: April 27, 2018 17:09