FX’s latest episode of Atlanta, titled “Money Bag Shawty,” brought all the irony. From Instagram Stories of a white woman crying over Paper Boi’s offensive lyrics to weird encounters with the latest, most hip rappers in the ATL, episode 3 proves being a rising rapper isn’t always as glamorous as it may seem.
When Earn receives a check, he’s determined to treat his girlfriend, Van (played by Zazie Beetz), to a fancy night out. Referring to her boyfriend as “Puff Zaddy” (a term combining Puff from Puff Daddy and Zaddy, a term for a guy who has it all), they both joke around and rejoice — looking forward to a rare night of luxury and fun.
Meanwhile Paper Boi and Darius are headed to the recording studio with Clark County, who is considered one of the hottest rappers in town, to see what new “hot tracks” they can collaborate on. The scenes are set and they both shed light on varying issues, including racism, the pressures of the music industry and ultimately how these two key factors will affect both Earn and Paper Boi’s fate this season.
Billboard breaks down the lessons we learned from “Money Bag Shawty.”
The Big Q: To Not Sell Out or to Make Money Moves
Viewers saw from episode 2 that Paper Boi was not having Clark County’s Yoo-hoo commercial, and even went as far as saying he hated “that shit.” Miles, who is well aware that he has to do certain gigs for money, feels torn between staying true to his art and selling out because he really needs money. During the studio session, Paper Boi mentions that he received an offer from Rap Snacks, which is indeed a real product (check Amazon), but he denied it because they wanted him to call his version “cocaine white cheddar.”
County goes on to explain that all the major deals he gets — including his feature on the Fast and the Furious soundtrack that Paper Boi wanted — come through his manager Luke’s connects. Miles has a quick second to digest the information, which implies that he could be thinking that he may not be getting as many gigs because of his own manager, Earn, who is not connected in the industry. He’s starting to realize the struggle is real, but do you choose family and not advance your career or move forward selling out for success like County? That’s what we’ll have to wait and see in the remaining episodes of Robbin’ Season.
Rappers These Days
Miles and Darius arrive at the recording studio and, like any rapper would do, they bust out the goods for a successful sesh. When Paper Boi says he needs to smoke to get in the zone and offers County some weed, he says he doesn’t smoke to keep his voice right. Then, the two present Hennessy to the young rapper and he entertains the thought, but he quickly denies because he doesn’t drink. This is the new age of young rappers, who usually have cheesy lyrics to come with it. It was definitely something new for Miles, and he almost questions County’s character because of it.
If that wasn’t any indication of how the rest of the session evolved, then not sure what is because the young rapper gets into the studio and spits thoughtless lyrics on the track. He literally said, “Herb, herb, herb.” You don’t even smoke, County. The program crashes on the audio engineer, who is mixing and adjusting the tracks, but the popular rapper threatens him despite having no control over the technical issues. The worst part of the entire occurrence? County checks in with Miles, asking him if he liked the song and brags about how easy his flows come to him.
At some point, the Yoo-hoo-endorsed artist returns to the room with the engineer, Paper Boi, Darius and a few guys from his team, and they start back up talking. When County asks the engineer to pull up his track, “King of Diamonds,” the system crashes again, and the rapper excuses himself from the encounter to take a walk. Boogie, who is in the room and one of the guys on his team, tells Paper Boi and Darius to leave, and basically insinuates he’s going to beat up the engineer. Miles takes the Henney, of course, and they bounce real quick.
Stuntin’ Ain’t Easy for Earn
Earn takes Zazie to a swanky movie theater, where he attempts to pay for tickets with a $100 bill, but gets denied. He hands over his debit card to pay, but the white female working the counter told him that she has to make a copy of the card and his driver’s license every time they swipe it. Earn was not happy and refused to have his identity lying around on a piece of paper, so he refuses and walks away from the counter.
Baffled at the occurrence, he quickly sees a white male walk up to the counter and pay with a large bill — having absolutely no problem doing so. Earn approaches him and the guy lifts his tan blazer to show Earn his gun. Van and Earn leave and ride in the limo, frustrated as to how they could be treated like that.
Van attempts to poke fun at the fact that Earn was trying to pay with a $100 bill saying, “Who are you? Gucci Mane?” He continues in defeat and responds, “It was racist. I caught that lady red-handed.” Van continues with her joke saying that’s an offensive thing to say because red-handed comes from red skin, like Native Americans, who are always stealing. Earn questions her and finally realizes she has been playing with him the entire time. It was all fun and games until the joke was on both of them and they really pondered if that’s where the term red-handed comes from.
After, they’re off to the next best thing, heading to a hookah bar lounge where they get carded and Earn pays $20 to get inside. He pays with that $100 bill, but once they get into the club, the cops ask Earn to stand up because he gave them a fake hundred dollar bill. He explains it’s not fake to (what looks like) the manager of the lounge, but the manager refuses to agree and makes him pay another $20 for even entering the venue. They, again, leave disappointed and as they walk out of the lounge, one of the cops peeps out of the door and tells him they knew the $100 bill was real but the man that worked there was “tripping.” Van then ends the scene uttering, “That was racist!”
They say third time’s a charm. After all those failed attempts, Earns calls up Paper Boi and asks if he wants to go to the strip club. They all agree, including Darius and Tracy, so Earn and Van pick them up in a white, long stretch limo.
They walk in the strip club feeling like ballers, getting a table and ordering tequila for the night. When Earn asks the waitress to give him change for $100, she tells him he has to go to the bar. He heads to the bar and the bartender tells him there’s a $200 minimum and they also deduct 20% as a take out charge. Earn, who can’t seem to catch a break, obliges anyway and sits down almost entirely crushed.
He asks a stripper to dance for his girlfriend, and she gives a half-effort less than a minute booty shake and asks Earn for $20. He refuses mentioning that it wasn’t even three seconds and then wonders where the tequila is at. Apparently, getting alcohol is more money, so he forks out another $200. Van asks for ones so she can give the poor skinny stripper some love because she feels bad for her and Earn does so.
After Van leaves the table, Paper Boi starts picking on Earn, telling him he can’t use $100 bills like that, but Earn doesn’t understand why, especially since Miles told him that he needed money to run the city. Paper Boi responded, “There’s a reason that a white dude dressed just like you can walk into the bank and get a loan and you can’t even spend $100.” An irritated Earn questions why he’s there and he leaves with Van, who subsequently sees a crowd outside the strip club.
People are betting on races, Van wants to watch, and Earn decides he needs to take part — that way, he could “stunt” on them. Then, the scene jumps to the couple sitting in the limo, and both are aggravated. The stuntin’ life isn’t for everyone and that’s definitely the case for poor Earn, who can’t seem to catch a break.
Atlanta Robbin’ Season continues Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on FX.