Released on May 5 to coincide with Childish Gambino (aka Donald Glover) performing on and hosting Saturday Night Live, “This Is America” became Gambino’s first No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, debuting atop the chart after less than a week of tracking.
With provocative lyrics and a video that depicts a host of racially charged issues facing the country — protests, police brutality and gun violence — “America” also includes a slew of other MCs contributing vocal ad-libs: Young Thug, Quavo, 21 Savage, Slim Jxmmi of Rae Sremmurd and BlocBoy JB, whose contributions to the video include Gambino doing his “Shoot” dance, popularized in his “Look Alive” clip featuring Drake, which hit No. 5 on the Hot 100. BlocBoy weighs in on one of the year’s most jolting hits.
How did “This Is America” come about?
[Gambino] reached out to my people. He needed my words. [My manager] was like, “Childish Gambino wants your vocals.” [They] made it seem like an organ [donation]. That beat was so motherfucking hard, and that’s all that was. As soon as I heard that motherfucker, I was like, “Man, I ain’t going to lie, I want to rap on his motherfucker.” But then I was like, “I’m just going to do what they say,” because I said I was going to record [ad-libs]. I said I was going to keep it simple. I had other music to get back to anyway.
What was your reaction to the video?
The video is real-deal lit. When I first heard it, I saw the video [at the same time]. Soon as he started hitting the dance, I was like, “Oh, word!” I didn’t know he knew how to dance like that.
How would you rate his “Shoot” dance?
Nobody can get a 10. He’ll get a 9. Only me gets the 10.
What was your favorite part of the video?
When he shot the dude in the head and then he had the choir singing, that shit was so live! That shit is America. Motherfuckers are dying every day.
This article originally appeared in the May 19 Issue of Billboard.