Donald Glover’s New Video Shows Hip-Hop America & How Great It Could Be
Just under four months ago, Donald Glover released one of the most unforgettable music videos of 2018. “This Is America” is artful, symbolic, and it is certainly jarring. The visual was a return to Rap for the versatile, genre-defying also artist also known as Childish Gambino. Since then, Glover released a two-song “summer pack” in the middle of the season.
During Labor Day weekend, Childish Gambino bids adieu to the middle of the year with “Feels Like Summer.” Again, this video is fertile with symbolism and lots to unpack. Unlike “This Is America,” this animated display is not jarring at all. Instead, the song produced by Glover and Swedish film composer Ludwig Göransson appears to be some constructive commentary on Rap and the world we live in. This take is harmonious, perhaps utopian—and something that the genre’s top players could learn from.
Directed by Donald Glover, Ivan Dixon, and Greg Sharp (with character design by Justin Richburg), the video finds a casual Glover walking home through a suburban Anytown while listening to music in his headphones. The sun is cooking. The footage is designed to look like Super-8 camera reels, with imperfections in the film reels, perhaps referencing the iconic neighborhood opening to The Wonder Years and combining 1980s Saturday morning cartoon-type animation. In tracking shots that follow Glover’s journey, Lil Pump and Trippie Redd are presented as younger kids trying to hang among the likes of 21 Savage and Kodak Black to no avail. Some of the Migos play basketball in a driveway with who appears to be Wale. Birdman grills alongside Chance The Rapper. A crew including The Weeknd and Solange play tug-of-war. Drake chases down his stolen bike without success.
There are isolated, black-vignette sequences. One seems to capture Kid Cudi’s depression and feelings of loneliness. The next frame shows Michelle Obama physically embracing a crying Kanye West in his red hat. She comforts the superstar, just days after a real-life tearful incident in regards to ‘Ye’s social views. Back in the on-street action shots, two women, possibly Oprah Winfrey and Tiffany Haddish braid the hair of who appear to be Young Thug and Jorja Smith. Charlamagne Tha God and Lil Uzi Vert enjoy Popsicles on a park bench. Gucci Mane sunbathes while Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Puff Daddy, and Wiz Khalifa line dance. Across the street, Meek Mill, Pusha-T, and real-life enemy Lil Wayne catch a photo together. Rae Sremmurd’s Slim Jxmmi and Swae Lee spray the trio with water-guns, then go on to soak J. Cole next. Cole retaliates and soaks the culprits right back. Rihanna, Janelle Monae, Whitney Houston, OutKast, and Michael Jackson are all shown.
The video may mean many things. It can be a reference to summer’s music, all at once. It can be Glover paying homage to the artists he listens to as influential cartoons. At a deeper level, each sequence may represent something more. Drake’s bike being stolen may suggest how Drizzy’s style has been taken and used by so many other artists in the last decade. A shot of Nicki Minaj and Travis Scott playing in (relative) peace follows some recent real-life chart drama. In a way, the hit-making Rae Sremmurd are having innocent, mischievous fun, but they are soaking lyrical guys in Push’, Cole, Meek, and Weezy. Meanwhile, in the wake of the conceptual KOD, Cole is the one putting his foot down and fighting back. An Emmy Award-winning dramatic writer, few things Donald Glover does seem to be just at face-value.
Moreover, the video takes youthful summer activities and inserts Rap, R&B, and pop culture figures and occurrences. Glover injects the Rap universe into a cliché summer symphony. He shows Rap living in harmony, and no brutality or ugliness. It takes back the innocence—or at least the lower stakes of youth, and keeps this thing Donald Glover loves and participates in. With the soft melody in the song and the beating sun in the video, “Feels Like Summer” lives up to its name in another close to an always-epic season.
“Summertime Magic” is also included in the Summer Pack.