Decoding Childish Gambino's Stunning "This Is America" Visual

Gambino's return to music also comes with poignant messages about our culture. 

Childish Gambino's shift in sound on his 2016 Awaken, My Love! album left many wondering what would follow. As Atlanta's "Robbin Season" winds down and Star Wars SZN heats up, the artist has marked his final trek as his musical moniker with a gripping visual for "This Is America," an ode to today's ways of the world throughout music's colorlines.

Directed by longtime collaborator Hiro Murai, the video provides deep reflection into America's polarizing narratives of racial conflict, police brutality, and how we as people of color deal with it all. Gambino and producer Ludwig Göransson toy with a playful intro before getting into the skeleton of the track. With strategic assistance from 21 Savage, Young Thug, BlocBoy JB and Slim Jxmmi, Gambino points out the normality of the culture's biggest problems. It doesn't hurt that it carries a primal bop.

As the video carried conversations Sunday (May 6), it was quickly swallowed by fans, critics and those curious about Gambino's current mission. Murai and Gambino's visual take on "This Is America" is a journey between living a self-reliant life while carrying the burden social misconstructs on our shoulders.

With so much to unpack in four minutes, here are some revelations:

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1. The "Jump, Jim Crow" Pose 

One of the first images that sticks out is Gambino's uncanny silhouette to the Jim Crow. Penned in 1828 by white minstrel performer Thomas Dartmouth (T.D.) "Daddy" Rice, the recording "Jump, Jim Crow" marks the journey of yakubians mocking African-Americans in popular music. 'Bino pulling the trigger on the blinded also highlights how we've adapted the mockery in our everyday doings. While busting out a few body rolls, the artist mocks The Boondocks infamous character Uncle Ruckus.

 

2. A Salute To Richard Pryor 

There's something to be said about the creativity that goes into flipping black pain into art. 'Bino has plenty of icons to channel this energy like the late Richard Pryor. His quick homage mirrors Pryor's The Anthology 1968-1992 comedy album. Throughout the album, Pryor makes eerie jokes about police brutality and racial unrest that still happens today.

The photos from the album cover featured Pryor with a gun and an American flag as the backdrop. It was special theme highlighted in iconic photographer Henry Diltz's photos. He did a similar photoshoot with fellow icon David Crosby.

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happy 4/20 America. keep smokin’ em.

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3. Mumble Rap's Avenger Squad

Instead of pulling a Thanos on the mumble-trap world, Gambino brings together the artists who are leading it. While many things have been said about sub-genre, their ad-libs permeating though "This Is America" keep your head bobbing. While artists like Kendrick Lamar and J.Cole have been more vocal in social issues, 21 Savage, Young Thug, BlocBoy JB and Slim Jxmmi have done so in other ways. Whether it's providing school supplies to children or playing caretaker to family members, the music they're shunned for making has helped changed their lives for the better.

READ: What Have Young Thug And Childish Gambino Got Cooking?

4. The Children Are Always Watching

They say listen to the kids, but most of the time, they're listening to us. From the start of "This Is America," children rocking uniforms are following Gambino's dance moves (by choreographer Sherrie Silver) as police clash with protesters. One kid is also seen with a Cash Cannon on the roof of a car while others are recording the many juxtapositions on their phones. As the scenes get shorter, the underlying messages get more poignant, showing just how troublesome our attention spans are getting. It also brings about the connection of African and black dance moves like Blockboy's shoot dance to the South African Gwara Gwara.

5. Swimming in the Lack of Luxury

Trends come and go, but some memories rest peacefully in nostalgic culture. A number of Toyotas are seen in one of the closing scenes like the Toyota Tercel 4wd Wagon, the Toyota Corolla AE90 Sedan and the Toyota Corolla KE70 Wagon. With all vehicles dating to the late 70s-80s, it hold's true to Murai's vision of America adapting foreign (in this case Japanese) ideas as our own without merit. We're also blinded by the message with a SZA cameo and Calvin The Second, not Trayvon Martin's father. 

READ: Trayvon Martin’s Dad Was Not In Childish Gambino’s “This Is America” Video

6. Black Bodies, Mental Health < The Strap

America's obsession with guns is a stronger duo than peanut butter and jelly. This is showcased multiple times in "TIA," from the reference to the Charleston Nine, to the dragging of bodies. The careful handling of guns by the adult (Gambino) and the children also distracts us from the mental anguish we suffer throughout these times. With May being Mental Health Awareness month, 'Bino points to this with a man falling to his death as the dance party continues.

