Childish Gambino Makes History at the Grammys, Skips them Anyway

But let's not forget that "This Is America" on its own is cooler than Donald Glover's aloofness.

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Donald Glover has already found success as an actor, comedian, writer, and probable master of the 5th dimension.

But last night he also made history as a recording artist under his stage name Childish Gambino when "This Is America" became the first hip-hop track in Grammy history to win Song of the Year. But he gets even cooler — the newly blond-bearded 35-year old flew under the radar on Sunday by not attending the ceremony at all. The last time a living artist forewent accepting their award by playing hooky was in 2003.

Even his co-producer, Ludwig Göransson, who accepted one of Gambino's four awards on his behalf, claimed to be in the dark as to his whereabouts. Producer Riley Mackin said, "He walked out and I haven't seen him since." He added, "Everything Donald does is a little strange."

In noting the artist's aloof absence, let's not forget the sheer magnitude of "This Is America's" artistry. The music video, as jarring as it is sharply relevant, is laden with symbols of America's history of racial violence. The video's first use of brutal imagery features Gambino shooting a hooded figure from behind while striking a pose similar to old Jim Crow sketches, while his erratic facial expressions throughout the video are subtle throwbacks to cartoonish minstrel art.

Childish Gambino - This Is America (Official Music Video) youtu.be

The layers of racist rhetoric and gun violence act as a visual indictment of how lives are still assigned unequal values in a culture that hasn't reconciled with its history of racial conflict. On the music video's representation of black youth, one commentator noted, "It is relevant to ask why their bodies are worth more on a field or court than on the streets of America." The video's 17 second-long silence acts as a nod to the 17 shooting victims at a Parkland, Florida high school.

Childish Gambino also won Record of the Year, Best Music Video, and Best Rap/Sung Performance for the track, beating heavyweight competitors like Drake ("God Plan") and Kendrick Lamar and SZA ("All the Stars"), as well as Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper ("Shallow"), Zedd, Maren Morris, and Grey ("The Middle"), and Brandi Carlile ("The Joke").

Göransson noted in his acceptance speech, "No matter where you're born or where you're from, 'This Is America' speaks to you."


Meg Hanson is a Brooklyn-based writer, teacher and jaywalker. Find Meg at her website and on Twitter @megsoyung.


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