Childish Gambino made Grammy history Sunday, becoming the first rap artist to win two major categories — Record of the Year and Song of the Year.
Donald Glover, the artist who performs as Childish Gambino, won for his critically acclaimed work on “This Is America.” But when his name was called, he was nowhere to be found.
“I’m not sure where Donald is,” the song’s engineer Riley Mackin said backstage after it won a total of four awards. Mackin said he last saw Glover a few days earlier, when he walked out of the studio and didn’t return.
“I haven’t seen him since,” Mackin said. Asked if he thought the absence was a bit strange, he replied,”I think everything Donald does is a little strange.”
“This Is America” beat out mega-hits including “Shallow” by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper, “The Joke” by Brandi Carlile, “God’s Plan” by Drake and “All The Stars” by Kendrick Lamar and SZA.
Glover won the major awards with his co-writer Ludwig Göransson, who also won a Grammy for scoring the blockbuster hit movie “Black Panther.”
“I think it’s about time,” Göransson said backstage, referring to a rap song finally winning in the two major categories.
“This song speaks to so many people. It talks about injustice, it celebrates life and unites people at the same time,” Göransson said backstage after the win. “I feel like this song really shook the world, and it’s something you can’t really shake off.”
Glover, 35, previously turned down an offer to perform at the 61st Grammy Awards, as did Kendrick Lamar and Drake – a move many Grammy watchers interpreted as commentary on the show’s history of passing over hip hop artists in the top categories.
Göransson said he didn’t know where Glover was but planned to reach out to him after the show.
“I haven’t talked to him yet, but I’m going to call him,” Göransson told reporters backstage. He later he tried Glover and couldn’t get through.
Glover won two other Grammys during the pre-telecast show – for Best Music Video and Best Rap/Sung Performance.
Director Hiro Murai shared the award for the groundbreaking video and declined to elaborate on his interpretation of its meaning when asked backstage.
“We’ve been trying to avoid getting too granular with taking apart the video,” he said. “Our approach was to try to make something that felt like all the things. It’s not just about the injustice or the tragedy, but it’s also, there’s an ironic feel to the track, and you know there’s joy in there. We were just trying to capture the tone of the song.”
Reggae star Shaggy called Glover’s Song of the Year win an important milestone.
“You just gotta keep breaking down barriers. It’s the same thing with reggae music. We started as a little category, (and) tonight I ended up hosting the pre-Grammy awards. That’s the first time a reggae artist ever did that. So it’s baby steps. So it’s a big one for them tonight. Congratulations to Childish Gambino,” he said backstage.