7. A Message from Stephon Clark

It's unknown how long Gambino took to create his new tunes, but elements from recent police shootings are strongly referenced. The lyric, "This a celly (ha), That's a tool (yeah)," is an ode to Stephon Clark, who died at the hands of police in March when officers used deadly force after mistaking a cell phone for a weapon. Cops and protesters are chasing each other to push their messages as the body count continues.

8. Horseman of the Apocalypse

One of the most chilling references is the most subtle. As unrest continues, a reference to one of The Four Horsemen of the apocalypse comes to a clear view. Highlighted in the Book of Revelation via the Bible, they differentiate in meaning. The white horse holds elements related to death, conquest or at times, the Antichrist.

9. The Ending is a Full Circle Moment

'Bino does a fine job of placing all of the above elements together as the end shows his spirit catching up to the harrowing reality that is America. Inalienable truths will always be on the horizon. Pieces of Young Thug's final words on the track sum it up perfectly, "You just a Black man in this world, You just a barcode." As Gambino runs from the sunken place (hint: Get Out star Daniel Kaluuya introduced Glover's performance of "This Is America" on SNL) he's telling us all to do the same.

Rewatch the video for the fifty-eleventh time above.

READ: ‘Atlanta’s’ Music Supervisors Aren’t Breaking Records, They’re Educating The Youth

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Thundercat, Juicy J, Ariana Grande And More Pay Tribute To Mac Miller For 27th Birthday

It's not lost on many just how much Mac Miller's influence affects today's lovers of hip-hop. The rapper and songwriter's passing was a blow to the industry last year as he seemed to be hitting a special space in his creative journey.

With today (Jan. 19) being what would've been his 27th birthday, friends and musical partners are sharing stories and messages of love about their favorite Capricorn.

Frequent collaborator and friend Thundercat shared on Twitter a moment Mac helped create with the "Them Changes" artist and his family. "All three of us were in the same room, playing and creating and enjoying music with Mac," he tweeted about an impromptu session with his brothers and Mac.

"Mac was and always will be a special dude, he was definitely Lebowski to me. I will always remember a man I considered to be another one of my real brothers and best of friends in the short time we got to spend together. I miss him so much every day."

See more touching messages from Mac's friends below.

Mac was hands down one of thee freshest people I’ve met so far in life, never a dull moment. I’ll share one of my favorite moments with you guys on this most dope day. I always enjoyed getting a chance to work with him, we would spend days at a time...

— ashy daddy (@Thundercat) January 19, 2019

..Creating music, playing music and introducing each other to new music all the time. This is the day he met my brothers @drummaboiblue1 & @_K_I_N_T_A_R_O_ it was a bit of a whirlwind how it all happened because at separate times they both came flying...

— ashy daddy (@Thundercat) January 19, 2019

...through the studio door at separate times of the late night. My older brother @drummaboiblue1 kicked the door in and starts rapping and making hip hop hands at Mac who was sitting at the computer and it was so intense he just turned and looked at me like..

— ashy daddy (@Thundercat) January 19, 2019

...”Holy shit, this is your brother?” I didn’t know what to expect next because it could have easily gone south, but I got a chance to see what made Mac so special. My brother is hands down the most amazing drummer in the world *dont at me* and what I saw...

— ashy daddy (@Thundercat) January 19, 2019

...from Mac really stays in my heart because I watched him turn my older brothers energy into creative energy by challenging him about the title of best drummer in the world, and handing him pots & pans and things from around the studio and the house...

— ashy daddy (@Thundercat) January 19, 2019

..shortly after Mac turns to me & says “hey man your brother @_K_I_N_T_A_R_O_ is gonna come by, I immediately felt like there was a possibility that this would be overwhelming for Mac, as I have seen from past situations in life experience with people & us..

— ashy daddy (@Thundercat) January 19, 2019

...but none the less, all three of us were in the same room, playing and creating and enjoying music with Mac. For those that don’t see the significance, music and family can be a very intense experience in itself in life (if you know, you understand)....

— ashy daddy (@Thundercat) January 19, 2019

...it’s not always so easy and lighthearted like everyone would like to imagine it is however as it may be, the night went on,and the moment passed. Since that moment me and my brothers never really would be in that same setting and satire for years...

