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This Is America (song)

"This Is America"
This Is America (single cover) 2018.jpg
Single by Childish Gambino
ReleasedMay 5, 2018 (2018-05-05)
FormatDigital download
  • Donald Glover
  • Ludwig Göransson
Childish Gambino singles chronology
"This Is America"
"Summertime Magic"
Music video
"This Is America" on YouTube

"This Is America" is a song by American rapper Childish Gambino. Written and produced by Gambino and Ludwig Göransson, it was released on May 5, 2018, at the same time that Gambino was hosting that day's episode of Saturday Night Live. The song features background vocals by American rappers Young Thug, Slim Jxmmi, BlocBoy JB, 21 Savage and Quavo.[4][5] The song addresses the wider issue of gun violence in the United States, the high rate of mass shootings in the United States, along with longstanding racism and discrimination against African Americans.

The song's music video was directed by Japanese-American filmmaker Hiro Murai, a frequent Gambino collaborator.[6][7] According to RCA Records, the song is not the first single from Gambino's upcoming studio album.[8][9] "This Is America" became the 31st song to debut at number one on the US Billboard Hot 100, becoming both Gambino's first number one and top ten single in the country. It has also topped the charts in Australia, Canada, and New Zealand.


The song features a gospel-style choir and background contributions from various American rappers. Young Thug, Slim Jxmmi, BlocBoy JB, 21 Savage and Quavo each deliver an ad-lib.[7][10] Young Thug returns to supply the song's outro.[5] The lyrics primarily address being black in the United States and gun violence in the country.[11] It also touches on police brutality.[12][13] Pitchfork's Stephen Kearse described the song as a representation of the "tightrope of being black", with the song "built on the sharp contrast between jolly, syncretic melodies and menacing trap cadences".[14]

Media outlets reported that a number of listeners accused Gambino of plagiarism over "This Is America", pointing out the similarities between the song and "American Pharaoh" by Jase Harley.[15][16] CBS News stated, "The tracks have a similar sound, and share similar themes in the lyrics." Harley stated that he felt "This Is America" was influenced by his song, but that he does not have an issue with it. Glover's manager, Fam Rothstein, denied any plagiarism.[17]

Music video

In the video, Gambino assumes a stance similar to the Jim Crow caricature.

The video received 12.9 million views in 24 hours[18] and has over 443 million views as of December 2018.[19] Directed by Hiro Murai, the music video for the song was released on YouTube simultaneously with Gambino's performance of the song on Saturday Night Live.[20] The video contains a lot of scenes involving violence and strong language. It follows Gambino dancing through a warehouse, interacting with a series of chaotic scenes.[21] According to Murai, the video was inspired by the films Mother! and City of God.[22] Choreographed by Sherrie Silver, Gambino and his entourage of young dancers perform several viral dance moves including the South African Gwara Gwara and "Shoot" popularized by BlocBoy JB, who is one of the ad-lib contributors on the song.[10][23] Gambino's dancing is contrasted against moments of violence. Only 53 seconds into the video,[24] Gambino shoots a man in the back of the head with a handgun, while assuming a comical stance similar to a Jim Crow caricature.[25] The first person depicted as being shot in the video, a guitarist who had been accompanying Gambino's singing up to that point, was musician Calvin the Second, but was initially mistaken by many viewers to be the father of 17 year-old gun violence victim Trayvon Martin.[26] This first shooting also marks a transition in the music, from an African "folk-inspired melody" to "dark, pulsing trap".[27]

At a later point, he uses an automatic weapon to gun down a church choir, which viewers have interpreted as a reference to the 2015 Charleston church shooting.[28] In both instances, a child appears from offscreen holding a red cloth, on which Gambino gently lays the weapon used, while the bodies are simply dragged away, which viewers have interpreted "as a reference to Americans' willingness to protect gun rights over people".[29] Throughout the video, numerous vehicles from several decades ago are featured, many of them with their hazard lights flashing and the driver's side door ajar,[29] which critics interpreted as representing fatal police shootings during traffic stops, particularly the shooting of Philando Castile, who was shot while in a 1997 Oldsmobile;[30] others have interpreted that the older model cars represent the relative lack of upward mobility of African-Americans.[29] American singer SZA makes a cameo appearance towards the end of the video, seated atop one of these vehicles.[13] The video ends with Gambino in a darkened portion of the warehouse, fearfully running towards the camera while being chased by several white people. Viewers have said this resembles scenes from the film Get Out.[28]

