“Hold You Down”
With dominant vocals and powerful lyrics Childish Gambino explains how the America in which we live is ridden with inequality. Racial differences perpetuated by vastly different socioeconomic status across American society create multiple worlds in which youths live and, in turn, are held down by social norms and societal structure. Gambino takes an aggressive lyrical stance against ways in which our culture portrays black youths and brings attention to this issue.
He starts the song by creating a scene of a young black foster child growing up in a poor family and how his peers can see through his lost and found jacket. He speaks about how this treatment leads the young boy to lose ambition and comes to accept what is expected from him within society, which is jail time and failure. Childish speaks about how our society has predisposed many youths to stigmas that set them up for failure, “White kids get to wear whatever hat they want. When it comes to black kids one size fits all.”
As Gambino enters into the next verse he fully explains how society only sees black people how they want to see them, which happens to be negatively stigmatized. He speaks about how racism has been subtly imposed into culture [“Dude you’re not not racist cause The Wire’s in your Netflix cue; subtle racism]. This has created expectations of what different races should and should not do [“He said I wasn’t really black because I had a dad…mostly cause a lot of black kids think they should agree with that].
After hearing this song I really gained a lot of respect for Childish Gambino. He used his fame to show inequalities in American culture that have profound effects on everyone. As a sociology major I have learned that the way in which an individual is perceived by society has a significant effect on that individual’s abilities and likelihood to succeed. Gambino points out in this song how our culture holds down poor or black Americans and places sometimes insurmountable obstacles on these individuals paths. It is our job as listeners to understand that this does in fact happen and far more often than many realize. While it is difficult to change social norms the first step is recognizing there is a problem and moving forward from there. Luckily for the American population Childish Gambino has shed light on a serious social issue and hopefully as his words enter the minds of fans around the country a change will be made.
PS. for those of you who watch and love Community, Donald Glover is the same guy as Childish Gambino — mind blown, I know