He’s everywhere! Music, movies, television, wherever you look he’s there. (And for good reason.) Comedian, artist, serious actor, singer, producer, DJ, songwriter… you may know him as Donald Glover or Childish Gambino but there is NO doubt that you know him.
He’s been on all the late night shows talking about Star Wars, hosting SNL (and acting in every skit as well as being the musical guest), he’s going to be Simba in the new Lion King in 2019 (more about that next week). This week, however, you can’t escape his new song and music video “This Is America” which has gone totally viral.
What CAN’T this guy do?
Donald McKinley Glover Jr. (born September 25, 1983) is an American actor, comedian, writer, director, producer, singer, songwriter, rapper, and DJ. He performs under the musical stage name Childish Gambino and as a DJ under the name mc DJ.
He first came to public attention for his work with Derrick Comedy while a student at New York University (NYU), and Tina Fey hired him at age 23 as a writer for the NBC sitcom 30 Rock. He later portrayed community college student Troy Barnes on the NBC sitcom Community. He stars in the FX series Atlanta, which he created and occasionally directs. For his work on Atlanta, Glover won various accolades, including Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series and Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series, and Golden Globe Awards for Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy and Best Actor – Television Series Musical or Comedy.
In film, Glover has appeared in Mystery Team (2009) Magic Mike XXL (2015), The Martian (2015), Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) as Aaron Davis, and as the young Lando Calrissian in Solo: A Star Wars Story. He will also provide the voice of Simba in a remake of the Disney film The Lion King (2019).
After several self-released albums and mix tapes, Glover signed to Glassnote Records in 2011. He released his first album, Camp, on November 15, 2011, to generally positive reviews. His second studio album, Because the Internet, was released on December 10, 2013. Glover’s third album, “Awaken, My Love!”, was released on December 2, 2016, spawning the single “Redbone” (which I have on repeat on my iPhone), which peaked at number 12 on the Billboard Hot 100, and eventually earned him a Grammy Award for Best Traditional R&B Performance. In 2017, Glover was named one of Time‘s 100 Most Influential People.
This is America.
Warning… there are graphic scenes in this video. Profound, alarming, necessary graphic scenes. Watch… then we’ll discuss.
The song is visually stimulating from the beginning. Over South African-sung melodies, an African Amercian gentleman sitting down (looking very much like the father of Trayvon). It’s so striking that he utilises tribal dances and current popular dance moves whilst there is action in the background. This is to illustrate how we overlook many of the social issues and focus on entertainment. His use of a minstrel-like smile is a bit terrifying, if I’m being honest. There are many shocking things in this video, the use of guns on the man in the chair AND the choir, the way the guns are very carefully taken from him and placed (almost reverently) on a red cloth. The symbolism is really powerful.
There is a definite Jim Crow-esque overtone, teenagers dressed in school uniforms dancing with guns and an over-exuberant African American Gospel Choir.
According to NPR music hip-hop journalist Rodney Carmichael
“I think in a lot of ways what Glover is trying to do is really bring our focus and our attention to black violence, black entertainment [and] the way they’re juxtaposed in society. They seem to cancel each other out in the greater public consciousness,” Carmichael explains.
The closing scene of the four-minute video shows the artist running from a mob of people with an expression of horror on his face.
“It feels to me like it’s a black man running from a lynch mob,” Carmichael says. Some have also taken the scene to depict him trying to escape “The Sunken Place,” a reference to Jordan Peele’s 2017 racial horror film, Get Out. “Either way, it is representative of this history of violent white supremacy.”