Previously on Atlanta, “Alligator Man”
If there’s anything we’ve learned in the first days of Robbin’ Season, nothing is sacred. Snatching some gas from a shady ass fast food joint is one thing, but taking from one of your best customers after a decade of good? That’s just bad for business. Fresh out of house arrest, Al was desperate for a re-up with his man Black (Marcus Samuel) and from the jump we could tell this wasn’t going to turn out well for Paper Boi. Firstly, when someone decides to buy some lemon-lime strain under the overpass, it will never end well. It also doesn’t help when you’re one of the hottest rappers in Fulton County; the more your name gets out on the streets, the bigger the target you become.
Al learned this the hard way with Black, who apologized the entire time for sticking a gun in his boy’s face. If one thinks about it, Alfred’s entire experience in “Sportin’ Waves” left him vulnerable and frustrated as he was pressed into situations beyond his comfort level. Paper Boi may have been upset his plug did him dirty, but Earn’s desperation to push his cousin’s brand into the mainstream may have hurt him more.
“This place, um… has a vibe.”
In “Alligator Man”, Uncle Willy hit the nail on the head in recognizing Earnest’s fear of being useless in managing Alfred’s career. Marks tried to do his best when he and Al visited a brand management firm called Fresh (ha.) and almost immediately the pair were out of their element. Between the sync errors, awkward laughs and recording sound bytes for internet radio, Al and eventually Earn realized this firm led by Peter “35” Savage (Jason Burkey) is just wack. Plain old wack.
From the moment they walked in the place, it lacked any energy or any sense of enthusiasm for the service they provide. And everyone, from the head of music outreach to the engineer and their diversity hires, were milktoast. The most telling moment on how dissimilar Earn and Al were to the hive mind was the entire firm staring at Marks; only when he turned to them did they go about their business. Not only was a spot emphasizing the disconnect between cultures and classes, but discrimination in the workplace. Dude in the background during the initial meeting aside, did we see any other blackfolk working there? I sure didn’t.
The entire segment was also sly dig on the current state of brand management and the music industry in general, which seeks to maximize one’s revenue potential by skewing their talent and hard-earned reputation for mainstream approval. Take for example the scene when Earn watches dozens of employees mindlessly staring at a up and coming rapper perform on a conference table. The entire situation was out-of-body, a touch minstrelsy and awfully damn familiar. We’re also introduced to another client known as Clark County (RJ Walker) who doesn’t seem as concerned about the strange goings-on in the office so much as the perks they provide. Oh sure, the bros will get him his money… but at what cost? It isn’t a price Al is willing to pay, especially when some Shkreli-looking technical writer is staring at him dead-eyed while eating a banana.
The day turns out to be too much for Al after a pair of failed attempts to find a new plug, both of whom wanting something from Paper Boi before they even hand him a gram. Between the selfies and the unsolicited texts from one dude’s “hardcore” girlfriend (that acoustic version of “Paper Boi” tho), Alfred is getting it from all sides. Appropriation and exploitation is a helluva thing. Clearly naming the second outing “Robbin’ season” has a far deeper meaning than many of us expected.
“I’m about to have these waves going crazy like the Bermuda Triangle, boy. I’m the Prince of Tides, nigga.”
We finally learned more about Alfred’s newest friend and roommate Tracy and his contrarian worldview. Khris Davis truly made the second half of “Sportin’ Waves” as the charismatic yet morally flexible opportunist. Like Earn and Al, Tracy attempted to gain a foothold into the white life by cooking his waves before a big interview. Though he isn’t polished as Earnest or Alfred for that matter, Tracy has the confidence to accomplish whatever he sets his mind to. Problem is, that usually involves getting in some real shit.
Tracy does want to do better for himself but old habits die hard. In little time, he convinced Earn to join in his gift card scheme after Darius finally made money off his cane corso venture in season one’s “The Streisand Effect”. For whatever dumb reason, Earn put all four grand into the gift card (Why?! This is TRACY you’re rolling with!) and actually had a day date at the mall with his new partner-in-crime. Now Trace is trying to do good, but he’s robbin’ season veteran and knows all the tricks of the trade; he knows where to take and what their policies are in dealing with takers. Meanwhile, Earn is left with 10 minutes of shopping after his first transaction – a detail T forgot to tell him when setting it all up – while Tracy wearing his new loafers and unveils his tight AF wave at his interview.
Unsurprisingly, the sight of Tracy was enough for the employer to tell him the spot has been filled. Frustrated, he smacked a mug off the table and called the manager racist while leaving the building. Who’s to say he wasn’t? Then again, who’s to say Tracy was even qualified for the job? If there’s one thing about the world, you can’t get by only on crisp waves and Ferragamos anymore. In any case, “Sportin’ Waves” reaffirmed a multitude of facts in our upbringing and experiences involving white culture, chiefly this familiar adage: you have to work twice as hard to be recognized and thrice as hard to be accepted.