Critical reception

Spencer Kornhaber of The Atlantic described the initial reaction on Twitter as "a gushing river of well-deserved praise" and the video as "the most talked-about music video of recent memory."[7] Daniel Kreps of Rolling Stone commented that the video "is a surreal, visceral statement about gun violence in America".[31] Pitchfork awarded the song the distinction of "Best New Track".[14] Billboard critics ranked it 10th among the "greatest music videos of the 21st century."[32] Mahita Gajanan of Time quoted music history professor Guthrie Ramsey at the University of Pennsylvania,[33]

He's talking about the contradictions of trying to get money, the idea of being a black man in America. It comes out of two different sound worlds. Part of the brilliance of the presentation is that you go from this happy major mode of choral singing that we associate with South African choral singing, and then after the first gunshot it moves right into the trap sound.

In December 2018, Billboard ranked "This Is America" as the 6th best song of the year[34]

Cover versions and media appearances

Glover hosted the May 5 episode of the 43rd season of Saturday Night Live, and performed two new songs as Childish Gambino on the same episode, the second of which was "This Is America". Daniel Kaluuya, best known as the star of the film Get Out which the music video reportedly references, introduced the song's performance.[35][36]

Several artists attracted attention and millions of views for creating covers of the song and music video with altered lyrics and themes, retaining the song's instrumental and the general structure of its music video. On May 12, Canadian Internet personality Nicole Arbour released "This Is America: Women's Edit". Arbour intended for the cover to promote women's empowerment, but was accused of belittling the racial issues addressed by the original video.[37][38] Nigerian rapper Falz released "This Is Nigeria" on May 25, highlighting the nation's issues with corruption and organized crime among others.[39][40]

The music video also spawned popular Internet memes, particularly those in which the audio was replaced so that Childish Gambino appeared to be dancing in time to another song. Versions using Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe" and Earth, Wind & Fire's "September" were some of the most viewed.[41][42]

Chart performance

"This Is America" debuted at number one on the US Billboard Hot 100, becoming the 31st song to do so in the chart's history. It debuted with 78,000 downloads sold and 65.3 million US streams in the first week. Its music video accounted for 68% of the song's streaming total. "This Is America" is also Gambino's first top 10; he previously reached number 12 in August 2017 with "Redbone". "This Is America" overtook Drake's "Nice for What" from the top position for two weeks. Gambino is also the second Emmy Award-winning actor to reach number one on the Hot 100, the first being Justin Timberlake, who topped the chart with "Can't Stop the Feeling!" in 2016.[43] It topped the Hot 100 for two weeks, and left the top ten after five weeks.

Credits and personnel

Credits are adapted from Tidal.[44]

  • Donald Glover – lead vocals (as Childish Gambino), production, composition
  • Ludwig Göransson – production, composition, record engineering
  • Jeffery Lamar Williams – composition, background vocals (as Young Thug)
  • Derek "MixedByAli" Ali – mix engineering
  • Mike Bozzi – master engineering
  • Quavo – background vocals
  • 21 Savage – background vocals
  • Slim Jxmmi – background vocals
  • BlocBoy JB – background vocals
  • Alex Tumay – record engineering
  • Riley Mackin – record engineering
  • Kesha "K.Lee" Lee – record engineering

Awards and nominations

Year Organization Award Result Ref
2018 Teen Choice Awards Choice Song: Male Artist Nominated [45]
Choice Song: R&B/Hip-Hop Nominated
MTV Video Music Awards Video of the Year Nominated [46]
Best Video with a Social Message Won
Best Direction Won
Best Choreography Won
Best Art Direction Nominated
Best Editing Nominated
Best Cinematography Nominated
iHeartRadio MMVAs Video of the Year Nominated [47]
Best Director Nominated
Fan Fave Video Nominated
BET Hip Hop Awards Best Hip Hop Video Won [48]
Single of the Year Nominated
Impact Track Won
MTV Europe Music Awards Best Video Nominated
People's Choice Awards The Music Video of 2018 Nominated
Camerimage Best Cinematography In A Music Video Won [49]
Grammy Awards Record of the Year Pending
Song of the Year Pending
Best Rap/Sung Performance Pending
Best Music Video Pending



Region Certification Certified units/Sales
Australia (ARIA)[81] Platinum 70,000^
New Zealand (RMNZ)[82] Gold 15,000*
Poland (ZPAV)[83] Gold 10,000*
United States (RIAA)[84] Platinum 1,000,000double-dagger

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone
double-daggersales+streaming figures based on certification alone

Release history

Region Date Format Label Ref.
Various May 5, 2018 Digital download
United States May 15, 2018 Rhythmic contemporary radio [85]


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External links