“This is America” by Childish Gambino [feat. some others] – Lyrics for English students

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This Is America (single cover) 2018.jpg
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From Donald Glover’s initial “ya, ya, ya’s” to Young Thug’s closing mumbles, “This is America” has become such an iconic song. Pretty much every country has done their own spinoff at this point. But for those of you learning English out there, did you understand the lyrics? This post isn’t an attempt to explain hidden meanings in the video or deep explanations in the lyrics. I’m just trying to explain some of the common expressions and slang he uses in the song, things that might be harder for non-native English speakers to understand. Watch the video if you like and accompany the song. Ready? So here we go!

Read more: for other Lyrics “Explained”, for just lyrics without my explanations

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Song Lyrics & Explanations

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

Yeah, yeah, yeah, go, go away

  • Society: This sounds like what certain prejudiced Americans say to immigrants or groups they don’t like (black, Muslim, poor, etc.)

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

Yeah, yeah, yeah, go, go away

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

Yeah, yeah, yeah, go, go away

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

Yeah, yeah, yeah, go, go away

We just wanna party

  • Informal Speech: *We just want to party

Party just for you

We just want the money

Money just for you (Yeah)

I know you wanna party

Party just for free

Girl, you got me dancin’ (Girl, you got me dancin’)

  • Grammar: *You’ve got me dancing… Also, You have me dancing…

Dance and shake the frame (Yeah)

  • Slang: “Frame” here refers to the woman’s body.

We just wanna party (Yeah)

Party just for you (Yeah)

We just want the money (Yeah)

Money just for you (You)

I know you wanna party (Yeah)

Party just for free (Yeah)

Girl, you got me dancin’ (Girl, you got me dancin’, yeah)

Dance and shake the frame (Ooh)

This is America

Don’t catch you slippin’ now

  • Slang: To “catch” someone doing something is to find or witness that person. It’s usually when you find someone doing an act that is not right. “Don’t let me catch you stealing.” “Slipping” here means to make a mistake or do something wrong.
  • Pronunciation: The lyrics I found say “now” but it sounds kind of like “no.” Gambino could be doing this intentionally. Either way, it has about the same meaning. “Don’t let them find you doing something you shouldn’t be doing, being weak, doing something illegal.”

Don’t catch you slippin’ now

Look what I’m whippin’ now

  • Slang: “Whipping” in slang usually means to make or come up with something. It’s mostly used like “whipping up” something. Whipping can also have to do with cars, as in “Look what I’m driving now.” Whipping traditionally has to do with using a whip to punish someone like a prisoner or slave, or turning milk into a “whipped” cream, for example.
  • Pronunciation: “Now” here kind of sounds like “on,” so it almost sounds like “Look what I’m whipping (beating, hitting) on.”
  • Culture: The “whip” is also a popular dance, by the way.

This is America (Woo)

Don’t catch you slippin’ now

Don’t catch you slippin’ now

Look what I’m whippin’ now

This is America (Skrrt, skrrt, woo)

Don’t catch you slippin’ now (Ayy)

Look how I’m livin’ now

Police be trippin’ now (Woo)

  • Grammar: *Police are tripping now…
  • Slang: “Tripping” here means to act in a way that is wrong or dumb to others, constantly making mistakes and bad choices. “My dad is always punishing me for stuff I didn’t do. He’s tripping.”

Read more: Tripping, also Adventures of Charles

Yeah, this is America (Woo, ayy)

Guns in my area (Word, my area)

  • Figurative speech: His “area” can be his neighborhood, as in, he lives in an area with lots of guns. It can also be literally in his personal area, like in his possession. It most likely refers to America as a whole, though.
  • Slang: “Word” when used like this is just a way to acknowledge what someone says. It’s like saying “really, true, yep, etc.”

I got the strap (Ayy, ayy)

  • Grammar: *I have the strap…
  • Slang: A “strap” in this sense refers to a gun, gun strap.

Read more: Strap

I gotta carry ’em

  • Informal Speech: *I have to carry them.
  • Less Obvious Meaning: He has to carry guns, as if for protection or because that’s the stereotype.

Yeah, yeah, I’ma go into this (Ugh)

  • Informal Speech: *I’m going to go into this…
  • Expression: “Go in” in this sense means to really do well, have a lot of success, really analyze, look hard at, and make an overall really cool song.

