This is America: It's now a place where Childish Gambino has four Grammys for "This Is America." It was a complete sweep for the song that came with an unforgettable and highly political visual — to the surprise of almost everyone.
In the Grammys pre-show, "This Is America" took the Music Video award, and it was no big shocker. The video wasn't just lauded, it was a full on pop culture moment that we all spent weeks watching, rewatching, dissecting, and decoding. The only thing that came close among its fellow nominees was The Carter's iconic "APESHIT" video, filmed in the Louvre.
But when "This Is America" won Best Rap/Sung Performance, that was a moment. When it won the first of the big four awards it was nominated for, Song of the Year (awarded on the basis of songwriting and composition), it made history. No rap song has ever won that award before. And when it won the second big award, Record of the Year (recognizing the artist and production team who work on the recording), it again became the only rap song in Grammys history to take the honour.
The Recording Academy's voting body sends a dual message with these victories for "This Is America." First, they acknowledge their past not recognizing rap and hip-hop in the major categories, despite its growing influence as the most important genre in music, and do so by awarding a track that is specifically about the systematic oppression of people of colour. Second, the voters are issuing a harsh rebuke of the regressive politics of the U.S. Trump presidency — remember, this is a video where images of the KKK, gun fire, and police brutality play major roles. It's a censure of the anti-Black system that Academy voters must see amplified in the age of Trump, and their absolution for their role in it for decades now.
These awards signal a sea change (hopefully) in the attitude of Academy voters about rap and hip-hop and the best part was that Donald Glover pulled it off without kowtowing to them — he didn't even come to the ceremony this year. He just made the best piece of art he could, and the votes came.