Childish Gambino’s ‘This Is America’ started off as a Drake diss song

Childish Gambino (aka Donald Glover) has opened up about the origins of his 2018 smash-hit ‘This Is America’ revealing that it was initially written as a diss song aimed at Drake.

In a new interview with GQ, Glover sat down in an orange grove to unpack the stories behind some of his most iconic characters. In addition to the story behind his actual origins in music – which involved “love at first sight” with renowned composer Ludwig Göransson, who worked on Community and every one of Glover’s records as Childish Gambino – the multi-hyphenate talked through the hectic process he went through to make his biggest hit.

“Time is the oven that makes something special,” Glover said, noting that he and Göransson “did a lot of work” to make the track work. “I had that idea like three years before,” he continued, “and I told Hiro [Murai, a frequent collaborator of Glover’s who directed the song’s equally iconic music video] the idea [and] he was like, ‘I want to do that.’ He was like, ‘I really want to do that.’ And I was like, ‘Cool.’ And I had the song. I swear to God, the idea for the song started as a joke – to be completely honest, [the line] ‘this is America’, that was all we had.”


Glover went on to reveal that the song “started as a Drake diss”, implying that the central lyric was originally a jab at the fellow rapper’s stomping grounds in Canada. “[It] was a funny way of like doing [a Drake diss],” he explained, “but then I was like, ‘This shit sounds kind of hard, though.’ So I was like, ‘Let me play with it.’ So we just had that for a long time, I told Hiro the idea, and he was like, ‘Oh, let’s do it.’”

From there, Glover reconfirmed that his dance moves in the video for ‘This Is America’ were heavily inspired by Michael Jackson’s legendary ‘Thriller’ video, admitting he and his team “studied” the clip “for a long time”. He explained: “I was like, ‘How do you make people care about anything anymore? There’s just so much shit.’ Well, you have to have a moment in real time – which was [Saturday Night Live].

“Fam and Chad, Wolf and Rothstein were like, ‘OK, we’re going to do this SNL thing, we’ll drop it at midnight…’ Also the feeling of what was happening at the time – because [of] all the uprisings and riots that were happening – [that] really informed my writing and stuff. I was having sessions with [Young Thug] and all these people, and I was like, ‘Hey, would you want to get on [this song]?’ I was making it like ‘We Are The World’ for trap. It just became something where I was like, ‘Yo, it needs to feel like all of it.’”

Ultimately, Glover said, his goal with ‘This Is America’ was to create a “moment” to reflect the culture of 2018: To me, culture is just compression of information, So I was like, ‘All of it just needs to be compressed into this moment.’ So what was happening needed to feel like it could only be happening right now.”

As for the video’s visual style, Glover said the decision to record on film stock was “deliberate”, and the choreography is presented as three continuous takes “because it needed to feel like a moment. Because moments… I feel like the Internet kind of robs moments.”

Have a look at the full GQ interview – with the topic of ‘This Is America’ popping up at 17:00 – below:


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Last month, Glover emerged victorious in a lawsuit filed over ‘This Is America’, whereby fellow rapper Kidd West alleged that he copied the latter’s 2016 track ‘Made In America’.

Back in January, the actor-artist confirmed that he’s not yet finished with the Childish Gambino project – crushing rumours from years prior that 2020’s ‘3.15.20’ would be his last musical effort – saying in an interview at this year’s Golden Globes: “I’m making music right now. I love it. I’m in the studio, I’ve been bringing people in, secret people, and working on things. But I’m just making it for fun right now. But soon, something will happen I promise. Something will happen.”

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