Yeah, yeah, this is guerilla (Woo)

  • Double Meaning: Like guerilla warfare where trained common civilians get involved in warlike fighting. “Guerilla” rhymes perfectly with “gorilla” which is kind of a derogatory term against black people. This is probably on purpose as if to say, “This is about black people.”

Read more: Guerilla

Yeah, yeah, I’ma go get the bag

  • Slang: The “bag” here means money. It could also mean drugs since they’re mostly sold in a little bag.

Read more: Bag, also slang terms for money

Yeah, yeah, or I’ma get the pad

a villa style mansion in the evening by the pool, meaning of slang "pad" from Childish Gambino song
a nice “pad” – by Vita Vilcina
  • Slang: The “pad” most likely refers to a house, like a nice home.
  • Double Meaning: In another way, he could be using a double meaning to refer to a writing pad (notepad) where he writes his smart ideas.

Read more: Pad

Yeah, yeah, I’m so cold like, yeah (Yeah)

  • Slang: “Cold” in slang can mean a few things. It can mean that someone is “coldhearted” and doesn’t care about anything, or a mean person. It can also mean that someone is really cool and good at something.

I’m so dope like, yeah (Woo)

  • “Dope” can also mean really cool, something that’s liked by others.

Read more: Dope, also Adventures of Charles

We gon’ blow like, yeah (Straight up, uh)

  • Informal Speech: *We’re going to blow…
  • Slang: “Blow” or “blow up” in slang means to come out and have a ton of success, become really popular. “Straight up” is slang that is usually used to agree with someone. It means something like “true, for real, etc.”

Read more: Straight up

Ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh, tell somebody

You go tell somebody

Grandma told me

Get your money, Black man (Get your— Black man)

Get your money, Black man (Get your—Black man)

Get your money, Black man (Get your—Black man)

This is America (Woo, ayy)

Don’t catch you slippin’ now (Woo, woo, don’t catch you slippin’ now)

Don’t catch you slippin’ now (Ayy, woah)

Look what I’m whippin’ now (Slime!)

This is America (Yeah, yeah)

Don’t catch you slippin’ now (Woah, ayy)

Don’t catch you slippin’ now (Ayy, woo)

Look what I’m whippin’ now (Ayy)

Look how I’m geekin’ out (Hey)

  • Slang: “Geeking out” is to be dressed in a really stylish but kind of formal way. A similar expression is “geeked up” with about the same meaning. This phrase became popular when a style of dance called jerking got famous. This term also means to get high on drugs, but that’s different from what Gambino’s talking about. “Geek” traditionally is a mean term used to make fun of kids that are seen as nerds or who have awkward style. The meaning was turned to be stylish in a weird way. “Geeking out” can also be to show off one’s intelligence or get excited by “nerdy” or “geeky” subjects.

Read more: Geek, Geek out, Geeked up

I’m so fitted (I’m so fitted, woo)

a female model with nice clothing and heels, representing the meaning of slang word "fitted" from This Is America song
she’s “fitted” – by Matheus Ferrero
  • Slang: “Fitted” means well-dressed or stylish.

Read more: Fitted

I’m on Gucci (I’m on Gucci)

  • Figurative Speech/Dual Meaning: “On Gucci” could mean that he is wearing Gucci and is in a phase where he likes this brand. This could be that he is “on” this brand like a drug since we usually say “on” when someone is using or is addicted to a drug. That would relate to being geeked out/up from before. “He’s on LSD.” It could also mean he likes or is acting like Gucci Mane, a famous rapper. Being “on” someone can also mean to make fun of them, so this line has a few probable meanings.

I’m so pretty (Yeah, yeah, woo)

I’m gon’ get it (Ayy, I’m gon’ get it)

  • Informal Speech: I’m going to get get it… “Get it” could refer to making money. “Get it!” is often what people yell to encourage someone to do something well, like dancing. The way he says it though, “Gon’ get it” is used commonly to mean that the person is in trouble or is going to have serious problems. “Ooh, you broke mom’s lamp. You’re gonna get it! (you’re in big trouble)”

Watch me move (Blaow)

This a celly (Ha)

  • Grammar: *This is a celly…
  • Slang: “Celly” here refers to a cellphone.
  • Society: This relates to some police officers that shot innocent black people confusing their cellphones with a gun.

That’s a tool (Yeah)

  • Slang: A “tool” here refers to a gun, saying the cellphone looked like a gun to the police.
  • Society: They could also be using this excuse as a “tool” to get out of trouble.

