Donald Glover had quite the weekend.
Glover hosted Saturday Night Live while also being the musical guest under his rapper/singer moniker, Childish Gambino. He became only the 12th person to double as host and performer for SNL, but that wasn’t going to be enough for Glover. After the show, his music video for “This is America” was uploaded to the internet. He performed the song for his second performance of the night, but the performance had no shot at being talked about once the visceral music video was thrust upon the people.
The music video was another showcase of Glover’s continued dark creativity coming to light. The actor/comedian/writer/rapper/singer/astronaut/president/basketball player has always kind of had a gritty style to all of his work.
This style can be seen throughout his music catalog dating back to his first album, Camp. Its lead songs “Bonfire” and “Heartbeat” are both dark in their own ways. “Bonfire” has a beat starting with an ominous siren, and doesn’t let up with the darkness all while Glover delivers intense rhymes. The video, seen below, is full of gloom and messed up in its own right. Heartbeat is more of a love song, but Glover can’t even do a love song without the loud and threatening synths of the song’s beat.
Everyone’s New Favorite Show: Atlanta
Recently, everyone has been exposed to Glover’s dark mind on his Emmy winning FX show, Atlanta.
I’ll be honest, I’ve just recently started the show and I’m only 4 episodes into the first season. The show is currently in the midst of its second season, and I was hearing rumblings on Twitter about a specific episode that terrified the shit out of everyone. One of my favorite sites, The Ringer, talks about the episode, titled “Teddy Perkins”. Teddy is a character that one of the show’s main characters, Darius, goes to buy a piano from. You really only need to take one look at ole’ Teddy Perkins to get a feel for the potential horrors within the episode.
Oh, by the way, that’s DONALD GLOVER COVERED IN MAKEUP. The man can go to some dark places within his acting.
The show always has moments sprinkled here and there in between the hilarious comedy that gives you the chills. One moment that comes to mind from the early episodes I’ve watched is a scene depicting a mentally challenged prison inmate who everyone makes fun of, but then once he playfully spits on a guard, all hell breaks loose and the guards beat the crap out of him (scene can be seen here in bad quality). The whole prison sequence with Glover is very funny with a whole cast of absurd characters surrounding him. The scene with the mentally challenged inmate also starts off a little funny, until taking a dark turn. Glover is just a master at flipping the show on its head when you least expect it, all while depicting an issue in society in regards to the arrests of poor, mentally challenged individuals.
His lurid genius was also put on display throughout the SNL show on May 5th. You could tell Glover was making his imprint on the show throughout the night, especially with the hilarious Migos sketch early on.
The Migos/Friendos sketch wasn’t dark at all, but some of the other sketches definitely were. One depicted Glover as a spoof of an old school R&B crooner who was following a girl who (he thought) was an ex that did him dirty. He then proceeded to talk about all the weird stuff he did out of angst from their breakup. One example happened to be pouring pee all over his head. The sketch seemed like it wasn’t really landing with the audience, but that’ll happen when Glover is going deep into his weird mind. Another oddly dark sketch was the Barbie one, where Glover played a very dark and weird character, seen below. The sketches, along with his show Atlanta, show his versatility in mixing ominous themes with very funny story lines.
That brings us to the culmination of all this talk about the genius of Glover’s dark mind, his visual for his new song “This is America”.
The video, obvious from the title, is Glover’s performance art interpretation of the current state of America. The video starts off with a disturbing bang (literally) when Glover executes a man with a bag over his head. Throughout the video there’s different symbols alluding to different problems within America, and the first moment is no different. Many (including Vibe Magazine) are saying that Glover’s pose while executing the man is reminiscent of a racist “Jim Crow” painting, seen below.
You also see children sitting above recording all the violent chaos with their phones while having their mouths covered. I interpreted this as showing kids have a front seat to all the violence in America, all while not having a voice in the matter. There are many other symbolic images, including the careless murder of a church choir which is a reference to the Charleston church shooting. Another one that is noticeable in the background is a dark, hooded figure riding a white horse while being followed by the police. Isaiah Persons explains below.
The whole video is a terrifying and dark video that serves as a introspective look into the heart of America. It’s a very serious and unavoidably morbid subject that Glover executes perfectly, all while making us bob our heads to the great song. It’s hard to blame us with Young Thug, 21 Savage, Quavo, JB BlocBoy, and Slim Jxmmi laying down the song’s background adlibs (as I’m trying to write about this small, fun part of the song, I realize I’m fueling the main message of the video. That message is that pop culture like rap music and dancing distracts us from the horrors that are pushed to the backgrounds of our lives. Oops).
It’ll be interesting to see what Glover does next. With “This is America” and the other new song he performed on SNL, “Saturday”, Glover seems ready to drop a new album.
Childish Gambino may be retiring though, as Glover has said this more than once. Either way, we won’t be done experiencing Donald Glover anytime soon. Atlanta has been one of FX’s most critically acclaimed shows ever, and I’m sure more TV will be coming from the former Community actor/writer. He’s also playing the famous Star Wars character Lando Calrissian in “Solo: A Star Wars Story” this summer, which is probably the biggest role he has had on the silver screen. To me it’d be interesting to see him take his writing talents to the big screen for a full-length movie of his own. He seems like he’s got the chops for it.
Either way, it’s very entertaining to watch Glover be able to put his dark, genius mind on full display. He deserves all of the opportunities in the world, and hopefully we will be able to enjoy more dark and highly intellectual art from him for years to come.