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Childish Gambino’s ‘This is America’ Started as a Drake Diss Track

Donald Glover began the song as a joke, intending to diss Drake, before deciding he should take it a little more seriously

Everyone’s favorite Canadian rapper was originally meant to be the subject of Childish Gambino’s Grammy Award-winning single “This is America.” In a recent interview with GQ, Donald Glover revealed that the song first began as a Drake diss track, built around the song’s beat and simple hook, “This is America.”

“I had that idea three years before,” Glover said of the record, which was released in 2018. “The idea for the song started as a joke, to be completely honest. ‘This is America,’ that was all we had – that line. And it started as a Drake diss, to be honest, as like a funny way of doing it. But then I was like, this shit sounds kind of hard, though.”

The track’s true evolution came by way of Glover’s collaborative work with filmmaker Hiro Murai, who directed the music video that has garnered over 870 million views since its release. “We studied [Michael Jackson’s] ‘Thriller’ for a long time,” he added. “I was like, how do you make people care anything anymore? There’s just so much shit. Well, you have to have a moment in real-time, which was SNL.


Glover credits uprisings and riots with inspiring his writing, and mentioned that he had been in sessions with Young Thug – who has a writing credit on the song – with the idea of “making a ‘We are the World’ for trap.”

“It needed to feel like a moment. I feel like the internet kind of robs moments,” he said. “That was really the work that we put in. It’s interesting that it worked. We were like, it probably wasn’t gonna work.” In addition to studying “Thriller,” Glover familiarized himself with Robbie Williams’s work to ensure he wasn’t doing the same moves. “You have to do a lot of things the first time, but ‘Thriller’ was a big, important part.”

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