Last night, the Yara Shahidi-led vehicle Grown-ish debuted. For those not in the know, it’s a spinoff from hit ABC show Black-ish that focuses on Shahidi’s character, Zoey, and her journey from super-sheltered private school student to college freshman in this millennial world. Comparisons to A Different World will undoubtedly exist, but fuck that shit. We’re going to let Grown-ish bounce, rock, skate and roll on its own merits, and so far, I’m in.
The debut episodes brought me back to my college days—kinda; we’ll get to that later—while also infusing enough blackness to keep me interested and anticipating future episodes. Here is a list of 10 things that were awesome (and black) about the first two episodes of Grown-ish.
1. Let’s start with the most obvious. By a show of hands, how many of you had any idea that the show itself would be on the Freeform network or had even HEARD of Freeform? Nobody? Good. I’m not alone here. It wasn’t until about 7:55 p.m. that I was like ... wait, why for come Grown-ish isn’t showing up on my DirecTV channel guide on ABC?
Then I looked it up online and saw it was on Freeform, cocked my head to the side and said, “What the fuck is Freeform?” These niggas just gon’ make us LOOK for new channels? That’s some black shit. Turns out Freeform is an ABC Family network or something. I was annoyed until Disney’s Beauty and the Beast came on after and all was right with the world. Be our guest and shit.
2. The first two episodes were titled “Late Registration” and “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe,” using the tried-and-true method of naming things after black songs. I’m all in on that level of blackness. It’s a subtle way to infuse blackness that uncool white people won’t understand without the help of a Magical Negro.
3. Within the FIRST minute, we get footage from Freaknic (RIP), the freakfest that hit its hedonistic stride in the ’90s, taking over and shutting down the streets of Atlanta every spring, AND Luke’s “I Wanna Rock.” We just hit meta blackness.
4. B.o.B. and Janelle Monáe’s song “The Kids” plays in the first episode. Bobby Ray is a flat-earther, which makes sure to get some Hotep-adjacent nonsense into the episode without making it so blatant. Well-played, Grown-ish. Well-played.
5. I appreciate how Randy’s Donuts—Inglewood, Calif.’s famous landmark shop—has become synonymous with black Los Angeles for all of us outsiders. It’s been in videos, movies and television shows as a marker of “Hey, we in the hood now!”
In Grown-ish, sister singing duo Chloe x Halle play Skylar and Jazlyn Forster, two track stars from the hood (running, not hair)—hence the shot of Randy’s Donuts. What makes this especially black? Glad you asked. They’re signed to Beyoncé’s Parkwood Entertainment imprint. We got Beyoncé and Inglewood in one fell swoop, killing two black birds with one stone.
6. Here’s some extra-black shit of the “Fuck it, maybe nobody will notice” variety: In the first episode, Vivek, the Indian kid who aspires toward Drakeness in life, is a label whore. That’s fine; lots of us are. While they’re showing us his label whoring, the show points out that his shoes are Adidas Yeezy 750 Boosts—EXCEPT THEY’RE NOT. They are Adidas, sure, but they’re Pharrell’s NMD Human Race red joints, an ENTIRELY different shoe. Oh, Grown-ish.
7. They hit up a James Baldwin-themed photo exhibit. Two episodes into a show and we go straight for James Baldwin? Siiiiiiign me up.
8. Zoey trying to knock out a paper on the Notorious RBG, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, at 1 a.m. and then 2 a.m. gave me actual nightmares. I recently told my boy’s son, a soon-to-be high school graduate, that college was the best four years of my life and that I’d go back, even with the work, and do it over. I think I forgot that “doing the work” actually included writing papers again. I was NOTORIOUS for starting papers at midnight that were due at 8 a.m. and I NEVER LEARNED MY LESSON.
I somehow managed to get a master’s degree like this, culminating in a 50-page “paper,” including a literature review, bibliography and fully cited sources, on how the government’s HOPE VI housing program was a really good bad idea that displaced tons of black Americans in hopes of spurring gentrification because “the man”—that I wrote in 36 hours. What makes this a black-ass thing? I just mentioned gentrification. That’s all I got.
9. The character Luca’s entire wardrobe looks inspired by the one and only Ghostface Killah, down to the rings, chains and the robelike clothing he sports in the second episode. He’s who I should have been in college.
10. I learned more about drugs in the second episode than I ever did in 38 years of life. Also, this is not true. At all.