It's been some weekend for Childish Gambino. The rapper, actor, writer, DJ, comedian and all-out superstar polymath hosted Saturday Night Live this weekend as well as appearing as the show's musical guest. Gambino began the show with the accustomed opening monologue, littered the show with various sketches, and performed two tracks, the first material we've heard from Gambino since his "Awaken, My Love" album in 2016.
The first of Gambino's two performances on SNL was 'Saturday' introduced by Zoe Kravitz (daughter of Lennie) the open-shirted Gambino danced through this uplifting funk number and brought the party to SNL, the obvious focal point of a stage arrangement which included friends sat around drinking from plastic cups and playing dominoes.
However, it was Gambino's second track of the night which really spun the world on its head, not for the SNL performance, but for the music video which he dropped whilst SNL was being aired. 'This is America' tackles issues of racism, police brutality, gun violence and representation. The video amassed 10m views in under 24 hours and sent the internet into a frenzy as people deciphered the messages in the video and conversation was sparked around the meaning of his various topics.
*This video is not for the squeemish!
Gambino, real name Donald Glover, smiles and dances through the 4 minute video with intermittent chaotic scenes such as shooting a man in the head and opening fire on a gospel choir with an assault rifle, you'll probably have to watch it a number of times to capture what is going on around Glover but let's take you through some of the topics that have been discussed on social media over the past few days.
1. Guns are treated better than people.
The start of the video sees Gambino shoot a man in the back of the head, whilst the gun is safely wrapped in a cloth and taken away, the man's body is dragged out of shot.
2. Cultural Appropriation
Gambino dances throughout the video whilst chaos ensues around him. Many have discussed that society is happy to adopt aspects of black culture such as dance and music, yet not pay attention to the injustice that black people face.
3. Jim Crow
Gambino's pose as he shoots the man in the first scene has been compared to that of Jim Crow. Jim Crow was a fictional character played by a white man with black face that depicted negative and stereotypical views of black people. The 'Jim Crow' laws were passed in southern states of America which enforced racial segregation.
There are various other themes that Gambino tackles in 'This Is America' such as Terrorism, Racism and unarmed black men being killed by police... Gambino raps 'this is a celly/ this a tool.' while showing children recording on their phones, referencing the Stephon Clark murder. Clark was shot dead in his home as police thought he had a gun rather than a mobile phone, another act of police brutality in America.
'This is America' is a cultural masterpiece, both beautiful and brutal at the same time, a work of art and a harrowing realisation of the issues that exist not only in America but all over the world.