On my Kodak (Woo) Black

  • Culture/Figurative Speech: Now he’s on Kodak, which is probably that he’s taking photos or recording what’s happening. Kodak is a company that has produced lots of photography products. Kodak Black is a rapper, so he could also be saying that he is acting like Kodak Black. He could also just be saying Kodak to refer to the word black, as in, he is “being black,” acting in a stereotypically black way.

Ooh, know that (Yeah, know that, hold on)

  • Grammar: *You know that…
  • Slang: “Hold on” means to wait, or also to be strong and not give up, not stop.

Get it (Woo, get it, get it)

Ooh, work it (21)

  • Slang: “Work it” means to do something really well, especially related to dancing.
  • Rapper: “21” refers to 21 Savage, a rapper in this song.

Read more: Work it

Hunnid bands, hunnid bands, hunnid bands (Hunnid bands)

  • Slang: *One hundred bands… “Hunnid” or “a hunnid” is a common slang pronunciation of the word “hundred.” “Bands” means a thousand dollars. A hundred bands is a lot of money.

Read more: Hunnid, Bands, also slang terms for money

Contraband, contraband, contraband (Contraband)

I got the plug in Oaxaca (Woah)

  • Slang: A “plug” is someone who provides illegal contraband for another party, usually drugs. It also can be just a person who has anything another person needs.
  • Society/Geography: He’s saying he has a drug supplier in Oaxaca, a state in Mexico. This state isn’t famous for drug activity, but he says it likely because it’s in Mexico, a country infamous for drug cartels. He’s not being serious though.

Read more: Plug, Oaxaca

They gonna find you like “blocka” (Blaow)

  • Informal Speech: *They’re going to find you…
  • Culture/Sounds: “Blocka” is the sound a gun makes. They’re going to find you and shoot you, basically. This sound has been popularized by rappers of Caribbean origin and is now used by all kinds of rappers, especially in trap music.

Ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh, tell somebody

America, I just checked my following list, and

  • Media: His following list on social media.

You go tell somebody

You m********** owe me

Grandma told me

Get your money, Black man (Black man)

Get your money, Black man (Black man)

Get your money, Black man (Black man)

Get your money, Black man (Black man)

Black man (1, 2, 3—get down)

  • Culture/Music: This is a popular line in funk and soul music from the mid-1900s, made most popular by artist James Brown. He usually said this before he started dancing, which is exactly what happens in the music video.
  • Expression: To “get down” in music means to start dancing and having fun. Similarly, “Get down!” is what people yell when someone starts shooting a gun.

Read more: Get down

Ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh, tell somebody

You go tell somebody

Grandma told me, “Get your money”

Get your money, Black man (Black man)

Get your money, Black man (Black man)

Get your money, Black man (Black man)

Get your money, Black man (Black man)

Black man

You just a black man in this world

  • Grammar: *You’re just a black man…

You just a barcode, ayy

  • Deeper Meaning: A “barcode” is that black and white code that people scan to buy something or check the price. He could be saying black people are seen as something to buy or that have a price. Just objects.

You just a black man in this world

Drivin’ expensive foreigns, ayy

a foreign car representing the meaning of English slang "foreigns"
all I drive is “foreigns” – by Mike Von
  • Slang: “Foreigns” are foreign cars. Rappers usually love to sing about foreign cars.

You just a big dawg, yeah

  • Slang: “Dawg” is a word that refers to another person, usually a man. It’s the same as dude, bro, etc.

Read more: Dawg

I kenneled him in the backyard

  • A “kennel” is a shelter where dogs are kept. This plays on the word “dawg” from before, meaning he puts this man in his place or probably buries him in the backyard.

No, probably ain’t life to a dog

For a big dog

  • Understanding: These last two lines I can’t really understand what he’s saying, but this is more or less it.

What Else?

“This is America” is such a cool song because its lyrics are full of double meanings, cultural references, and sarcastic criticisms. Again, I don’t really want to get into the deeper meaning of the lyrics, but it’s apparent that he is criticizing lots of modern hip hop. The video expresses this even more and his criticism shifts against America as a whole, even though he focuses more on the black experience.

Violence, racism, discrimination, and constant stereotypical pressures are just part of what can make life in America very tough for anybody, and especially the disadvantaged groups of people. Of course, black Americans are one of the greatest examples of this, and we see proof of it time and time again. The song is fun to listen to and dance to. The video is enticing with just as much meaningful content as the lyrics, and this song was a hit since the second it reached our screens.

Featured image: Wayne Lee-Sing

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