Get Out! All the best pop culture references in ‘Atlanta’ S2
From the very first episode, FX’s Atlanta – about an aspiring rapper named Paper Boi (Brian Tyree Henry) and his cousin / manager Earn (Donald Glover, who’s also the show’s creator) – was an enticingly odd ride. The storyline structure was non-linear, the narrative offered bizarre moments of surrealism, and violence was combined with outrageous humor. In short, when it hit our screens back in 2016 we were blown away.
Suffice to say, Glover has not disappointed so far with his Atlanta Robbin’-titled S2, which broke earlier last month. Based loosely on the thematic structure of Tiny Toon Adventures: How I Spent My Summer Vacation, an aspect of the show the writing room has kept up with impeccable pace is the wink to viral moments and pop culture.
There are so many references seamlessly built into the storyline that it can be difficult to spot them all. Here are some of the best in the series so far, but be warned – Spoiler alert!
Harriet Tubman $20 Bills
While the prospect of having Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill is unlikely under the current administration, in the third episode of Atlanta Robbin’ titled “Money Bag Shawty”, somehow Clark County (RJ Walker) has a bunch of bills with the late American abolitionist’s face on them laying around his studio.
“My mom, she used to work in the government,” explained County. “Yeah, and she got them to me before they stopped making them. So, kind of like a good luck charm.” The best part about it? He calls them “Tub Dubs”.
Chance the Rapper
Speaking of the wholesome rapper Clark, when his character was introduced, fans couldn’t help but notice his Chance the Rapper-esque demeanor. While the reference seems likely due to Glover & Chance being buddies in real life, it was made blatant by County’s Yoo-Hoo advert, which seems suspiciously similar to Chance’s commercial for Kit-Kat.
Nicolas Cage’s infamous dinosaur
We all remember the ridiculous story, right? According to the New York Times, Cage was asked to hand back the skull of a Tyrannosaurus bataar to the Mongolian government. The skull was stolen from the Gobi Desert and then sold at auction for $276,000 to an anonymous buyer, who turned out to be Cage.
Once the U.S. authorities figured out what had happened, the Wild at Heart actor agreed to hand it back. It was truly the Cagiest thing that Cage had ever Caged. While the reference in Atlanta to this story was brief, it happened and that’s what matters. Just before County stops rapping about toking & drinking because his engineer’s computer crashes, he chokes out, “Yo, I just bought a dinosaur like Nicolas Cage.”
With the show’s story centered around rapping, it makes sense it gave a mention to the streaming industry. In the storyline, both Paper Boi & Earn visit a fake streaming company called Fresh. From the inside it looks like your typical tech startup, with a bunch of workers doing a whole lot of nothing except playing ping-pong. As Vulture pointed out, “It’s a clear jab at the Spotifys and Apple Musics of the business, as well as the façade of streaming overall.”
Acoustic rap covers
In episode two titled “Sportin’ Waves”, the writers absolutely nail internet culture by tearing into white girls doing rap covers on YouTube. On his bid to find a new dealer, Paper Boi discovers his new guy’s girlfriend, Amber, is a massive fan of his. She’s even made a video of herself doing an acoustic rap cover of his hit single.
Clearly horrified by what he’s hearing, Darius (Lakeith Stanfield) has to explain to Paper Boi what’s going on: “It’s an acoustic rap cover. White girls love that shit.” Ironically, the girl playing Amber – Bryce Hitchcock – is actually a YouTube acoustic star herself, although she’s evidently more into Maroon 5.
In another blink and you’ll miss it moment, when Earn visits the aforementioned streaming service startup, he experiences a scene similar to one in Jordan Peele’s Get Out. In the office where virtually every staffer is a white man or woman, everyone appeared motionless as they stare at Earn.
When he turns back, they immediately unfreeze and go back to their daily business. This echoes the Get Out scene at the Armitage family party, in which Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) goes upstairs while the camera shows the older white guests stop what they’re doing, freeze, and look up at the staircase. Creepy!
wow GET OUT #AtlantaFX pic.twitter.com/PGZTuQFIL4
— Complex Pop Culture (@ComplexPop)