Childish Gambino‘s joyous dancing in his new “This Is America” video may seem like an expression of happiness, but the subject matter of the cleverly-edited, one-shot video is a far cry from the exuberance he demonstrates by hitting Blocboy JB’s “Shoot” dance. In fact, the disturbing imagery seems to be taking aim squarely at America’s continued love affair with guns and fractious relationship with Black Americans when it comes to police.
While Gambino cavorts shirtless in a warehouse, a small army of extras reenacts the chaos of a riot in the background before turning into what basically amounts to a zombie movie as they chase him through a darkened upper floor of the warehouse. He also guns down the choir that helps him sing the background vocals on the chorus, evoking the 2015 church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina perpetrated by white supremacist Dylan Roof.
Longtime fans of the formerly comedic rapper’s music may be a bit thrown by his transformation, but he’s been using surreal imagery to comment on the various plights of American society. The “This Is America” video adds a strong dose of criticism for his fellow rappers as they endorse turn-ups and criminal activity in the midst of the various crises plaguing Black Americans. He may be known primarily as a comedian but it looks like he’s got a bone to pick with his new music, and he’s not afraid to go dark to get his point across.