“Clint Eastwood” is the phenomenal debut single from “virtual band” Gorillaz, dropped in 2001. The funky aesthetic of the video and the song’s menacing, mellow beat made it one of the singles to bump in that year. It features Del Tha Funky Homosapien on the mic and is produced in large part by Dan the Automator.
Conceptually, the song is part of the Gorillaz canon/mythology, with Del Tha Funky Homosapian playing Del Tha Ghost Rapper, a spirit possessing Russel, the band’s drummer, whose eyes are clouded over with the spirits of his friends who were killed in a drive-by shooting in Brooklyn. It uses this story as a starting point for a conversation about the ego versus the spirit.
The driving theme of the song manifests itself in the contrast between 2D’s mellow, passive hook and Del’s rap that calls the listeners to action.
The conflict is reminiscent of that between archetypal id and ego -
One might consider Del to represent the spirit of creative enterprise that pervades humanity; the desire in “every sprouting tree, every child of peace” to make something beautiful.
There is also a possible undercurrent of drug imagery: sunshine in a bag could refer to weed or psychedelic drugs, and Del’s possession of Russel may be a metaphor for an individual under the influence.
The song’s title is a reference to Clint Eastwood, the actor who has portrayed icons of rugged manliness and badassery perhaps better than any other. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly and Gunsmoke are alluded to in the song. In the former movie, Clint’s nameless character says that he has “sunshine in a bag,” gold coins.
Gorillaz returned to this subject matter, at least nominally, on 2005’s “Dirty Harry,” named as a nod to one of Clint’s better-known movies. In 2001, the song was given the UK Garage treatment in its remix by producer Ed Case, which was, in the UK, a bigger radio hit than the album cut.