Stolen Moments: Gambino and the Internet Trolls

As independent artists, it is challenging enough to produce, promote, and distribute our work. It takes a lot of sweat equity, intentionality, and creativity to produce a piece of work that is both true and authentic, while palatable for an audience.

The last thing we need, is for someone to come along and to say we stole someone else’s art.

This is what happened when a Reddit member claimed that because “This is America” by Childish Gambino is similar to “American Pharaoh” by Jase Harley, Gambino is guilty of plagiarism.

Are you kidding me? Any artist worth their salt will tell you that the universe is vast and wide, and in it are a plethora of ideas that we incorporate into our work. We neither intentionally nor unintentionally rip off others work. We pay homage, borrow, and imitate, and that is how the culture of art is built. It is how new ideas are generated, how new forms emerge, and how new audiences are cultivated.

So, should an artist refrain from putting out a piece of art because another artist has done something similar out of fear of being accused of plagiarism? Welcome to the death of art.

It infuriates me the irresponsibility of people who will make such accusations with no credible evidence. They must be seeking attention, validation, and in this digital age, traffic to their social media pages. It serves nothing more than a distraction, as even Harley pointed out, to the larger issues that artists are working to illuminate.

So what if “This is America” sounds like “American Pharaoh?” Did you listen? Did you get the point? Are you going to act in your own way? Are you going to create awareness? Or are you going to be a perpetual side arm critic?

We are Americans living in a 21st century Rome, and it is burning. We need folks to help put out the fires, not fan the flames.

Let me say it again. Listen and watch it all, get it in your brain pan, fry it up, and then do work on your own to assist in resolving it. That is what you the consumer can do about it, not get on your social media chat and start drama about plagiarism. That is so much unnecessary energy, and it detracts from the bigger picture. It epitomizes the phrase, “if you’re not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.” Be a part of the solution, and pump up Harley, Gambino, and any other artist who are tackling these issues with their art.

I’m going to say it a third time in a different way, to drive the point home. Don’t be a spectator. Hang around some artist communities if you don’t understand the mind and spirit of artists. Understand their intentionality and philosophy. Learn empathy. Then go out and create your own art, your own movement, and your own approach to our critical issues.

And don’t hate. Collaborate.

And start using social media for positive fundamental change, instead of creating accusations and sensationalism. Then artists like Harley don’t have to waste time responding and steering the conversation away from triviality.

One last time. Art is the glue that holds the world together. Drop your hammer and chisel, and pick up some epoxy.

Ron Kipling Williams