In 1996 Atlanta, Georgia jumped onto the global map by hosting the 100th Olympic Games. At the same time the city was taking over the music scene thanks to two of its native sons, Andre 3000 and Big Boi, and their crew known as the Dungeon Family, who released their second album ATLiens in ’96. They were producing a new sound never heard before by much of the nation and revolutionizing the game.
10 years later, Atlanta was back at it again. The movie ATL was in theaters and with T.I.’s King and Jeezy’s TM 101 dominating the airwaves it was hard to stop at an intersection without hearing the sounds of the Empire City of the South banging through somebody’s speakers. That’s not to mention Mike Vick and the Falcons dominating every highlight reel and Madden game. It would be hard to imagine a place that exuded ‘cool’ the way Atlanta did.
In the years that have followed the city has continued to grow and prosper, economically and by remaining the cultural center of the south, but there hasn’t been the one thing to point to like there was in ’96 and ’06. Well, here we are again 10 years later and the city itself, not just its citizens, has been catapulted back into the spotlight.
Donald Glover, the Stone Mountain comedian/rapper known as Childish Gambino, had spent years on this show, of course writing, then trying to get it picked up by a network. Finally, FX gave him a chance. Admittedly, I haven’t always been a big fan of Glover’s work. The whole funny rapper game never appealed to me and there were a lot of shots taken at the south and Stone Mountain in particular on NBC’s 30 Rock on which Glover was a writer.
That said though, I always give fellow ATLiens the benefit of the doubt so I was excited to see what he would do with the show.
After seeing the first two episodes premier last night, I was not disappointed.
Now, you have probably seen some of the rave reviews from other sites and blogs across the internet, but, as usual, I think they’re missing the key of the show. Most of these reviews are praising all the various virtue signaling that they perceive in the show and how it supposedly validates their victim complex.
They may very well get that out of the show and, not knowing Glover personally, maybe that is the goal of the show, but that could not be farther from what I gathered from the first two episodes.
The show opens with an argument resulting in a shooting, but then flashes back to what seems to be a regular day in the life of Earn, Donald Glover’s character. Though obviously down on his luck, Earn lives with and takes care of his young daughter and goes to work. Earn is obviously far from perfect, but its nice to showcase some personal responsibility on prime time.
While at his job a coworker shows Earn a video of a new rapper blowing up in the city by the name of Paper Boi. Earn recognizes Paper Boi as his cousin and you can see the entrepreneurial wheels begin to spin. Earn leaves his job to find his cousin, who he apparently has spoken to in a while, and makes the pitch to be his “manager” or at least to help him in a way that would make them both rich.
Though he’s turned down, like any hustler, Earn doesn’t accept that and reaches out to a friend working at a local radio station. When his “friend” doesn’t do much to help him Earn again gets industrious and convinces the janitor to get him in the building and he slips Paper Boi’s hit, along with some cash, under the door of KP, the real player at the station.
The plan works perfectly and that night Earn walks up on Paper Boi in his car enjoying the next step in his journey to the top. Unfortunately, this is where things take a turn. Some dude upset that Paper Boi was talking to his girl walks up and smashes the mirror on his car. Paper Boi gets out of the car along with his friend Darius and Earn and they confront the man. With everyone involved the confrontation armed a shot was inevitably fired, it’s still unknown by who, and Earn and Paper Boi are arrested.
This doesn’t turn out all bad for them though, as the local news reports instead put Paper Boi on the map, even landing him some coveted “wet” lemon pepper wings from JR Cricket’s.
The second episode takes place mostly with Earn in jail and Paper Boi realizing the scope of his new fame. While in the jail Earn observes some of the chaos that happens on a nightly basis in a place like that and that is what many of the other reviews are focusing on. To me, that doesn’t really matter so much. Crazy things happen all around you no matter where you are and are constantly trying to knock you off course.
Hopefully this show stays on course and highlights the hard work and determination it will take for Paper Boi, Earn, and maybe even Darius to rise to the top of the Atlanta rap game.
Time will tell, but Atlanta has the potential to inspire and teach some valuable lessons to a generation that badly needs it.