This year, Donald Glover aka Childish Gambino dropped the mesmerising “This is America”, an emotive, powerful conversation piece that gives us a haunting take on the United States’ toxic cycle of violence. The video is an expression of America’s chaotic past and its disastrous effects on the present, using the ambivalent reception of black art to represent the tightrope of being black, Donald Glover has become a real force to be reckoned with. Once again, proving that he is the only Donald that is making America great again.
Since its May 7 release, “This Is America” has reeled in more than 147 million track streams and 216 million video streams, along with over 1.3 million track equivalents sold in the U.S. and 2.6 million track equivalents sold worldwide.
Before his rapping, striding and brutal murder scenes- Gambino dances towards a man who is initially seen playing the guitar while sitting on a chair but is later found with white linen covering his head before eventually getting shot.
People on Twitter theorised that the man during that open sequence was Trayvon Martin’s father, Trayvon was an African-American teenage boy who was savagely murdered in Florida in 2012 by a neighbourhood watch community member. That is not the case here, however, the man was not Trayvon Martin but a music artist who goes by the name Calvin the Second. And a rather talented one at that, so we caught up with him and asked him everything you wanted to know about the video.
First off, can you explain to the readers who you are and what you do?
My name is Calvin C Winbush II, my stage name is “Calvin The II” (Calvin the Second) I’m a recording artist and actor from Detroit, MI, and I was on Childish Gambino’s most recent music video ‘This is America’. As an actor, I’ve appeared in a bunch of commercials, voice-overs, television shows such as “Nashville” and Movies such as “Whiplash”. For my music, I usually sing, rap and play guitar with or without a band. My music style is a combination of R&B, Folk, Hip Hop with Pop sensibilities. Think Gym Class Heroes with more soul, haha!
How did you get involved with the project?
One of my agents, Jennifer Walton, books me on projects where I’m playing instruments a lot. I play piano, guitar, saxophone (my first instrument), drums and bass guitar, and from time to time, different productions need real musicians for that. I was up at Coachella for the second weekend and she called me out of the blue. She let me know that the content matter was pretty graphic, and wanted to know if I was familiar with Childish Gambino. I was, of course and told her to submit me. One of the producers contacted me to let me know I was in the running and then I got it!
Had you ever done anything like that before?
I’ve been in a bunch of music videos before (Diary by Wale, Free by Hailey Reinhart, Nathan Sykes – Kiss me quick, and many others) but I’ve never been in a music video that went viral to this degree before or that had any type of violent storyline.
Did you get a script prior to the ‘This Is America’? And if so, what was your reaction the script?
I didn’t get a script, but I did get a call from one of the producers who worked on the project to let me know about the graphic nature of the video. I was a little shocked at first until they told me who the artist was! I’m familiar with Donald’s work and knew that he wouldn’t be shooting me on camera for no reason, there had to be more too it. I was definitely right about that!
When you agreed to do the project, did you know that it was going to be as controversial and as talked about as it is?
Given the graphic nature, I was able to guess that it was going to ruffle some feathers. My prayer was that not only did it get people’s attention, but it made people think and converse with one another about race and violence in America. My prayer came true.
What was the set like?
The set was very warm and friendly, but also very professional. Everyone knew exactly what they needed to do and got to work! It was like everyone was solving a puzzle together and doing their best to contribute to something bigger than themselves, for sure.
How many hours of rehearsal did you have to go through?
For my part, I didn’t need much rehearsal. I heard the track over the phone and figured out how match it on guitar earlier that morning. We did practice the first shot which is done in one take several times though so that it seems a seamless as it did. I was amazed at how many takes of dancing everyone was doing. But as you can tell, it really paid off.
What to you is the most significant part about the video personally and what do you hope for people to get out of it?
For me, the most significant part of the video is all of the conversation and thought that it’s creating. It’s making people wake up and think, even if they don’t agree with the imagery. I took it as someone holding up a mirror and having the viewer judge for themselves how they look instead of berating them to behave the way we want them to. I hope that it continues to make people think, question, then resolve and move in a positive direction.
What did it feel like to work with a director like Hiro Murai? Knowing that he’d also worked with the likes of Sia, David Guetta, Earl Sweatshirt, and a Tribe Called Quest.
Oh my God, Mr. Murai is incredible and extremely humble! He has a vision and knows how to make it happen. He was also very jovial and down to earth.
There was loads of speculation on Twitter claiming that you look like Trayvon Martin’s dad – was that a deliberate choice they were making because you’re an actor or a coincidence? Was it weird?
To this day, I swear I have NO IDEA how that rumor started. I in NO way believe I was cast because of any resemblance to Tracey Martin and hope that this video hasn’t caused him any more distress than he’s already experienced. That man’s life has been severely altered by gun violence, and now he gets to see more? It was weird hearing the rumor, but so many people have come out to let everyone else know that it wasn’t me, which is cool.
And lastly, do you have any upcoming projects that you’re working on?
As a musician, I’m writing original music for myself and other artist just about every day. I place music on TV shows and Film. I’m also currently meeting with record labels and music publishers. Several reps have heard my music on my website at and have reached out. We’re currently fielding offers and preparing to make the choice that helps establish my brand. My first single and video for the song “Keepa” will be coming out in June. We’ll be shooting the video in a week and I’m extremely excited! After being in all of those other music videos, I’m finally getting the opportunity to be in my own J.
Keep up with Calvin The II and find his social media on-