— ashy daddy (@Thundercat) January 19, 2019

...the reason that this story is so special is because while we were working on what’s the use, he started going through old music and came across that song, when he played it I began to tear up and I had to keep myself together because it was so special...

— ashy daddy (@Thundercat) January 19, 2019

...that he captured it! Almost like a photo. he turned to me and reminded me of how wild that night was and we had a good laugh about it and continued working. No one really owns any recordings of us like that, so it was really special to me...

— ashy daddy (@Thundercat) January 19, 2019

...Mac was and always will be a special dude, he was definitely Lebowski to me. I will always remember a man I considered to be another one of my real brothers and best of friends in the short time we got to spend together. I miss him so much every day...

— ashy daddy (@Thundercat) January 19, 2019

...he changed my life in a real way. Thank you @MacMiller Happy Birthday! pic.twitter.com/4HVdwj2fMs

— ashy daddy (@Thundercat) January 19, 2019

miss u.

— Ariana Grande (@ArianaGrande) January 19, 2019

Happy birthday Mac Miller! pic.twitter.com/DT31Smpbqt

— Hi-Tek (@HiTek) January 19, 2019

Happy Birthday @MacMiller. Love You Always & Forever

— THE INTERNET (@intanetz) January 19, 2019

Smile today - Mac Miller ❤️ pic.twitter.com/l5rmQDu5XE

— Karen Civil (@KarenCivil) January 19, 2019

 

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damn i miss this so much! i miss jamming with you and writing with you and talking about anything and everything. just watching you produce was my favorite. i miss the way you used to support me in everything that i did. i miss your smile and your tight ass hugs. i love you. happy birthday to a legend.

A post shared by NJOMZA (@notnjomza) on Jan 19, 2019 at 10:07am PST

Happy birthday to one of the purest artists I’ve ever known, Mac Miller 🙏🏾 RIP https://t.co/e8IIGaRjhx

— Talib Kweli Greene (@TalibKweli) January 19, 2019

we miss you and love you Mac Miller happy birthday

— rex orange county (@rexorangecounty) January 19, 2019

Happy bday to my brother Mac Miller i miss my bro every day https://t.co/pXAn552l1w

— juicy j (@therealjuicyj) January 19, 2019

happy birthday Mac! 👼 tell your friends you love em twice as much.

— bear (@6LACK) January 19, 2019

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20 Hip-Hop And R&B Albums That Went Platinum With No Features

Once upon a time, successful artists considered receiving a gold or platinum certification from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) as a rite of passage to legendary status, especially if they did it on their own. Up until 2016, elite hip-hop and R&B artists were awarded plaques after one million units in album sales were sold. Now, any artist with music that goes viral overnight can join the platinum club.

After the RIAA modernized its rules for obtaining gold & platinum status in 2016, the music industry has been flooded with gold and platinum recipients, and it will only become more saturated over time. However, any rapper or R&B singer who sells over a million units without the help of outside artists should be heralded like the icons who came before them.

Since the 1980s, plenty of hip-hop and R&B artists have gone platinum with memorable music that will live on forever, but only a select few have made history by reaching platinum status without featured artists. Here are 19 albums (and mixtapes) that went platinum without other musical guests on the compilation.

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Genres Aside, Here Are Our 25 Favorite Songs Of 2018

Keeping up with all of the music from 2018 was a full-time job, with loads of songs releasing every week and not enough ears to keep track. But the volume of music comes with an advantage: there’s something for everybody. Fittingly, our list of the 25 Best Songs of 2018 represents the multi-genre mayhem that is in everyone’s playlists this year.

Some of the entries on our list, like cuts by Drake, Travis Scott and Childish Gambino, were at the forefront of the conversation in 2018, dominating streaming services and radio around the country. Indie darling Saba made waves, and he’s included here as well. Jazz wizard Kamasi Washington dropped some of the best protest music of the year. But there are also some songs on this year’s list that spoke to the VIBE Tribe in a different way. Cardi B had hits all year, but an album cut impressed us most; Usher and Zaytoven’s new album didn’t make a huge splash commercially, but one of its songs appears here. And Beyonce appears on one of the best songs of the year that never even saw an official release–but that didn’t stop us from including it here.

Music broke the rules this year, and so did we. Read below, and tell us what surprise choices are making your songs of the year list.

READ MORE: Debate Us: The 30 Best Albums Of 2018

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