In the song “Not Going Back,” Childish Gambino discusses his own racial identity and what it is like to be him. Unlike most other rappers, Gambino is college-educated and in many of his songs, he mentions that he was academically gifted as a child. In “Not Going Back,” he says “mama told me I was special when them test scores came in, callin’ the new Will Smith, that’s Jaden.” In this excerpt, he is saying that just because he happens to be both smart and black, that does not mean that he should be compared to another smart black man, rather than a smart white man. He invalidates his mom’s statement by noting that Jaden Smith is going to be the next version of his dad because he actually shares something in common with Will Smith. On the other hand, the only thing that Gambino shares with Will Smith is the fact that they are both black and smart. Although Gambino does not want to be compared to Will Smith, he still acknowledges the fact that “smart middle-class black kids need a role model.”
In the song, Gambino talks about how he never really fit in with white people or black people. The black kids at his school looked down upon him when he was a child because he was educated and smart, which is evident from the statement “these fake niggas who call me pussy are mad at me, ‘cause they ain’t have the smarts or the heart.” On the other hand, Gambino did not fit in with the white community either, which is apparent when he says “white people confused like girl on Glee and Gabourey.” It seems as though this line is referring to the way that white people view Gambino.