Childish Gambino Sued For Copyright Infringement Of ‘This Is America’

Childish GambinoPhoto Credit: Shutterstock

Childish Gambino was recently hit with a lawsuit by rapper Kidd Wes, who filed a copyright infringement claim in connection with Gambino’s 2018 hit “This Is America.” 

In court documents filed last week, Wes (born Emelike Nwosuocha) claimed that Gambino (born Donald Glover) ripped off his 2016 tune called “Made in America” with the glaringly similar “This Is America.” According to papers filed in New York federal court, the songs have a “substantially similar unique ‘flow,’” along with “the lyrical theme, content, and structure of the identically-performed choruses.” 

Additionally, the papers included evidence in the form of a report made by University of Miami musicologist Dr. Brent Swanson, who wrote: “There are distinct similarities in melodic contour, rhythmic triplet flow in each performance, and the lines ‘Made in America’ and ‘This is America’ line up nearly perfectly in time despite being different tempos. They also both use rhythmic utterances in their performances.” According to the papers, Swanson used in-depth forensic sonic analysis to arrive at his judgment. 

With claims of copyright infringement, Wes’s legal team will now go after Gambino; the song’s co-writers, Ludwig Göransson and Jeffery Lamar Williams; the record’s label, Roc Nation; and the track’s backup singer, Young Thug. The suit seeks a permanent injunction, plus damages and lost profits. 

While Gambino has yet to comment on the issue, Wes’ attorneys Imran H. Ansari of Aidala Bertuna & Kamins, and La’Shawn N. Thomas of Miami Entertainment Law Group told Page Six that “the similarities between the two pieces of music are beyond coincidental, and amounts to infringement, as alleged in the complaint filed by our client … Mr. Nwosuocha is confident in his claims, and simply seeks the credit and compensation he deserves for the unauthorized use of his music.”

Despite the million-dollar lawsuit, Wes made it clear that it’s not about the money. He told Page Six that “it’s about the respect of the independent artist. I’ve had so many friends in the industry that were afraid to come up and say something, that they worked hours in the studio for, because a name was bigger than them. I just want this to be the end of an old era and the opening of a new one.”

Unless Gambino can prove that he either didn’t have access to Wes’ song while creating his own or that “This Is America” was a transformative piece — repurposed in such a creative way that he’s produced a new and different work — of “Made in America,” the future doesn’t look too bright for Gambino. 

This isn’t the first time the award-winning actor and singer has been hit with claims of copyright infringement. 

In 2018, rumors emerged that “This Is America” appeared very similar to New York City rapper Jase Harley’s 2016 song, “American Pharoah.” In a post on Instagram, Harley said, “It’s cool tho … Glad they liked my song. It’s all love.” Nevertheless, one of Gambino’s collaborators, Fam Rothstein, retorted that such allegations were false and that “we have Pro Tools files to prove it,” in a now-deleted tweet.

For reference, “This Is America” hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart after its release and eventually won four Grammys — including Song of the Year and Record of the Year in 2019.