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Open Access Publications from the University of California

A Return to Psychedelic Funk: An Inquiry into Childish Gambino’s “Redbone”


Childish Gambino’s “Redbone” has incited many waves of impact across today’s pop culture media. His song uses features of the 1970s psychedelic funk movement, such as slap bass space feels and paranoia, to recall the Black Power Movement and illustrate the fear of Blackness in modern society while asking listeners to “stay woke” in political activism. This paper examines the origins of the Funkadelic movement along with its social implications within the Black Power Movement. It is then followed by a musical analysis of “Redbone” with a focus on the harmonic, melodic, and instrumental aspects of the piece and its direct relations to the 1970s movement while providing a novel variation. Cries to “stay woke” in the lyrics reemphasize the call to action, bringing wide reception and success to both the subsequent album and Glover as an artist.

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