“Me and my mans make baby sneakers… for adults!”
Everybody has a hustle just like everybody has a price. This is especially true in our digital age where everything is a commodity. Where genuine emotion and thought are distilled down to fifteen second YouTube clips and Harambe t shirts. This week, Paperboi learns a lesson about the game from a very unusual source. Zan sidles up to him and Earn outside da cloob like a living, breathing Buzzfeed listicle and he instantly rubs them the wrong way. Zan is an unashamed self-promoter, always angling for a soundbite or a photo op. He also makes profuse use of the word “nigga”. No one is really sure if Zan is half black/half Chinese or Dominican or Indian. One thing’s for sure, though. This Chinese ninja really enjoys throwing out lowercase “n” bombs and it makes Paperboi really uncomfortable in the same way Justin Bieber makes me uncomfortable when he speaks with a blaccent. I blame Usher. Because Zan iss a shameless self-promoter, he is really trying to make this chance (Or was it?) encounter go viral with the help of some cheesy product placement and a picture for the ‘gram. For better or for worse, Zan is a marketing genius and realizes that hits, likes and page visits are a transferable currency in the online world.
Earn’s sleeping on his cousin’s couch. Did he make one too many “corny dude” jokes with his babymomtuation and get kicked out of the crib? I guess we’ll have to find out next episode because Vanessa is nowhere to be found. The guys wake up to find out that Zan has been trashing Paperboi all over social media, saying that he is “not as talented as people think.” Earn urges his cousin not to take Zan’s bait but it falls on deaf ears. Earn and Darius decide to leave Paperboi to his own devices as they take a drive to a local pawn shop so Earn can make some quick cash. Keith Stanfield deserves a Best Supporting Actor Emmy next year for this role, striking a perfect balance between your one friend from high school who’s always sharing misspelled, inaccurate Hotep memes on Facebook and the quite possible reincarnation of Immanuel Kant. Darius assumes a guy like Earn would know who Steve McQueen is because he just seems like the kind of black guy that is used to having his black card triple-inspected like a fake i.d. at dollar shot night. Earn is only slightly insulted. I mean, sure, Darius knows who Steve McQueen is but that’s because he’s Nigerian and we all know Nigerians know everything.
[Sorry Nigerians (I aint sorry) fight me if you will and of course by “fight me” I mean “make me some jollof rice”.]
Darius convinces Earn to trade his cell phone in for a sweet-ass sword, triggering a series of maneuvers that lead to the procurement of a Cane Corso stud from some Asian guy who is definitely not a Chinese n*gga. Meanwhile, Paperboi is on a citywide mission to track down Zan and confront him about all that ish he’s been talking, including a Vine that posits the streets have no love for our dude or his unoriginal- arsed rap moniker. Paperboi has thus far been able to navigate and veer away from the traps of the trap game but he can’t seem to get away from the urge to feed this internet troll. He tracks Zan down to a local pizza shop where he works and is dumbfounded to learn that for Zan there is no line of demarcation where social media and the real world meet.
“I scare people at ATMs!”
After confronting Zan and meeting his pint-size, foul-mouthed business associate, Paperboi decides to try to appeal to Zan’s sense of reasonability. The only problem is Zan seems to have no reason to cease and desist with his bad behavior. Being a walking Perez Hilton article is actually working for him. He’s not ashamed of it and he sees no difference between exploiting rappers for monetary gain and the very rappers themselves who he claims exploit their own abject poverty and the many symptoms of systemic racism for a monetary come-up. As Zan puts it, “everything is valuable to someone.” We learn that in addition to making pizza deliveries that the young kid in the back seat is equipped with a colorful series of clever catchphrases including, “F***” ,and a string of obscenities so long and so foul that they required FX to not only bleep them out but blur his mouth in post. It’s no, “Whatchu talkin’ ‘bout, Willis?” but it was funny. I laughed until I thought about the stage mom egging her child actor on from behind the cameras. Then I laughed again because I’m terrible.
“Everything’s made up, nigga. Stay woke.”
Earn and Darius end up at a farm where they trade their newly acquired stud for the promise of two stacks come September. Quite the come up from the $90 Earn’s phone originally netted him at the Pawn Shop. Only problem is Earn is broke AF. Not T.V. Broke. Broke-broke. And if he don’t move his feet, his daughter Lottie don’t eat so we like neck to neck. Earn tries to explain to Darius that poor people have more pressing monetary concerns and investing in dog breeding schemes and savings bonds is not high on the priority list right now because poor people are too busy trying not to be poor. Darius has been in the game too long so he doesn’t quite understand how poverty creates immediacy out of every aspect of life. He doesn’t get that angst and anguish that comes with having to juggle one too many past due bills while figuring out how to convince your kids that they aren’t still hungry after they come home from school because you can’t afford snacks until next week. Darius is our most empathetic Atlanta character, however, and he can see that his new friend is desperate. He decides to give him his burner phone to sell and Earn is too broke right now to protest or entertain any illusions of pridefulness.
And that’s where we leave off until next week. FX renewed Atlanta for a second season, ordering another set of ten episodes. Here’s hoping Glover and his talented room of black ass writers can keep the momentum that we have seen so far. We aren’t even at the half-way point in the season yet but the show has outperformed expectations pulling in 1.3 million viewers last week alone so it makes sense that FX would attempt to further capitalize on all of the hype and maybe even take a piece of that (not) coveted “Black” market that people who can’t tell the difference between Empire and Blackish are always talking about. I’m excited to sit in for the ride and see where this show takes us.
What did you think about this week’s episode? Let me know in the comments so I can disagree with you with my contrarian ass.
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.