We’re watching two separate journeys on Atlanta. Earn’s story is about how he might overcome being broke as hell to provide a better life for himself and his family. Of course, he can only accomplish this feat by latching onto his cousin Alfred’s burgeoning rap career. As for Alfred, we’re witnessing the story of an artist who must navigate fame and all that comes with it.
“The Streisand Effect” continues to develop each of these threads, though yet again, Alfred is more the driving force than Earn. The episode begins with both of them standing in a parking lot — no gun violence this time — as they talk about a potential song. (“Pussy relevant, so intelligent” is a sample line, if you’re curious.) Seconds later, a racially ambiguous character named Zan walks up to Alfred and says, “My nigga.” Alfred gives pause, like most black people would, and asks, “Are you even black?”
Zan says yes, though for much of the episode, others wonder about his exact background. Is he Dominican? (Which you know, is a nationality, not a race, but I get what they’re angling at.) Or maybe he’s half-Chinese? Is he Indian? If so, as one of Alfred’s friends notes, “I don’t like Indian dudes who say ‘nigga.'”
Neither do I. If you’re not a part of the diaspora and none of your kinfolk can be traced to those slave ships, keep that word out of your month. But yeah, I don’t know what Zan exactly is, but I do know that he’s an annoying jackass. Kudos to actor Freddie Kuguru, who plays the part extremely well. In any event, Zan introduces himself to Alfred and Earn, asks them to pose for Instagram, Snapchat, and every other social-media app known to man, and then makes his exit. The next morning, though, Zan starts talking shit online about Paper Boi — which drives Alfred crazy.
Earn tells him not to worry about it, but as many of us know, that’s easier said than done. It is incredibly difficult to avoid the temptation to curse out annoying strangers online. Sure, it is “just the internet,” but trolls are trolls because they know exactly which buttons to push.
Zan definitely knows how to drive Alfred crazy. In one scene, he posts a picture of Alfred holding a trash bag next to the dumpster while his energetic voice narrates, “Oh, look, I found all my mixtape! Let me put them back where they belong!” You get the message: Alfred’s mixtapes are trash.
Maybe I’m giving Zan’s method of trolling too much credit. You don’t have to spend much time on the internet to find crueler examples of trolling, but it’s effective enough in the episode’s story line. To wit, Alfred cannot stop watching Zan’s antics. He checks his YouTube page while pumping gas. He shows his Vine clips to friends at the pool hall. He obsesses over every video Zan uploads to clown him.
More commentary from Zan: “The first L this dude took is naming himself Paper Boi,” and “This is the problem with rap right now: Every nigga can’t sell drugs.”
Alfred feels a way ’cause, you know, he actually does sell drugs, but as his friend at the pool hall reminds him, he needn’t be concerned. It’s not like you want everyone knowing you hustle, right? I guess it’s just the principle. Then again, if you’re a rapper and you sell drugs, but you can’t take someone playing you online, you’re about to have a hard-ass road ahead.
Moments later, an older bartender who looks like he listens to nothing but Zapp, Angela Winbush, and Earth, Wind & Fire realizes he knows Zan and where he works. So, Alfred rolls up to his job at the pizza spot. Zan is not shaken in the least. He greets Alfred with a grin and extends his hand.
Alfred tells him that they need to talk. Zan is totally casual about it: “Yeah, sure, we can talk. I just gotta deliver this [pizza], though. Ride with me, we’ll talk.” There’s a little black boy sitting in the back of the car, by the way, but we’ll get to that CPS case in a second. After they hit the road, Alfred wastes little time getting to business.
Read the rest at Vulture.