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Childish Gambino’s powerful video for “This Is America” has earned universal acclaim since its May 5 premiere, garnering a whopping 107 million views on YouTube. Its success is also credited to Tokyo-born director Hiro Murai, Donald Glover’s most important artistic collaborator. Murai has worked with Glover on other music videos, in addition to multiple episodes of the popular FX series, Atlanta.

In a recent interview with Variety, Murai shared details about his creative process and specific influences on “This Is America.” Check out a few takeaways from the conversation below.

On the process of making the video with Childish Gambino

HM: “We worked on music videos together before Atlanta, and the way we work on Atlanta came from how we worked on music videos, so it was sort of a fluid, intuitive process… Donald took the creative charge on the initial conceit [of the video] because he knew what the song was going to be, and I came on when he was mixing down the final pieces of the song. But the creative process for the video was like we were playing hot potato with ideas — even while we were shooting it.”

On his inspiration for “This Is America”

HM: “[I was inspired] by the idea of a dance video that took place in the last 20 minutes of the movie mother!, or in the world of [Brazilian movie] City of God.”

On what they wanted to emphasize in the visuals

HM: “Ultimately, it was about putting all of the pieces in the frame and figuring out what we wanted to emphasize and what felt like the tone we wanted to hit.”

Murai also said that Glover prioritized mixing light and dark visual elements to “give the audience something to digest and to hopefully discuss.”

On the overwhelmingly positive response to the video

HM: “Pleasantly surprised… When we’re working on something, I’m just trying to make it interesting for us and hope that whatever’s interesting for us will connect with people watching it.”

For the full story, head on over to Variety.

In case you haven’t seen it yet, watch “This Is America” in the video below.

Now, here’s a look at the best music videos that Hiro Murai has directed.

Words by Renz Ofiaza
Staff Writer

Renz Ofiaza is a Staff Writer at Highsnobiety and based in Brooklyn.

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