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Finally, the Music Video Platform Matters Again

Finally, the Music Video Platform Matters Again

Childish Gambino is currently the most-talked about rapper on earth. Think about that. That title was previously held by Kanye West, whose Twitter stream of consciousness and frankly bizarre interview conversations kept a strong grip on the music conversation for over a week and half (equivalent to months in the Twittersphere). But slightly over a week ago, rapper Childish Gambino—who at this point is probably more well known as actor/writer/comedian Donald Glover—released without warning the video for “This Is America” minutes before his Saturday Night Live performance. The visual has usurped any attention that was given to Kanye’s “free thinking.”

The music video has become the conversation on all social media networks. While most praise it for its symbolism, perspective on race, and other socio-political issues in America, there are detractors who condemn the clip for pandering. It hits every major mark on the large conversation America has been having between racial issues and gun violence over the last four years, while also providing artistic interpretation far beyond those boundaries, and up to the people to decipher. As it relates to the music industry, it’s another proponent for the importance of accompanying visuals in 2018. Arguably without Gambino’s meticulously constructed music video, the conversations about his single (metaphors, new Kanye, memes) would have ultimately gotten lost in hip-hop’s never ending news cycle.

The visual has inspired dozens of think pieces, found additional life through memes (as is the rite of passage for any popular video in 2018), and has been viewed over 100 million times on YouTube. It’s a perfect storm of impact and attention, and that has carried Gambino to his first number one single. A chart-topping single for Donald Glover’s rap alter-ego would’ve been unlikely in any incarnation of his career from backpack, rapping CAMP nerd to soulful, psychedelic “RedBone” connoisseur. However with the addition of streams to the Billboard formula a few years back, a video which features any whirlwind of attention such as this certainly benefits from the latest tinkerings to the chart-positioning metrics.