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

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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Hip-hop may have become the Nielsen Music-declared most dominant music genre, but let's not overlook the strides R&B (including all its many sub-genres and cousin genres) have taken on the airwaves and within the culture in this year alone.

While persistent naysayers keep peddling the tired argument that "R&B is dead," the most recent news cycle has proven the exact opposite, as talks of a supposed King of R&B dominated discussions both on- and offline. Jacquees' lofty declaration notwithstanding, there's no denying that there are ample songs swimming around the 'Net from talented vocalists killing it within the genre.

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J.Cole, Teyana Taylor And Other Snubs Of The 2019 Grammy Nominations

It's that time of year again when inner circles and strangers on the Internet debate who's up for a gramophone.

On Friday (Dec. 7), the nominees for 2019's Grammy Awards (Feb. 10) were announced to a span of hot takes, early but informed predictions, and a wall of confusion as to why certain artists were overlooked. While some entertainers excitedly received the good news (Cardi B discovered her nods while leaving a courthouse), others were left scratching their heads.

Here's a look at why those who were snubbed by the Recording Academy deserved to be nominated.

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5 Stories From Meek Mill's #CRWN Conversation That Flew Under The Radar

Meek Mill made his return to Elliot Wilson's #CRWN conversation on Sunday (Dec. 2) for an in-depth discussion of Championships, his behind-bars experience and prison reform.

Live from New York City’s Playstation Theatre, the stage was set with two throne-like chairs as Mill and Wilson's fans began to swarm through the packed house. Loaded with fans from Philly, Jersey and NYC alike, the crowd was buzzing in anticipation for Meek’s grand arrival. Introduced by Wilson, the veteran journalist briefed in-house and live-streamed listeners with his relationship with the Philly rapper, discussing the many times the two have linked “from the MMG days to now.”

“It’s just amazing to see how he’s continued to fight this adversity and continued to deliver great music,” says Wilson, engaging in a back and forth conversation with the crowd. “When you put out a title and say you’re going to name your album Championships, you better deliver,” Wilson continues. “And he delivered.”

Appearing on stage sporting a mid-length fur coat and glistening jewels, Meek and Wilson exchange a quick embrace as the live audience jumps to its feet to welcome their champion. Taking his experience to lean into activism, Meek engaged in a 90-minute conversation with the journalist, answers fan-questions and candidly tell his story as he sees fit.

But as tabloid fate would have it, one of the sole stories to come out of the meaningful conversation was his awkward date with then-girlfriend Nicki Minaj, Jay-Z and Beyonce. The memories Meek decided to share like adorable moments with his son, his newfound position in the battle for criminal justice reform and recording Championships fell to the wayside.

But don't fret. Here are some other memorable moments from the interview.

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1. Meek's Best Day in Jail Included a Visit From Kevin Hart

Meek's final day in jail was similar to the others. He woke up, successfully avoided jail food by making his morning oatmeal and knew his day was heading in a good direction when he won five consecutive ping pong games against his daily opponent– who want the smoke?

After heading back to his cell, Meek's day got a whole lot better when Kevin Hart and 76ers co-owner Michael Rubin had pulled up on him by surprise. "They come on the block and I was like, 'Man come in my cell and see how this sh*t look,'" Meek starts. "So Kevin Hart and Mike, they come in the cell and they like 'It's not that bad,' they tryna make me feel good, I'm like 'The hell you mean it's not that bad? I got my boxers hanging up on the f**king string'" the rapper jokingly recalls. After the much-needed hour-long visit, Meek returned to his daily jailhouse activities when he learned that he would be released from jail within hours. What a day.

2. Friends and Family Would Send Him IG Post Printouts Through Mail

When Meek packed his cell to go home, he had over 10,000 photos to sift through since his tribe brought the world of Instagram to him through the mail. "I used to tell everybody like, 'Yo, just send me everything that's going on on Instagram, I wanna see everything that's  going on in life.'"

The rapper separated his photos by importance, keeping the photos of his family in a separate pile with his other pile (filled with pictures of all the IG models and famous ladies) holding a different level of importance to those who stood behind bars with him. "It was valuable cause some guys in there they got 25 years in this s**t, they ain't never see the fake a**es yet and the girls with the new bodies, so you know, they all in my cell like, 'What's up with these pictures?'"

3. He Purposely Steered Away From Lending Tekashi 6ix9ine Advice

While breaking down Championships cut "Respect the Game," Meek spoke on hip-hop's freshman class including Tekashi 6ix9ine, Lil Durk and YoungBoy NBA. "[Tekashi] used to be poppin' so much sh*t on Instagram, I be like 'I don't even wanna say nothing to this young boy, this young boy start sayin' all this crazy sh*t to me on the internet," he joked.

On a more serious note, Meek speaks on the real issue he had with 6ix9ine, sharing his concern for the 22-year-old's habits in starting drama with some of hip-hop's most dangerous faces. "With my music, I wanted to reach all of 'em," he said, explaining how when the music speaks for itself, you don't need to ensue controversy to sell records.

4. His 7-Year-Old Son Already Has a Rapper Name

Give it 10 years and we might see Meek Mill's son on the Billboard charts. Answering a fan question about "Lil Drip," Meek clarifies that Lil Drip is actually his son Papi's, rapper name. "Sometimes I be in the studio I be like 'Yo, I give you $500 if you go in the booth and rap right now and he just go in the booth and lay it.'" Sampling a few adorable bars, Meek reveals that his son consistently shocks him with his material, bringing up some of the most trivial experiences he's shared with Meek.

"He be like, 'Private jet/ Who I met/ Ben Simmons/ That's a bet,'" spits Meek, referring to a previous birthday trip he's taken with Papi.

5. Jay-Z's Verse on "What's Free" Was a Pivotal Moment in Meek's Career

A Jay and Meek collaboration has been a long time coming. In Meek's promotional single "Stay Woke" featuring Miguel, the rapper spits, "When I talked to Em and Hov, they said, "I'm proud of you/ You stood tall back when everyone doubted you"/ My reply is, "I did what I gotta do/ And I need that verse 'fore you retire too."

During the conversation, Meek speaks on "What's Free" with Rick Ross and Jay-Z, remembering the first time he heard Jay's 44 bar verse. "When I got it back I was in the bathroom, I was just standing in the mirror listening to it," he says while bopping his head, fully immersing himself in the moment.

"I represent the path that HOV created," Meek tells Wilson. "I always wanted that Jay-Z feature and he came through this time, shout out to HOV."

Stream the entire conversation here.

READ MORE: Meek Mill Recalls Awkward Double Date With Jay-Z, Beyonce, And Nicki Minaj

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