Earlier this year, Donald Glover’s “This Is America” exploded onto the pop-music landscape. The No. 1 single—a first for Glover, aka Childish Gambino—enthralled viewers and launched a thousand think pieces, thanks in large part to its provocative music video and catchy hook.
Now Glover is being hit with allegations that he ripped off “This Is America” from “American Pharaoh,” a 2016 song by New York City rapper Jase Harley. The accusations have gathered enough steam on Reddit and social media that one of Glover’s creative partners, Fam Rothstein, responded to them in a since-deleted tweet Monday morning.
According to Pitchfork, Rothstein co-produced the music video for “This Is America” and is a co-principal at Wolf and Rothstein, a creative agency also consisting of Glover and Wolf Taylor. From Pitchfork:
This morning, in response to a user who claimed that Glover “stole the song,” Rothstein tweeted: “The internet is a place of no consequences. I hate that Toronto Akademiks/every white blogger can say something as gospel and y’all take it. This song is 3 yrs old, and we have Pro Tools files to prove it.” (The tweet has since been deleted.)
The date of the song is significant—if it is 3 years old, it would actually predate “American Pharaoh.”
Have a listen yourself. Here’s the full “American Pharaoh” song from Jase Harley:
And a “side-by-side” listen of the two:
The similarities are hard to deny. Not only are they working with the same concepts and themes (to be fair, rapping about the struggle of being a black man in America isn’t exactly novel in hip-hop), but the keys the songs are in are similar, as are the rappers’ cadences. And both songs rely on a dramatic shift from the rap verses to a gospel/spiritual-influenced break.
It may not be a direct ripoff, but the songs sure do sound like they know each other—like “they used to play ball at the same park” or “had homeroom together” kind of know each other.
For what it’s worth, Harley believes his song “inspired” Glover, and said he is flattered by the idea.
As Pitchfork notes, when an Instagram user asked Harley for his thoughts on the songs’ similarities, Harley wrote back, “I always felt my song inspired it lol from the first time I heard it.”
And then said, “It’s cool tho.... Glad they liked my song. It’s all love.”
Harley added that “a shout out would be cool” and “all artist get inspired by others.”
The rapper later expanded on his thoughts in his own IG post:
“I feel extremely humbled to be recognized and labeled as one or [sic] the original inspirations for one of the most important pieces of music and visual art in our time,” wrote Harley, adding a plea that the controversy “[not] dilute the message me and @childishgambino are trying to convey.”
“This is bigger than me and him and bigger than music,” he added. “Let’s not lose focus.”