Music Discussions

This Is America

this-is-america

Dynamic ImageMain Point: When we look around and see the brokenness of this world, it can lead us to pursue things with the hope they will distract us from the chaos. This is America looks at the ways we ignore significant issues while emphasizing trivial things. What is the role of a follower of Jesus during these times? How can we avoid missing the opportunity to engage the culture with the hope that comes from Jesus?

The Music Video: This is America

Donald Glover is an actor best known for his work as Troy Barnes on the NBC show Community as well as being the creator and star of the hit FX Drama Atlanta. He also plays Lando Calrissian in the new Star Wars movie Solo: A Star Wars Story, and will provide the voice of Simba in the 2019 remake of The Lion King. In addition to his successful acting career, Glover is a recording artist and DJ who performs under the names Childish Gambino and mcDJ. As Childish Gambino, Glover released the first of this three studio albums in 2011. Two of his albums have gone gold, establishing him as an influential recording artist. This is America was released on YouTube simultaneously as Glover hosted Saturday Night Live on May 5, 2018. The song debuted at number one on the Billboard Hot 100, and the video had over 150 million views in its first two weeks after its release.

Due to the popularity of the video, the focus of this review will be on the meaning of the song as interpreted by the video. The video is intended to be open to interpretation. One review says by refusing to provide the world with neither context nor any further explanation, he allows us all to assess our understanding of systematic oppression and violence – and he does so without inflammatory rhetoric or fallacies. While people might interpret the video differently, it is a powerful piece that can be used to provoke conversations that could prove to be extremely valuable.

In a culture that continues to celebrate gun violence in music and media, here is a resource to continue that discussion:

http://www.jonathanmckeewrites.com/archive/2018/02/26/gunning-your-kids-down.aspx

PASS OUT TO EVERY STUDENT

Song Lyrics:

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Yeah, yeah, yeah, go, go away
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Yeah, yeah, yeah, go, go away
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Yeah, yeah, yeah, go, go away
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Yeah, yeah, yeah, go, go away

We just wanna party
Party just for you
We just want the money
Money just for you

I know you wanna party
Party just for me
Girl, you got me dancin’
Dance and shake the frame

We just wanna party (yeah)
Party just for you (yeah)
We just want the money (yeah)
Money just for you (yeah)
I know you wanna party (yeah)
Party just for me (yeah)
Girl, you got me dancin’ (yeah)
Dance and shake the frame (ooh)

This is America
Don’t catch you slippin’ now
Don’t catch you slippin’ now
Look what I’m whippin’ now
This is America (woo)
Don’t catch you slippin’ now
Don’t catch you slippin’ now
Look what I’m whippin’ now

This is America (skrrt, skrrt, woo)
Don’t catch you slippin’ now (ayy)
Look how I’m livin’ now
Police be trippin’ now (woo)
Yeah, this is America (woo, ayy)
Guns in my area (word, my area)
I got the strap (ayy, ayy)
I gotta carry ‘em

Yeah, yeah, I’ma go into this (ugh)
Yeah, yeah, this is guerilla (woo)
Yeah, yeah, I’ma go get the bag
Yeah, yeah, or I’ma get the pad
Yeah, yeah, I’m so cold like, yeah (yeah)
I’m so dope like, yeah (woo)
We gon’ blow like yeah (straight up, uh)

Ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh, tell somebody
You gon’ tell somebody
Grandma told me
Get your money, Black man (get your money)
Get your money, Black man (get your money)
Get your money, Black man (get your – Black man)
Get your money, Black man (get your – Black man)
Black man

This is America (woo, ayy)
Don’t catch you slippin’ now (woo, woo, don’t catch you slippin’ now)
Don’t catch you slippin’ now (ayy, woah)
Look what I’m whippin’ now (ahh)
This is America (yeah, yeah)
Don’t catch you slippin’ now (woah, ayy)
Don’t catch you slippin’ now (ayy, woo)
Look what I’m whippin’ now (ayy)

Look how I’m geekin’ out (hey)
I’m so fitted (I’m so fitted, woo)
I’m on Gucci (I’m on Gucci)
I’m so pretty (yeah, yeah)
I’m gon’ get it (ayy, I’m gon’ get it)
Watch me move (blaow)
This a celly (ha)
That’s a tool (yeah)
On my Kodak (woo, Black)
Ooh, know that (yeah, know that, hold on)
Get it (get it, get it)
Ooh, work it (21)
Hunnid bands, hunnid bands, hunnid bands (hunnid bands)
Contraband, contraband, contraband (contraband)
I got the plug in Oaxaca (woah)
They gonna find you like blocka (blaow)

Ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh, tell somebody
America, I just checked my following list, and—
You gon’ tell somebody
—you motha****** owe me
Grandma told me
Get your money, Black man (Black man)
Get your money, Black man (Black man)
Get your money, Black man (get your—Black man)
Get your money, Black man (get your—Black man)
Black man
(One, two, three—get down)
Ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh, tell somebody
You gon’ tell somebody
Grandma told me, “Get your money”
Get your money, Black man (Black man)
Get your money, Black man (Black man)
Get your money, Black man (Black man)
Get your money, Black man (Black man)
Black man

