The latest viral sensation on the web is the video "This Is America" by Childish Gambino, the musical stage name for Donald Glover the comedian, writer, actor, producer, director and all around genius. When asked by TMZ about the meaning of the video, which is obvious to some Gambino said "Uh, that's not for me to say." Perhaps Glover wants to leave it open to interpretation by the masses even though only a singular interpretation appears all over the web. Therefore an interpretation will not be forthcoming here, in honor of Donald's seeming request to have the individual viewing the video figure it out on their own; maybe finding an alternate vision to the one going around everywhere. When examining the career of Childish Gambino one might find multiple reasons for what he did in the video depending on what stage of his career he was in. This is what this article is, an examination of things that people forget about the star. His insecurities about who he is and how he wants to be perceived and loved, coupled with an ease in just about anything artistic he does makes this individual complex, admirable and sometimes puzzling if not offensive all at once. Either way it's hard not to be impressed with what this man can do.
20 He is not related to Danny Glover
Danny Glover's crowning achievement in his career was being Mel Gibson's sane sidekick in the Lethal Weapon franchise. With a name so close, one can't be faulted for asking if the two are related.
If you do ask, here's what Donald will respond: "Most people think I'm Danny Glover's son when they meet me. So when they ask, I say 'No, I'm Crispin Glover's son.'
Then we stare at each other for a long time." Crispin Glover's fame is attributed to playing Marty McFly's (Micheal J. Fox) scared and bullied Caucasian dad in the 80's movie franchise Back to the Future. There is no question this comedian (more on that later) is quick on his feet and funny. He is also anything but scared.
19 He Was Born on a Military Base
This is a picture of Donald's real father, Donald Sr. So which one of the kids is the younger version of today's superstar? The young man, on the far right holding his mama's arm. Donald Jr. was actually born in Edwards Air force Base in Kern County, California. He stayed there for the first four years of his life.
His family was Jehovah's Witnesses, which makes his birth place all the more uncommon. For, according to this entertainer "You don’t pledge allegiance to the flag".
On top of that, long before it became fashionable most followers of the faith are opposed to war and military service with an allowance for each individual to make his own decision on this topic between serving god and men. There are two commands from the New Testament that the faith asks it's members to balance; "These things I command you, that you love one another . . . you are no part of the world." "You must love . . . your neighbor as yourself". To them a neighbor also means someone from another country. This has to be balanced with the following New Testament entry; "pay back Caesar's things to Caesar, but God's things to God"
18 He Was Raised in a Relatively Nice Suburb Near Atlanta
The city of Atlanta is always in Donald's heart. As will be seen later his home region is a principal influence in his work. He grew up in a town called Stone Mountain, Georgia. Stone Mountain is a nice town of roughly 6000 people 20 miles from Atlanta. A nice place to raise kids (as long as you overlook the high property crime rate), it's also the gateway to Georgia's most popular park, named after the monolithic rock pictured above. What you see etched into the stone are carvings of confederate leaders and generals reminding one of which side of the Mason Dixon line Georgia, and this town, reside.
Regardless this town allowed his father, a postal worker and his mother, a day care worker to raise three children of their own, two adopted children and a revolving door of foster children.
His father was a music lover, listening to everything including Hall & Oates, The Police and Funkadelic. “I remember listening to some of my dad’s music as a kid, like Parliament. I’d hear a woman moaning and groaning, and it was so scary because she sounded terrified,” Glover says. “That music was filled with so many different real emotions and feelings that you could listen to it again and again."
17 He Was Afforded a Nice Education
Even as a kid, the future genius liked to entertain. “Being a Jehovah’s Witness amplified my own alienness,” Glover once said.
After all his faith made him grow up with no TV as a kid, forcing him to occupy his time with other things; like creating his own puppet shows which he perfected by practicing on the foster kids at home.
Ultimately it was this total love affair with performing that landed him at New York’s Tisch School of the Arts. A subsidiary of NYU, whose own website calls it "the country’s preeminent center for the study of the performing, cinematic and emerging media arts." Seemingly a perfect match and it was, helping him land his first big gig as will be seen later. The school wasn't cheap either (the tuition was, but the materials weren't), yet the young Glover found the means to afford it. He graduated with a degree in dramatic writing in 2006 and while still in school landed his first job.
16 His First Love Was Comedy
While at NYU, Donald joined an improv comedy group. The videos arising from this endeavour caught the eyes of Tina Fey of SNL fame. Then and there Tina wanted him to write for her comedy, 30 Rock. In 2006 the actress/comedian convinced this young student to join her crew through by inspiring the young talent.
“I decided I wanted to write for television because of Tina, she was always so happy, and I was like, I want to be happy like that too.” “He was literally still living in the NYU dorms,” Tina said. “And that was a great resource for us. We would turn to him and ask, ‘What would a young person say here?’”
