Social media has erupted over a politically-charged new music video released by rapper Donald Glover that brutally highlights America’s gun violence crisis and the problems still facing African Americans.
Praised for its painfully honest portrayal of life in the United States, the four-minute clip for Glover’s new song This is America has been viewed more than 10 million times since its release on Sunday (Saturday US time).
The video – trending under the hashtag #ThisIsAmerica – sees a seemingly upbeat and carefree Glover, who goes by the stage name Childish Gambino, execute a man with a shotgun at point-blank range and fire off a semiautomatic-style weapon at a gospel choir.
Warning: Video contains graphic displays of violence
As he proceeds to move through a barren warehouse, Glover’s celebratory and joyful dance moves provide a jarring contrast the chaotic scenes of unrest playing on in the background.
Speculation on Twitter suggests Glover, who also works as an actor and screenwriter, was channelling fictional character Jim Crow, a disabled slave who was used as a negative representation of African Americans towards the end of the 19th Century.
“But this is America, Gambino tells us,” Justin Simien, the creator of TV series Dear White People, tweeted.
“It’s brutal, but either you participate in the space American culture has allotted you (even if only to play Jim Crow as many black entertainers have and continue to do since the country’s founding) or you perish.”
He is playing the role of the Jim Crow Minstrel, referencing rap artists of today. Look at how he stands when he shoots the guitarist, the crazy eyes, untrustworthy smile, down to the yellow shoes on his feet. GENIUS.#ThisIsAmerica #ChildishGambino pic.twitter.com/hAOrZ8lbWN
— oliveandalmond (@oliveandalmond) May 6, 2018
The thought-provoking video makes references to the Black Lives Matter and Civil Rights movements, and has caught the attention of celebrities including rapper Kanye West, singer Josh Groban, actress Debra Messing and Aussie comedian Tim Minchin.
Messing called the clip “required viewing”, while many on social media suggested the song should replace ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ as the United States national anthem.
A few years ago, I gigged with @donaldglover & was really blown away by him… (& often thought how cool it would be to work with him somehow. lol). This tune he's just dropped? I wager our kids will study it in college. Jaw-dropping. https://t.co/b91SzUrvRQ
— Tim Minchin (@timminchin) May 6, 2018
Twitter users attempted to undress the meaning behind Glover’s calm and jovial nature that was seemingly unaffected by the violence that engulfed the large storehouse.
Many thought Glover cleverly depicted the average American and their proneness to be easily distracted from the issues regularly affecting the country.
“People are so caught up in Gambino’s shoot that they don’t even realize what the hell is going on in the background. He’s literally talking about people who don’t care about what’s happening in society, but care about the latest dance fad. He’s talking about y’all,” twitter user E-Money wrote.
“We easily forget about the shootings and tragedies and get distracted by silly dances, memes and viral videos,” twitter user T wrote.
Actress Lena Waithe wrote on Twitter that Glover’s song and video “speak to what audiences really want”.
“The truth dipped in chocolate brilliance,” she declared.
This is America – which Gambino unveiled while hosting NBS sketch show Saturday Night Live – is the first single Glover has released since the debut of his album Awaken, My Love! in 2016.