Childish Gambino and “Get Out”

Matthew Teutsch
5 min readJan 13, 2021

Today, I want to look at the song that plays when we first encounter Chris and Rose on screen. As images of Chris’s photographs flash across the screen, we hear Childish Gambino’s “Redbone” from “Awaken, My Love” (2016). Countering the soulful sound of the song, the lyrics focus on the narrator’s paranoia over infidelity in a relationship. Jordan Peele talks about his choice of “Redbone” for the film and mentions “But stay woke” which opens the chorus. While this song is important, it made me start to think about my first introduction to Childish Gambino back in 2011 when I heard about his album Camp on NPR and looked up the video for the first single, “Bonfire.”

After watching Get Out, I started to think back to “Bonfire” and tried to look up some interpretations of the video online, to no avail. Initially, the video, in relation to the song’s lyrics, perplexed me, and I was never really sure what to take away from the mixture of the words and the images. However, now that I think about it, I cannot help but consider them along the same lines as a film like Get Out or even in relation to something like Amiri Baraka’s Dutchman.

Lyrically, “Bonfire” exudes braggadocio as Gambino raps about his image and justifying his position as a rapper and not just as an actor. Specifically, he raps about all of the women, of different ethnic backgrounds, that he gets by being Childish Gambino. The lyrics don’t seem like anything out of the ordinary for some hip hop songs; however, taken in conjunction with the video, Gambino is making another commentary about his identity and image.

As the air raid siren goes off, we see Gambino sit up in a field of trees with a noose around his neck. Struggling to figure out where he is and to get his breath back, he gags and eventually vomits up blood. When he realizes there is a noose around his throat, he looks up to see that he was hanging from the limb of a tree and somehow the rope snapped and he fell to the ground. This is where the video starts and where the lines about his nondiscriminatory tendencies when it comes to sexual relationships when it comes to…

Matthew Teutsch

Here, you will find reflections on African American, American, and Southern Literature, American popular culture and politics, and pedagogy.