Not to diminish his accomplishments but skin colour did help him get this job. According to Glover “I wondered, Am I being hired just because I’m black?" Tina Fey, said yes. He was hired partially because funds from NBC’s Diversity Initiative "made him free.". Nonetheless she did admire him. So much so that she wrote the bio on him in Time Magazine's 2017, 100 most influential people's list. When he left the show after 3 years, Tina had this to say: "After a few years, he requested a meeting with me and fellow producer Robert Carlock. Donald was grateful for the opportunity but felt like he should leave to pursue acting. Of the many writers who have suggested this over the past 20 years, Donald is the only one with whom I’ve ever agreed. One hundred percent, he should go be a star."
15 His Character on 30 Rock Was Born in The Same Home Town
While on 30 Rock, who would one expect Glover to write for? The character of Tracy Jordan of course; the wild and erratic African American star of the fictitious comedy show that 30 Rock was built around. Wrong. Instead he wrote for the down to earth, Caucasian, somewhat dopey looking but the extremely smart page, Kenneth.
“I did have more in common with Kenneth than with Tracy at that point—I was a wide-eyed kid, eager to please,” said Donald.
Kenneth's birthplace was Stone Mountain, Georgia, the same home town Donald Glover was raised. An entire episode was even made around Donald's home town. This made sense for those that knew the man. When he became a stand up comedian in college, his act was about being African American with nerdy interests.
14 Starring on Community Allowed Him to Explore All of His Artistic Fields
Community gave him his big break to shine in public. The sit-com co-starring Chevy Chase and Joel McHale was "the best day job in the world, because between takes, I get to write music. I get to write sketches. I get to write movies. It's the best job ever," said Glover.
It was this opportunity that made him bolt his writing gig on 30 Rock. During his five year stint here, he released music under the moniker Childish Gambino and laid the groundwork for much of his future success.
His tenure was not without controversy, most notably with costar Chevy Chase who frequently disrupted Gambino's scenes, and at one point threw a misplaced n-bomb to illustrate a point. To that effect Donald reminisced about those days; “I just saw Chevy as fighting time—a true artist has to be O.K. with his reign being over. I can’t help him if he’s thrashing in the water. But I know there’s a human in there somewhere—he’s almost too human.”
13 He Doesn’t Consider Himself to be a Rapper as Childish Gambino
He is No. 1 on Billboard's chart right now with his single "This Is America". A pretty big change for him from the past when Donald once unabashedly said "The only reason I'm able to do music is because I'm making money on 'Community.' If I wasn't, I couldn't pay for things." He does not describe himself as a rapper, feeling that the label is limiting, forcing him to miss opportunities. This has become his "superpower" of sorts.
The musical genre of rap seems less alluring than others as he once stated: "A lot of the rap shows I saw as a kid were boring, but if you went to a Rage show or a Justice show, the kids were losing their minds."
Rap has become synonymous with people of color, a culture that Gambino once wanted to change, as he tried to open the genre to new ideas and thoughts. "I'm influenced by LCD Soundsystem as much as Ghostface Killah." At one point he had to defend himself from critics who felt he hated his own kind, something that occurs when bringing about change. Comments he has made some years back alienated some in his community such as this one: "Black men struggle with masculinity so much. The idea that we must always be strong really presses us all down – it keeps us from growing. Black culture is a fight. We want to hold on to what we are, but sometimes the things that we are can be totally negative. You have to think: can't we try something new and not be seen as suspect? Can't we hear the n-word someday and not be upset? If a black person called a white person the n-word, would that help a little?"
12 Childish Gambino is Being Retired
That day had to come, the guy does too much and all of it well. He's had a plethora of nominations with some victories for his music, but it is his upcoming farewell that is helping him become a household name for his music right now on the web. A nice grand finale, capped by This is America?
“There’s nothing worse than like a third sequel, like a third movie and we’re like, ‘again?’” Gambino said. “You know, I like it when something’s good and when it comes back there’s a reason to come back, there’s a reason to do that.”
In an interview with Huffington Post he went on to exclaim about how he has to “feel like there’s gotta be a reason to do things and I always had a reason to be punk. Being punk just always felt really good to me and we always looked at ‘Atlanta’ as a punk show and I feel like the direction I would go with Childish Gambino wouldn’t be punk anymore. As much as ‘Redbone’ is a punk song because it’s a gospel song that’s on the radio, I’m like there’s only so far you can go before you just are the radio.”
11 He Does it All on the Show Atlanta
This is his one true brain child. Glover is the creator, head writer, occasional producer and director and star of Atlanta; a critical darling and the most watched 30 minute 'comedy' in the history of the FX network. After two seasons the show dubbed the black comedy about black life has many watching it raving. The series stars Donald Glover as a man looking to start a managing career whose first client is his dealer cousin, a rapper named Paper Boi, played by Brian Tyree Henry.
