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The Story Behind Atlanta ’s Acoustic ‘Paper Boi’ Cover

Portrait of Dee Lockett

On FX’s Atlanta , the career ascent of Alfred “Paper Boi” Miles often occurs offscreen, so it’s difficult to gauge just how popular he’s become in season two. But after Thursday night’s episode, “ Sportin’ Waves ,” question no more: The white people have got to him.

On a visit to find a new plug for his drug hustle in “Sportin’ Waves,” Al finds out that the supplier’s girlfriend, Amber, is a big Paper Boi fan. “So your girl likes hippity-hop?” Darius, bless him, asks. “Oh yeah, she’s gangster, bro,” the guy (very unconvincingly) responds. When Paper Boi and Darius head out, the spam begins. Paper Boi gets texted a link to a YouTube video from the plug — and it’s the girlfriend singing Paper Boi’s self-titled hit on acoustic guitar . It’s a sound so foreign to Paper Boi’s ears, he doesn’t even know what he’s hearing. “It’s an acoustic rap cover,” Darius explains. “White girls love that shit.”

“I mean, he’s not wrong!” Bryce Hitchcock, an actual YouTube cover artist who plays Amber, tells Vulture. “Most white girls aren’t great rappers, unless that’s your thing, so they just do something acoustic with it because rap is popular and they want people to see their videos.” Hitchcock, an actress and singer who’s been covering songs on her own YouTube channel for years, auditioned to do the “Paper Boi” cover knowing she’d play a laughably accurate stereotype. The only problem? She’d never covered a rap song before. “Part of the process was finding a way to make Paper Boi’s song my own thing. I found more acoustic-y chords to go under it and found a different flow, almost jazzy in some places,” she says.

Though Stephen Glover wrote and performed the original song for the show, Hitchcock says she auditioned with her version, played it at the table read, and was told it didn’t need a single adjustment. “They were all like, ‘Oh, dang. Where’d that come from?’” she says. “I remember Donald was wearing a Sublime Doughnuts hat, which I thought was perfect because that’s an Atlanta doughnut shop — I go to school part-time at Georgia Tech — and we were all in Atlanta.”

Like most pop culture on the show, the inspiration for a white girl appropriating rap came from the real-life trend. “We’ve had a running joke for years about popular songs that were initially trap and extremely gutta, and they get really mainstream,” Atlanta writer Jamal Olori says. “Then you get people who have no reference for those songs doing covers.” He brings up Chicago socialite Niykee Heaton’s viral 2012 cover of Chief Keef’s “Love Sosa” as one of the worst offenses: “She’s talking about guns and drugs, but it’s something she knows nothing about or even cares about.”

“It kept happening with Fetty Wap’s ‘Trap Queen,’ where they even did a Kidz Bop version so it’s basically 9-year-olds singing about a woman who’s holding down a drug fortress.” It wasn’t a stretch to Olori that Paper Boi’s song might be lost on a wider audience: “It’s about selling cocaine. We knew it’s something that would happen in the real world. You wouldn’t hear a middle-class white girl singing about this. It’s things she would run away from. But because the song is so popular, [Amber] gravitates to it. It also shows that the song has gotten so big in our world, that it even caught onto hers.”

Episode director Hiro Murai had Hitchcock film her cover for the show on a MacBook, so that it recreated the bedroom atmosphere of the DIY covers she actually uploads herself. Her version plays again over the episode’s credits, but Hitchcock says she hasn’t formally recorded the song, though the suggestion did come up. After shooting, she recalls Donald Glover mentioned the possibility of using a recorded version for promotional purposes; she’s also considering playing the cover again for her YouTube channel. Currently, the original version still exists only within the show — multiple looped edits of the hook have a quarter of a million views on YouTube — but that could soon change. “At some point, we’ll package these songs and release it. We still have the full song, which has a full two verses, it’s like three minutes and change,” Olori teases. “You just haven’t heard anything but the chorus. We might drop it in the future.”

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Atlanta Used a Real YouTube Artist for Its White-Girl 'Paper Boi' Cover

This is the show's best joke yet.

