When FX first announced their partnership with NBC workhorse Donald Glover for their new show about the inner-workings of an up and coming rapper and his manager, I assumed scenes like the ones that take place in Atlanta’s “The Club” would be par for the course. Club appearances and popped bottles are, after all, much of what goes into the life of a local rapper trying to go mainstream. That it took all the way until episode eight to tell this funny, albeit cliché, story is refreshing. Atlanta makes great use of well-worn narratives and uses them to advance the plot for all three of its main characters. Van is currently in sleep mode like one of the robots in HBO’s Westworld but the end of episode preview lets us know she’ll be back next week to fulfill her angry black woman duties. Yay, I guess.
Anywho! This week we catch up with C-level celebrity rapper Alfred aka Paper Boi, his cousin/ manager Earn and everybody’s favorite lovable Nigerian (sorry, Adebisi!) Darrius as they post up in one of several VIP sections of a nightclub in ATL called Primal. I was a little confused by the VIP hierarchy but apparently Paper Boi is being paid to make an appearance at a club where nobody notices he’s there. Seems kind of counterproductive from a club promoter point of view but what do I know?
For Paper Boi, this is work and he’s not too happy that ownership has him drinking bottles of Rosé while NFL player Marcus Miles’s section is poppin’ with preferential club real estate, manlier beverage options and a stable of fine heinas to keep him and his leather-clad pet peacock company. Darrius is having a great time, though, being the one guy at the club that everybody seems to like to do free shots with. Darrius admits that twenty-percent of his alcohol he drinks for free. That sounds impressive, Darrius. Of course, if you were a sexy lady (or just any woman, really) all of your drinks would have been for free. (Panama Edit: This isn't even remotely true, ladies.) But good for you.
Here are a couple of things we learn about Paper Boi tonight: A. He does not trust niggas at the club (does anyone?) B. He does not trust Nigerians (ouch, Darrius) C. He doesn’t trust any man and D. Paper Boi sadly doesn’t even trust himself. It doesn’t seem like Alfred much likes being Paper Boi but he’s doing it because that’s what is expected of a man of his social stature, complexion and zip code. The industry life doesn’t really suit what we have come to know of Alfred’s personality and he’d much rather be at home watching a movie than be sitting at the club getting stunted on by Miles and his invisible car.
The DJ announces both men are in the building and there are literally threes of peoples that care that Alfred is there. Well, except for one Superfan who knows his entire catalogue by heart. Even the sing-songy hooks. Other than him, nobody cur’. Earn suggests to his cousin that they worry about the more immediate goals than showing off their celebrity status, namely getting paid, and he goes off to look for the promoter Chris about their money. He is temporarily side-tracked when he notices that somebody in the large crowd “smells like a Wendy’s Double Stack”. He looks up and notices Chris in his eye line. icackled. Earn politely reminds him about the matter of payment. Shady Chris is shady and while he makes no outward protestation he quickly gets “lost” in the crowd before Earn can collect their money.
Paperboi is dead-set on finding some semblance of recognition and he foolishly decides to order bottle service to attract the looky-loos and hangers on to their section. One woman that catches his eye appears to be more than just eye-candy but someone who could actually be a potential love interest. They spend the remainder of the night hanging out until she reveals that she actually has a boyfriend but she’s happy to give his lil’ SoundCloud link a listen. #burn
Elsewhere, Darius builds a rapport with the guy in charge of the red velvet rope, wondering if he’d ever had to throw out another bouncer. Cue the Inception, “bwooooong” sound because my mind has just been blown, y’all. It was at this moment that I decided to text my homie Snack who bounces down in Miami to corroborate this story and he confirmed that yes it happens, yes “it’s hard” and yes when the bouncer becomes the bouncee he will know “all the moves”. After taking a break to watch people smoke, Darius is declined re-entry from the very bouncer he bonded with minutes before. Darius takes a look around the club and decides he has better things to do. By the time Paper Boi is calling him to leave he’s already cozy at home eating a big bowl of cereal. Darius is me at 12:45am every Saturday, watching Toonami while my girlfriends wonder who I caught a ride home with.
Earn catches back up with shady Chris and this time lets him know he needs him to come up out those pockets. Shady Chris keeps offering Earn drinks even though he doesn’t like shots and finds a way to sneak away again like the snake that he is. This time, he steps behind a false wall like some kind of a Bond villain. Earn doesn’t know where he is or how to follow so he decides to let his frustrations out on a nearby bartender who saw the whole thing and finds it hilarious. Earn says that the club is a “money suck”. It is.
Earn believes nobody is actually having fun at the club, well, except for maybe that one guy. They aren’t. But as the pretty bartender points out, that’s the performance we all our willing to put on. We like money. We like opulence. More than anything we like being able to say we have more, more money, more women, more happiness, than the next man. And sometimes we’re willing to do a bunch of stuff we really don’t like in order to say that. In order to feel like we matter. Agent of Chaos-bartendar lady knew every card Earn was holding in the deck and was unwilling to let him feel too sorry for himself. I also found their light-flirting cute. With shows like this one and Issa Rae’s Insecure over on HBO, brown-skinned unambiguously black girls are having the best week ever! (Seriously, check Insecure out if you haven’t done so already).
“This is meaningless!”
Episode 8 is a lot more grounded in reality (albeit a reality where folks hear “Knuck if you Buck” at the club and don’t go immediately hyphee) than last week’s farcical episode or even Ep 5’s "Nobody Beats the Biebs" but it was a necessary return to earth. After spending several episodes showing us just how relatable the man behind the Paper Boi moniker is, “The Club” finally reveals just why somebody like Alfred could be a credible rap star in the first place.
After Marcus Miles decides to purchase Primal and the club empties out Earn must confront Alfred with the news that shady Chris only gave them $750 of their agreed-upon $5k due to such things as the purchase of club flyers and beefed up security for a “thug” like Paper Boi. First of all, I used to design, print and sell club flyers and there ain't no way in Hollywood hell a couple of 4x6’s on card stock would eat up that much money. But I’ma let this shady man cook.
Apparently, Paper Boi was also supposed to perform. Earn admits to his cousin that he is not the kind of black man other black men are intimidated by. For possibly the first time that evening, Alfred is at an advantage and it’s revealed exactly why he has star power as he, Earn, Earn’s coworker from the airport gig and possibly some dude named Sweaty-Ass Tony storm Chris’s office and collect the rest of their cash by any means necessary. Paper Boi proceeds to slap the ever-loving dust off of Chris and while he does call the cops, Chris reveals to nameless chick # 1,080 that actions like that are how trap stars are born.
As is the case with all evenings at “da clerb” shots ring out in the night as Marcus Miles peels out in his invisible car, hitting innocent bystanders as he flies by. I guess it did exist! Our three main guys decide to celebrate over diner food but their good time is cut short after hearing that Paper Boi is now wanted for questioning from the evening’s events at Primal on the news. Paper Boi says, “F*ck” the club”. He ain't never lied.
Will this new run-in with Atlanta PD end Paper Boi’s career before it even has a chance to get started or will it make him infamous like so many successful rappers before him? In the Universe of #AtlantaFX anything is possible.
Jordan Kauwling is an early thirties Philadelphian but she tells everyone she's in her late thirties because she doesn't understand how math works. When she's not busy writing, singing, eating all the falafel or unsuccessfully finishing another craft project you can catch her talking junk on Twitter.