Glover tends to paint his show in narrow black and white terms, as if America is a melting pot of only two ideals; with each skin color forced to fit into some stereotype that lacks the multiple layers inherent in the multitude of ethnicities and social classes that make up the country.
As time passes the need to prove that he is black enough to some, appears to increase in order to fix a criticism he has spent years trying to overcome. His initial goal of expanding the closed mindedness of the single coloured culture has disappeared. This view transcends into his goals for Atlanta. For caucasians he states “I don’t even want them laughing if they’re laughing at the caged animal in the zoo,” he said. “I want them to really experience rac**m, to really feel what it’s like to be black in America... The characters aren’t smoking w**d all the time because it’s cool but because they have P.T.S.D.—every black person does. It’s scary to be at the bottom, yelling up out of the hole, and all they shout down is ‘Keep digging! We’ll reach God soon!’ ”
10 He is Only One of Two African Americans to Win an Emmy for Best Actor in a Comedy Series
Here are the accolades that the TV Show Atlanta has won so far; 12 awards from Emmy's to Golden Globes. The most interesting of which comes into play when inferring to the racial overtones of the show; Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series for 2017 went to Donald Glover.
The last African American actor to win was in 1985 when Robert Guillaume won for his show Benson. Doubling down on this success he became the first African American person to win an Emmy for best director in a comedy series.
Although typically reserved when discussing his personal life, the actor opened up about his family when accepting the best actor award thanking his partner, Michelle his son, Legend, for “just being the joy in my life,” and his “unborn son.” Glover also managed to thank Donald Trump for “making black people number one on the most oppressed list.”, thus making his show possible.
9 The Story Of Teddy Perkins
Atlanta has always strived to be different much like its creator who seemingly tries to do everything on the show just because he can seemingly do everything. This includes playing multiple characters from time to time, including his own version of Michael Jackson: Teddy Perkins.
In a single commercial free episode Donald played a reclusive pop star (sound familiar), living with his brother who lures one of the characters into his home to sell a piano.
What ensues is a scary look into Teddy Perkins troubled past acting like an analogy to what the real Michael Jackson experienced as a child, complete with a whitened face a la the king of pop. The meaning of the complex episode can be left to the viewer. What is undeniable is the diversity and range of one of the most influential celebrities in the past decade.
8 Needs a Translator For White TV Executives
Donald had a particular audience in mind when creating the show, a very under represented audience, the extremely poor urban African American. He has successfully represented his target in a big way, even though growing up Donald was neither urban, extremely poor or money hungry enough to resort to crime to make ends meet. As with many comedies, the show got off to a rough start with the pilot running into difficulty over one word that the creator fought hard for: the N-word. Glover wanted the word in the show, executives wanted it out.
“I’m black, making a very black show, and they’re telling me I can’t use the N-word! Only in a world run by white people would that happen,”recalled the show's creator.
There were multiple reasons why an executive might not want to use such an explosive word over and over again on TV, however Glover attributed it to only one, their skin colour. So he called in what he called the "white translator", producer Paul Simms, an individual with no ties to the show and a man who knows how to communicate having earned the trust of other executives. “You need the translator for the three-minute call after the meeting, It’s for when the execs call the white guy to say, ‘What exactly did Kenya mean there?,’ and to be reassured.”
7 He Wasn't Keen On Having Children
By this point some people may have forgotten that the man started as a comedian.
As time grew, his material became darker and darker "I think it's a comedian's job to make everything funny. Nothing is off-limits," Donald once said.
Quite a few years back Gambino proved this point with a comedy bit that crossed a line for many. "I'd much rather [get sick] than [have] a baby Sorry... They're both expensive, you have them for the rest of your life, they're constant reminders of the mistakes you've made and once you have them, you pretty much can only date other people who have them." It's easy to see why people might get upset when saying a disease is better than having a child. It's also demeaning to consider another human being to be a mistake or to add a dollar amount to a human life for many.
6 He Inspired Peter Parker’s Replacement in the Ultimate Spiderman
Whatever this guy does, he does it right. There is a reason why time and time again he influences people the way few other people can. A few years back, the second reboot of the Spider Man franchise was under way and Andrew Garfield became the new web slinger. Some fans felt there was someone else better made to play the role: Donald Glover.
A huge fan driven Twitter campaign followed for Glover to reprise the role of the comic book hero. The campaign failed, but Glover won big in another way.
Brian Michael Bendis, the writer for the Spider-Man comic book franchise created a parallel universe to the Marvel Universe that most people know of. In that new Universe, called Ultimate Spider Man, Bendis decided that Peter Parker would be eliminated with the new Spidey being a half Latino and half African American kid called Miles Morales. Who inspired the look and feel of Miles? Non other than Donald Glover. "He looked fantastic," Bendis told USA Today about Glover's appearance wearing a Spidey outfit on his TV show Community, "I saw him in the costume and thought, 'I would like to read that book.' So I was glad I was writing that book." Later on Donald would go on to voice Miles Morales in the animated series.