Hair, Forehead, Fun, Adaptation, Facial hair, Black hair, Smile,

And it turns out that this hilarious cover comes from an actual YouTube star named Bryce Hitchcock. She's a good sport about the whole joke, and spoke to Vulture about how Daris's jab of “White girls love that shit," is pretty accurate.

“Most white girls aren’t great rappers, unless that’s your thing, so they just do something acoustic with it because rap is popular and they want people to see their videos," she told Vulture.

She'd actually never covered a hip-hop song before, and worked to make it her own before the audition. She played it once and they thought it was perfect—“They were all like, ‘Oh, dang. Where’d that come from?’" she said.

Atlanta writer Jamal Olori says the idea was actually inspired by Niykee Heaton’s viral 2012 cover of Chief Keef’s “Love Sosa." As he said of the situation on the show:

“It’s about selling cocaine. We knew it’s something that would happen in the real world. You wouldn’t hear a middle-class white girl singing about this. It’s things she would run away from. But because the song is so popular, She gravitates to it. It also shows that the song has gotten so big in our world, that it even caught onto hers.”

The idea is funny on its own, but only Atlanta could take it to this next level.

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The Real-Life Rap Moments That Inspired Atlanta

By Insanul Ahmed

Donald Glover LaKeith Stanfield Zazie Beetz and Tyree Henry in Atlanta 2022.

After a four year hiatus, FX’s Atlanta is back tonight. The Emmy-award winning comedy follows the exploits of Earnest “Earn” Marks (Glover) as he strives to manage the burgeoning rap career of his cousin, Alfred "Paper Boi" Miles (Brian Tyree Henry), Alfred’s stoner best friend Darius Epps ( LaKeith Stanfield ), and Earn’s erstwhile lover Vanessa "Van" Keefer (Zazie Beetz). The show is, on its surface, a surrealist comedy about navigating the rap game, but that’s a reductive view—Glover and his writers merely use that as a device to deftly comment on the complicated nature of the Black experience in America.

Atlanta takes inspiration from everything from David Lynch to Tiny Toons , but some of scenes in the show are inspired by the real life absurdities of the rap game. With season three set to premiere tonight, GQ is taking a look back at all the times when Atlanta was inspired by things that have actually happened in rap.

Paper Boi’s Selfie With The Cops In the second episode, “Streets On Lock,” an agitated Paper Boi gets bailed out of jail by Darius after being involved in a shooting incident. As he’s walking out of the police station, an officer insists on getting a selfie with the rapper. Paper Boi begrudgingly obliges as the elated officer chants, “One more for the Instasluts.”

Something similar happened to Atlanta rapper 2 Chainz in 2013 when he was arrested for marijuana possession by Maryland State Police. Chainz posted the picture—where he looked slightly more amused than Paper Boi—on his Instagram but lamented in the caption, “Locked me up and then Wanted pictures smh.”

Rappers vs Bloggers Season one’s "The Streisand Effect" introduces us to social media personality Zan, an annoying blogger who first tries way too hard to befriend Paper Boi in person, before trolling him relentlessly online. Paper Boi eventually confronts Zan for talking trash and exploiting hip-hop culture before walking away exasperated by the lengths Zan would go for online fame.

Zan is definitely a composite character. A blogger having such a combative relationship with the artists he covers is reminiscent of DJ Akademiks, who has similarly covered/trolled/beefed with everyone from Shy Glizzy to Vic Mensa to Meek Mill to Freddie Gibbs . However, Akademiks rose to infamy after Atlanta premiered so it’s more likely that plotline was inspired by someone like DJ Vlad, who got roughed up by Rick Ross and his goons in 2008 after blogging about Ross’ past as a corrections officer. (Ross ended up paying Vlad $300,000 in 2010 over the incident.) At the same time, considering Zan’s character was racially ambiguous, had multiple jobs, and had a propensity for taking photos in front of butts, maybe it was also inspired by 40 Oz. Van ?

The Biebs Atlanta was brilliant from the jump, but one of the show’s greatest strokes of genius was casting a black actor (Austin Crute) to play Justin Bieber in “Nobody Beats the Biebs.” In the episode, Paper Boi is excited to play in a celebrity basketball game only to have Bieber suck up all the attention and love despite acting like a complete jackass.

