Childish Gambino – This Is America (Official Music Video)

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And music video of the century while we’re at it. Donald Glover’s track was an immediate sensation thanks to its accompanying visual, but even shorn of its video, the track is still so rich with meaning.

The switch from a sunny, Chance the Rapper-style Daisy Age song to a stern trap track suggests Glover is asking black Americans to snap out of it and, per his other most famous song, Redbone, stay woke. The central message is to remember that this is America, where someone got shot by police who mistook his smartphone for a gun: “This a celly / that’s a tool.” Or could the phone be a tool you use yourself, perhaps to document police brutality (as in the video)? The double meanings start to stack up.

By rapping “I’m on Gucci / I’m so pretty”, he’s perhaps saying that black America is distracting itself from these horrors with consumerism, and even glossy trap music itself. But paired with the heavily ironic minstrel poses he makes in the video, he could also be saying that these are the roles that black people are pushed into in a still-racist culture.

Indeed, a central lyric is “get your money, black man”, and so Glover is on one level leveraging the current wild popularity of rap, letting his audience know he is getting paid: given the track’s No 1 success, it was a self-fulfilling prophecy. So, then, is Glover telling us to be pragmatic, to play by the rules? The sheer invention and daring of the song and video seem to contradict that.

Round and round we go. In the end, it’s a glorious reminder that, in an age of monomaniacal political discourse, art can be about two things at once, and then some.

 Tracks by Black Midi, Eris Drew and Pusha T featured in our top 100 but didn’t feature on all streaming services, and so have been replaced on the top 100 playlists with the next most popular tracks.

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