5 One Brief Scene in Spiderman Homecoming Can Change Everything
Not to confuse anyone, but the aforementioned Miles Morales is also in the current, mainstream Spider Man Universe, yet he was not in the Spiderman Homecoming Film, at least not visibly.
Donald Glover makes a brief cameo as Aaron Davis, a petty thief who offers Spidey a clue as to the whereabouts of his arch enemy Vulture. Why would a criminal do such a thing?
Aaron explained that he didn't want dangerous weapons in the neighborhood, because his nephew lives in the area. In the comics the nephew of Aaron Davis (Donald Glover's character) is Miles Morales, AKA the new Spider Man. In the comics, Miles gets bitten by a radioactive spider that crept into his uncle's bags during one of his heists. Watch what happens in the Avengers Infinity War movie and one might then see how important that cameo might become.
4 Donald Glover’s Deadpool Script is DOA
This was the year FX was going to partner with Marvel on an animated Deadpool series, featuring Donald and his brother Stephen as writers. Alas it didn't happen assumedly because Donald just does too much already.
However that theory died quickly when in March of 2018 Donald tweeted: "For the record: I wasn't too busy to work on Deadpool." What is the actual reason for the break up then? Creative differences. In other words the network did not want to do what Donald wanted. Donald released a mocked up script, pictured above to help explain his side of the story.
Glover wrote: "I mean, I get it. Maybe they just want to sell toys. And this style of comedy isn't it. It's more 'Ha ha, but I'm mad'. I get it. All the writers were black. And the references were pretty black too... maybe we were alienating our white audience. It just feels like everyone wants something different, but no one wants to do anything different to get it... I mean, I think our show would have been funny. I just wanted a place to be honest." He went on: "You know, I'm not mad about the whole 'cancelled' thing. I actually think it's a good thing. I mean, is it a good time to have a violent, gun loving white man ranting on TV? Other than the PRESIDENT!"
3 His First Ever Toy Was a Lando Calrissian Doll
How great is it to land a role you've wanted since you were a child? In an interview with Jimmy Kimmel, Donald revealed the secret of his first toy; a Lando doll most likely similar to the one indicated in the picture above.
His dad, obviously a big influence in many of his career choices, was a big Star Wars fan as well. So when it was revealed that Solo was going to be made Glover was beyond excited. "I told my agent, 'If they’re making a Han Solo movie, Lando’s gotta be in it, and I wanna be Lando, And to his credit -- and I appreciate it -- he was like, ‘I don’t like your odds’."
That comment from his agent made Glover try even harder to get the acting job that he was born for. His father also got a thrill of a lifetime as well joining his son on the set, a makeshift city in the desert where according to Donald Jr., his father received the joy of seeing Chewbacca on his cell phone.
2 Here's The First Thing He Did After Landing The Star Wars Role
Like any child would do who gets excited when something great happens, the first thing the all grown up Glover did when he found out the good news about his role in Solo was call his Dad.
What a wonderful way to pay tribute to the one person that got this all started for you. However those good times soon turned to hard work because the next thing he did was order a pizza and watch The Empire Strikes Back. Donald once said "When anybody pays you to be creative, you're very lucky," and being able to see a movie that you love and call it work is probably the type of thing he was referring to. His excitement didn't stop there as he had a blast filming the movie, with donning the iconic cape of Lando his most precious achievement.
1 He Dresses Like a Gentleman, But His Mouth is Never Civilized
The title of the entry are his words and they are a reflection of his early career as a standup comic. From his all too true take on his personal relationships, "Why does every girl in the world wanna date me? Especially right now man, especially when I'm busy!" to his early commentaries on his ethnicity "When you get called the n-word, as a black person you can do anything. It's like getting a gold star in Super Mario Brothers and junk. I hear the music when I hear the n-word. I get right into it; I get really into it. You can do anything. You could be in a fancy restaurant - just start throwing poop at the walls. People be like, 'What are you doing?' 'Someone called him the n-word."
He was so good at writing and comedy so what made him change? "Writing is a very strenuous thing - it's like banging your head against a wall. At the end of the day, acting is better, just because nobody ever asked me if I wanted a Pellegrino in the writer's room." Thank god for Pellegrino because it evidently motivated this man and changed his life.
References: The Urban Daily, Centre on Conscience, Neighborhood Scout, The Playful Parent, Stone Mountain City, Wired, Biography, The New Yorker, IMDB, Time, HiphopDX, The Guardian, Huffington Post, Vulture, MTV, Newsweek, LadBible, Twitter