“It’s an Internet cesspool that’s cashed in big on senseless fight videos. The site’s popularity has created a sort of voyeuristic feedback loop, in which disassociated bystanders immediately videotape violent incidents and act as if they’re already watching a video on the Internet”Gothamist
“Blow up /
Worldstar before rap you already know that”
The album’s animated cover exemplifies Gambino’s first words on this track, “Blow up,” suggesting violence and explosion, but also the process by which a person or piece of content can go viral. This duality of violence and virality will reverberate throughout the track.
Before Culdesac in 2010, Glover had already won an Emmy for comedy writing for the show 30 Rock (left), and was starring as Troy Barnes on Community (right). The embedded link refers to Glover’s ascent to fame through comedy writing and acting before his rap career took off.
“So Fresh Prince, they about to bring the show back”
Gambino has often referred to the connections between himself and Will Smith. These connections are multi-layered, referring to both the artists–Smith and Glover–but also the largely autobiographical characters they portray– The Fresh Prince and The Boy.
In each of the songs linked above, Gambino notes the similarities between himself and the star of the 90’s sitcom Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, as both actors and music artists. Left, Gambino raps in The Real: “Imma rap and act Will Smith this bitch.” Right, in Not Going Back: “Callin’ me the new Will Smith, that’s Jaden.”
In Chance the Rapper’s My Favorite Song, Gambino separates himself, claiming his content is more substantive and meaningful than what Will Smith would touch on in his party-rap anthems: “As God as my witness, this Will Smith spit real shit.” As an example, Smith’s 1997 video for “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It.”
This also foreshadows the follow-up project Kauai, which casts Jaden Smith as “The Boy.” Glover acknowledged that Jaden Smith represented a real-life version of “The Boy,” a dizzying oscillation between characters, wherein the relationship between fictional roles and realities becomes blurred.
“It’s your birthday, make it earthquake / fell in love with a [n-word] like a mermaid”
Recall that the first verse began with a reference to Fresh Prince. Considering, we understand how Gambino has used forbidden love to intricately string together his opening Fresh Prince reference, the Little Mermaid, and his own personal narrative.
“Phone call gotta say ‘Moshi Moshi’ (moshi moshi) / Girlfriend acting all wishy-washy (wishy washy)”
“Moshi moshi” is a Japanese method of saying hello when picking up the phone. The phrase is also an internet meme typically used to spam or troll internet message board conversations.
“When I hear that action / I’ma be Scorsese”
A play on the word “action” referring to both a fight and the word a director would yell to start filming a scene; the specific reference to Scorsese refers to films like Goodfellas, Taxi Driver, and The Departed, movies that grapple with the exploits of violent criminals.
Note the smartphone held horizontally with the “filmmaker” lying prone in an attempt at a sophisticated angle. Both Worldstar wannabes and famed directors like Scorsese tantalize audiences with violence, leaving them clamoring for more, spurring more production and leaving the viewer complicit in the process.
“My [n-word] hold it horizontal man, be a professional”
The video above shows a special act Gambino incorporates during live performances of the song. As Gambino interjects, he implies that many Worldstar videos, filmed with a vertical smartphone, reflect amateurish lack of forethought in comparison to the horizontal aspect ratio more similar to professional films. Including this direction in the song asks listeners to widen their view and consider exactly what our obsession with violence and crime based entertainment perpetuates.
The source clip, fight comp 33 from worldstarhiphop.com sampled at 1:03 in Gambino’s Worldstar
“She on Hollywood and Vine / thinkin’ that she Hollywood on Vine”
“She on Hollywood and Vine” implies his girl equates herself to the stars commemorated on the Walk of Fame at the intersection of these streets, but the following line implies that she only thinks she’s “Hollywood” as she appears on the now defunct social media app, Vine.
“Showin’ off her ass, that’s a net twerk”
Gambino implies his girl’s “net twerk,” creating sexualized content for the internet, constitutes a network, equating her content creation with that of a television network, in that case, meaning she is “Hollywood on Vine.”
This passage is most likely a reference to the presence of adult film star Abella Anderson throughout Because the Internet. She first appears as a mystery woman in Clapping for the Wrong Reasons, and will show up many more times. We’ll be able to examine her presence more closely in “Zealots of Stockholm.”
“The boy is seeing this through his phone.”
The above scene begins with Fam, The Boy, and their crew driving to a nightclub while eating In-N-Out. When they arrive, The Boy isn’t dressed appropriately to get in the club, so he waits outside, where he witnesses a fight break out after an SUV pulls up and its occupants verbally accost a patron named “Jay.” The boy instinctually begins filming it, as the voiceover calls attention to that fact. Police show up, shots are fired from and into the SUV, and Jay dies on the sidewalk next to the boy.
“Let me flash on ‘em, we all big brother now, lil sis, let her run around”
An allusion to George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984, wherein a government organization known as “Big Brother” monitors and tracks every move of its populace. Gambino notes that our contemporary government doesn’t even have to do the work of surveillance anymore, since people voluntarily record each other and themselves every day. With this voluntary big brother established, the system is content to allow its populace, “lil sis,” to run around.
“Yo, bro, man, check out that video I just sent you, man, this shit is hilarious, man”
Splitting the song in two equal halves, a phone call from “Steve” references a video tweeted out by the real Steve, Steve G. Lover, when Worldstar was released as a single in October of 2013.
The video shows a man sneaking up on a child and spraying him with Silly String. The child reacts by screaming and running away, as if he’d been shot, not knowing it was harmless. From Steven’s description, we get the sense that the “victim” in the video is overreacting, and it’s in this overreaction that Steven derives entertainment. The juxtaposition of this seemingly harmless humor directly after the death The Boy witnesses and records at the club questions the content we encourage and consume everyday.
“That’s what WorldStar is about.”
— Gambino brings “Because the Internet” to Studio Q
With the first half of the song serving as an awakening, and the second more of a psychedelic trip, the implication is the lasting mind-altering effects of the awakening, this “cup of coffee.”
The duality of the track “Worldstar” is an offering to see both sides of our internet behavior, our frenetic and obsessive consumption as well as our fears and desires. It’s not an indictment; it’s a pursuit of understanding every side of the equation. We can enjoy the sweetness of enthralling imagery and sensational virality. Glover is just asking us to eat our vegetables too.