Donald Glover as Earn.
Normally, I do not tolerate rosé slander, but in Alfred’s case, I can understand the frustration. If you’re a rapper booked for an appearance at the club, you should get more than free wine. That man deserved brown liquor, damn it.
Righteous indignation aside, Alfred’s got to work on that attitude. Does he want to be in the club? Based on his variety of grimaces, nah, but he’s getting paid to be there, so he should treat it like the job it is. He does declare, “I don’t trust niggas in the club.” I mean, duh, but my point stands.
Not that many people appear to be familiar with Paper Boi, and of the few who do know him, the response is equal parts salty and stank. Alfred has got to get that game face together or else the “for bookings” portion of his social-media-account bios will go largely ignored. He is new to all this, so maybe there’s something to be said of a learning curve. I’m southern, though, so it ain’t too high ‘round my way.
Alfred needs to be more like Darius. People just buy him free drinks. Of course they do! He is what the kids would describe as “good energy.” When he got up to bop, I was like, “HE THINK HE ME!” If you didn’t read that in a hoodrat tone, go back and reread the sentence.
Now, Alfred not getting any free Crown Royal Apple aside, his other problems include a shifty promoter who planned to screw him over. Earn is the manager, so handling that is technically his responsibility. Perhaps it’s a familial trait, but Earn hates the club, too. He calls it a “money suck.”
Earn’s other keen observation include “Somebody smells like Wendy’s double stack.” Whoever wrote this line, I appreciate your specificity. That’s like me saying someone smells like a half-eaten No. 2 combo from Whataburger and two puffs of Newports. Anyhow, Earn is chasing this promoter around the club, asking for the $5,000 owed to them. The man literally escapes into a secret room to avoid coming off the appearance fee.
In the meantime, Earn greets a bartender who very quickly gets him together. As he complains about the club, she asks if she can offer him a bit of advice. “Leave,” she advised. “No one is keeping you here, but if you’re at the club, then deep down you want to be at the club. You’re not special.”
This woman deserves a round of applause. I hate dealing with people who go on and on about the club while they’re at the club. Take your ass home then! That’s why I hate that song “Here” by Alessia Cara. The door works well when you open it, girl.
And while bottle service tends to be an overpriced hustle, the bartender is correct in excusing that, too. As she says, “Everyone needs to feel special sometimes.”
Like the G that she is, the bartender slips Earn a note (after pouring several shots that he didn’t need since he can’t hold his liquor), letting him know that you need to pull the fire alarm to get into the sleazy promoter’s back room. Once Earn slips inside, though, he is promptly shut down. You see, the promoter claims that Paper Boi exceeded his alcohol order limit, required extra security because he is a “thug,” and didn’t perform as promised. So what does Earn end up getting? Only $750.
Earn ain’t exactly threatening, so he takes that money and goes back outside with the face of a sad-dog meme. By the time he finds his cousin, though, he’s riled the hell up. Alfred is in a mood, too: He was already bothered that another rapper with real money and popularity overshadowed him, then got vexed by the fact that his section was besieged with a bunch of folks he didn’t know. Alfred kicked them all out, but did offer to let the women stay. Of course, those women left anyway.
Alfred likes one woman in particular, but when he asks for her number, she shut him down, telling him to follow her on Instagram. She has a boyfriend, it turns out, but promises to check out Paper Boi’s music on SoundCloud. When Alfred felt a way, she kept it funky. She knew he wanted to party with a cute girl like her, so her services are done.
Pissed about everything, Alfred storms into the back room, punks the hell out on the promoter, and gets the money he was promised. “Wow,” the promoter says moments after he leaves. “That boy’s gonna be a star.” He then tells a woman he works with to call the police.
By the time Earn and Alfred and friends make it to another spot to eat, they learn via the television that Paper Boi is wanted for armed robbery in connection to a shooting outside the club. Also, one of Darius’s friends recorded Alfred manhandling that promoter with his phone, further confirming why you can’t trust niggas in the club.
This episode is great all around, but I do have one lingering complaint: WHY WERE PEOPLE NOT JUMPING AROUND WHEN “KNUCK IF YOU BUCK” WAS PLAYING? What kind of blacks in the club don’t lose their mind to that Crime Mob classic? Hell, I stood up and started jumping while watching the episode. Those extras ain’t real.
Now, as we inch closer to the end of Atlanta’s inaugural season, I will say as much as I enjoy the show, I do wonder if it is best consumed as a binge-watch. There’s an overall narrative to be sure, but the show often just floats from episode to episode. Although there’s definitely a purpose, there’s an aimlessness there, too. These are characters with simple goals — not be broke — but they don’t know how exactly to get there. We don’t know entirely where we’re going, either, and that slower pacing makes the narrative feel more real than the show’s contemporaries. I get that it isn’t for everyone, but for me the free-flowing approach makes Atlanta more interesting to watch.
And as a friend of mine who writes for television pointed out, white folks get to create plotless TV shows all of the time with characters totally foreign to us. Atlanta is doing the same thing, only with characters that black people in our age group can actually relate to.
Even in tonight’s episode, the conversation between the bartender and Earn felt so familiar. I’ve had that conversation so many times. A lot of people abhor clubs, and have subsequently created businesses to help black people socialize outside of the club scene.
Another thing to appreciate is how Atlanta tackles certain aspects about hip-hop. It pulls the veil back on would-be rap stars, showing us what’s often depicted as the life, but it does so without feeling preachy, hollow, or stereotypical. I’ve said it before, but a lesser talent would have made an embarrassing character out of Paper Boi and Earn. Same goes for the show’s depiction of black culture overall.
That is not the case here. Slow-moving or not, what’s happening on Atlanta is long overdue. I’ve had some critiques, but as a whole, this is such an impressive first season. It reminds me of a really good first album — with little tweaks here and there, it’d be a true masterpiece. We have two more episodes left this season, but I’m already looking forward to the next.