You just a black man in this world
You just a barcode, ayy
You just a black man in this world
Drivin’ expensive foreigns, ayy
You just a big dawg, yeah
I kenneled him in the backyard
No probably ain’t life to a dog
For a big dog

The Music Video: The music video can be viewed for free at
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VYOjWnS4cMY

Transitional Statement:
Childish Gambino raises some strong points about the diversions that can keep us from engaging in the issues of our day. In the video, his dancing and other foreground events serve as a distraction from the events occurring in the background. This reflects how he sees our culture as focusing on less significant issues; especially those that he believes affect black society in America. He sees culture as focusing on lesser things while ignoring the events going on behind the noise. As followers of Jesus, we are called to engage culture with justice, mercy, and humility. The world will continue to be broken until Jesus returns, but we play a role in the restoration of all things. Considering the strong message of this video, how can we be people who humbly seek to understand the issues of our day and approach them with a heart for justice and acts of mercy?

Divide into Small Groups:
Let’s go ahead and split up into our discussion groups, and then afterward we’ll come back together for a final word.

CLICK HERE for a quick training article on how to maximize your small groups using our small group format—a great resource to equip your small group leaders.

Discussion Questions:

    1. ASK A FEW: What do you see as the biggest issues facing America today
    2. ASK A FEW: What are some issues that your generation specifically faces right now?
    3. ASK A FEW: How much do you pay attention to what is going on in the world? Why?ASK A FEW: What do you think Gambino means when he says “This is America, don’t catch you slippin’ now?”
    4. AROUND THE CIRCLE: What do you believe is the most reliable source of information for someone who wants to understand what is going on in the world around them?
    5. ASK A FEW: Would you say the world around you is getting better, worse, or staying the same? Why do you think this way?

Read the following passages:

    • Micah 6:8

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

John 16:33

I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world.

  1. ASK A FEW: According to Micah 6:8, what does require from people? What do each of those things mean?
  2. ASK A FEW: Looking at Jesus’ words in John 16:33, do you think He expects His followers to live in the world, or to remove themselves from the culture?
  3. AROUND THE CIRCLE: What does it look like for you personally to walk humbly with God?
  4. ASK A FEW: Looking at the lyrics to the song, what do you think Jesus would say to the writer?
  5. ASK A FEW: Why do you think Jesus felt it was important to tell us to take heart because He has overcome the world?
  6. ASK A FEW: In light of these verses, how should a follower of Jesus in America today engage with their culture?

Wrap Up:
During this time, we listened to Childish Gambino sing about America today. He sings of the things we focus on such as being fitted (dressing well), cell phones (this is a celly), hunnid bands (having many hundred dollar bills), and even contraband (drugs). While he sings of these things, there are symbols in the background of disease, rioting, and even the apocalypse. Then as Gambino lights up his marijuana after a 17 second pause (perhaps a reference to the Parkland school shooting), the song moves to a pointed line that says:

Ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh, tell somebody
America, I just checked my following list

He seems to be saying that despite the things going on in the world, we tend to focus on things such as social media, clothes, technology, and money. Whether or not you agree with his message, or even if you hear it differently, the question remains:

What are the things you focus on that serve as a distraction, and cause you to miss out on how God might be calling you to engage in the world around you?

(Pause and give them a moment to consider this question.)

As we look at Micah 6:8, we see that God has shown us what is good, and has called us to three things. He desires that we act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God. Justice is about fair treatment according to God’s standards, mercy is when one does not get what they deserve, and walking humbly is about following Jesus while having a proper view of yourself.

What would happen in this world if followers of Jesus lived in a way that embraced these three things?

(Pause and give them a moment to consider this question.)

It is so easy to sometimes to disengage from a world with complex problems, or even to take a stand on something without being fully informed. It doesn’t appear from God’s Word that Jesus is calling believers to fix the world’s problems or even to correct others. Jesus makes it clear that only He has overcome the world. Only He is able to give the world what it needs. Jesus calls believers to take heart while trusting Him, to act justly as lovers of mercy who walk humbly with Him.

Whatever you think of Gambino’s representation of America, you can be confident that there is a God who is active and at work today. He is calling His people to walk after Him in humility and passionately follow after Him, refusing to let the shiny things in this world distract them from seeking and following Him above all things. Let’s take some time and pray, asking God to help us to cling to Him while living out Micah 6:8.

CLOSE IN PRAYER

Written by Rob Chagdes

0 Comments
Share

Jonathan McKee

Jonathan McKee is the author of over twenty books including the brand new The Bullying Breakthrough; The Teen’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices; If I Had a Parenting Do Over; and the Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket. He speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers on TheSource4YM.com. Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.

Reply your comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*