In the fourth episode of Donald Glover’s FX hit Atlanta titled “The Streisand Effect,” Babs doesn’t make an appearance — but Zans does.
As Alfred “Paper Boi” Miles tries to conceal his drug-dealing hustle, the racially ambiguous and highly annoying social mediaite, Zan, makes his debut, tossing out the N-word to Earn and Paper Boi like free beanies with the hashtags #Zanlife and #Zanstan on ’em, which is to say, pretty frequently.
Below is a recap of Tuesday night’s Atlanta highlights.
Enter the Zan
Zan, whose Instagram handle is @zanlivesmatter, lives real life through his timeline, racking up likes and finding opportune moments to post up “for the ‘Gram.” While in a parking lot with Darius, Earn and Paper Boi, Zan tries to slyly ask for the rapper’s email until Earn offers his number. “Maybe we can collab on a song or a shirt or sneakies — YO! Me and my mans make baby sneakers for adults,” he offers. Like it or not, this is the type of human that the Twitter era has created.
The latest episode — which takes its name from the phenomenon that occurs when one tries to suppress information that could ultimately backfire and go wide via the Internet — wrangles with the consequences of hustling in a digitally exhausting world. The morning after their Zan encounter, Earn wakes up on the couch at his cousin Alfred’s place to the sight of a gun barrel lying on the living room table, pointing in his direction. Alfred then reveals that Zan is “talking shit” about him online. “@PaperBoi getting a lot of hype in the streets for a possible involvement with a murder is how you say not as talented as people think,” Earn reads aloud, calling it a “weird sentence.” Alfred then responds to his new hater. “Don’t bait this dude — you’ll just make it worse,” Earn advises. (Darius also slips in this gem: “Everything is made up, n—a. Stay woke.”)
In typical e-beef fashion, Zan takes it a level further and later posts a YouTube sketch poking fun at images of Paper Boi throwing out the garbage, comparing the trash to his mixtapes.”How can I spell fame if you keep taking all the L’s?,” he quips.
Knowledge is power
“This is the problem with rap — every n—a can’t sell drugs,” offers Zan in a video blog about Paper Boi later in the episode. “When you’re out here and can’t do both, what the f— are you doing, bruh?” At a heart-to-heart with his homie in a pool hall, Alfred speaks on how he feels about the e-criticism. “Man, he out here saying I don’t rap and I can’t move — that’s disrespect. I can’t have people out here talking shit.”
The pool hall bartender then notifies Alfred that a man who was “cleaner than the Board of Health” and smoking a Swisher with no weed, was seeking him out, which puts the rap star-slash-drug dealer on edge. The bartender then offers up that Zan works as a delivery boy at Cameli’s Pizza.
When Paper Boi tells Zan he needs to talk, Zan asks him to ride with him in his car while on the clock. A baby boy is riding in the backseat. After expressing his frustration with online harassers, Alfred says, “There is no money anywhere near rap. Now, I know it look fun and games in the Shade Room, but n—as die. People are forgotten. Shit is real.” Zan then asks if he could grab his quotable for future use, suggesting that a recorder was on the entire conversation. “I record everything, man,” says Zan. “Everything is valuable to someone.”
As Alfred tries to rationalize his full-time gig as a dealer (“That’s what rap is — making the best out of a bad situation,” he says) and call out Zan for his online behavior, Zan turns the tables. “You’re exploiting your situation to make rap and I’m exploiting you exploiting that — money, bro.” Zan then reveals the baby’s identity. “That’s not my son — that’s my business partner. We make Vine videos together. Hoes love this little n—a.” (Again, the N-word.) The little guy then unleashes a string of censored expletives.
The trio pull up to a house where Zan makes the boy deliver the pizza. A shirtless customer shows up at the door, takes the pizza and doesn’t pay the little delivery man. As Alfred looks on in disbelief, he turns to see Zan record the whole ordeal on his iPhone. The little boy continues to threaten the guy while pounding at the door, “Give me the f—ing money. I know where you live!”
The importance of being Darius
Despite giving off the perception that he’s a weed junkie, Paper Boi’s sidekick offers his unique explanations on life, including AIDS. “AIDS was invented to keep Wilt Chamberlain from beating Steve McQueen’s sex record,” he said referring to the basketball legend and revered actor. Earn counters that AIDS was a government ploy to kill gay people and then asks who McQueen is. “Most black people don’t know who Steve McQueen is,” he says after Earn questions how he, a fellow black man, knows McQueen. “Yeah, but I’m Nigerian.”
At a pawn shop, Earn tries to sell his phone for cash until Darius drools over a sword, assuring that Earn will receive more money if he buys the sleek weapon and trades it in. Darius then takes Earn to a warehouse filled with oriental statues and Asian card-players and swaps the sword for a massive dog.
Making a second pit stop, Darius gives the canine to an eager dog owner only to tell Earn he’ll be getting the money in September after the dog breeds and makes Cane Corso puppies, which he says are worth “2K each.” “Man, you ’bout to come up off that phone, bruh,” says Darius.
After the runaround and zero cash to show for it, Earn is less than ecstatic about the news. “I’m actually kind of f–ked. Van needed that money. My daughter needed that money not in September but today,” he says of his child and baby’s mother. “See, I’m poor, Darius, and poor people don’t have time for investments because poor people are too busy trying not to be poor. I need to eat today not in September.” Darius’s logic: “You said you wanted more money so I got you more money.”
After seeing a dejected Earn, Darius then offers his iPhone for him to trade in. “It’s fine. I get a new one every month to make sure they ain’t trackin’ me,” says Darius as he hands the device to Earn. “We’re friends now.”
Atlanta airs every Tuesday on FX at 10 p.m.