Childish Gambino’s “This Is America” struck an immediate, much-needed nerve when it dropped last month, in part due to Donald Glover’s combination of wit and social awareness to create an anthem as hummable as it is socially-pertinent. This blueprint might not be the workings of the Atlanta star himself, though, as a number of hallmarks of Gambino’s hit have been pointed out in a recently-surfaced SoundCloud song – from two years ago.
The song “American Pharoah”, from New Jersey rapper Jase Harley’s 2016 FREE PXRN mixtape, covers a suspicious amount of ideas that would go on to be used by Glover in “This is America.” There is the shared lyrical content about racialized police violence – Harley opens up his song’s second verse by rapping “I’m young and I’m black in America/They stoppin’, they frisk us and jail us up/I don’t understand what they jealous of/See they crucify us and nail us up” – though these aren’t the first rap songs to tackle this issue, nor should they be the last. Stark similarities can be found in the shared structure of both songs, which juxtapose easygoing tropical samples with hard-hitting trap bass, along with the near-identical flow that both rappers use to navigate their songs’ parallel production and lyrical themes:
Jase Harley has responded to the similarities on Instagram, though the rapper seems more grateful than bitter, saying “It’s all love and support from me, glad if my record influenced his.” Glover’s management team has denied the accusations, but even if the song isn’t entirely original, at least its already-iconic music video is entirely his own (to our knowledge), and stolen or not, Glover can take solace in the fact that his version is still miles better than Nicole Arbour’s take.