Many of the things Atlanta’s Bieber does are exaggerated, but at one point, The Biebs pisses all over the floor. That scene was clearly inspired by the time Justin Bieber pissed in a bucket (and, uh, cursed out a photo of Bill Clinton). At the end of the episode, after getting into a fight with Paper Boi at the game, Justin vows to clean up his act, suddenly gets religious , and says his next album is called Justice . That part totally came true!

Dancing On The Table Jumping ahead to season 2, “Sportin' Waves” features Paper Boi and Earn visiting the office of a Spotify-like streaming service and finding it hard to connect with the people they talk to. Paper Boi even performs for a bored staff, while Earn spots a rapper dancing on the table during a meeting. The scene is certainly inspired by a clip of Bobby Shmurda , who once danced on top of a table while playing the song “Computers” for the staff at Epic Records (who barely seemed to react). Like many scenes in “Sportin’ Waves,” there’s an undeniable stench of racism in the air.

Clark County The Rapper Later in “Sportin' Waves,” we meet a recurring character of Season 2, rapper Clark County (RJ Walker). At the episode’s end, we see Clark’s bizarre but catchy YooHoo jingle . As many fans on Twitter have noted, Clark certainly seems inspired by frequent Childish Gambino collaborator Chance The Rapper. (For one, they both sport overalls.) In an interview with Complex , RJ Walker was asked about the similarities to Chance and said, “I kind of see that, especially in the outfit choices.” Similar to Clark, Chance scored a KitKat ad where he sang the jingle (it wasn’t as good as the fake YooHoo one). Clark’s tight relationship with his (white) manager is also reminiscent of Chance’s once tight relationship with Pat Corcoran (aka Pat the Manager).

White Girl Acoustic Cover - “Sportin' Waves” also involves Paper Boi trying to find a new weed supplier after getting robbed by his previous plug. He finally finds someone who seems decent, only for that guy to put him in a group chat with his girlfriend who did an acoustic cover of Paper Boi’s breakout hit. Although the internet tried to make acoustic rap songs a thing in the mid-2010s, the scene seems most inspired by Niykee Heaton , who broke out on YouTube by doing an acoustic cover of Chief Keef’s “Love Sosa.” White girls love street rap!

“Norf Norf” - “Money Bag Shawty” opens with a scene where a white woman goes on Instagram to complain about the lyrics of Paper Boi’s breakout hit, as well as his support of Colin Kaepernick.

The scene seems directly inspired by a Christian mom who made a very similar rant and started crying after hearing Vince Staples’ “Norf Norf” on the radio in 2016. Obviously, fans on Twitter had fun clowning her. In the show, Paper Boi toasted to his critic when his song went gold, whereas Vince defended the woman’s right to her opinion.

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In The Studio With Clark County Later on in “Money Bag Shawty,” Paper Boi and Darius head to the studio with Clark County but are surprised to find out 1) He doesn’t drink or smoke despite often rapping about it and 2) He’s down to have his goons rough up a studio engineer after his program crashes.

Despite the fact that drugs and alcohol are a huge part of hip-hop music, there are many prominent contemporary rappers who don’t engage in either, including Tyler, The Creator, Lil Yachty, Logic, Kendrick Lamar, and Vince Staples. Perhaps the most famous example of a rapper glorifying drinking culture while refusing to engage in it is 50 Cent, whose biggest hit, “In Da Club,” mentions drinking Barcadi and popping bottles of bubbly.

As far as a seemingly nice guy rapper suddenly turning into a bully? In an interview with Complex , RJ Walker claimed Donald Glover told him the scene was “inspired by something that actually happened.” Your guess is as good as ours.

Rappers Bringing Guns To An Airport - Season 2 ends with Paper Boi, Earn, and Darius heading off to Europe for a tour with Clark County. When Earn gets to the airport, he realizes he forgot to get rid of the gold-plated gun his and Paper Boi’s uncle Willy (played by Kat Williams) gave him in the season opener. Earn quickly stashes the gun in Clark County’s bag, who makes his manager take the fall for it.

Bringing a gun to the airport—especially in post-9/11 America—sounds too dumb to be true, but nearly a dozen rappers have done it. In fact, four different rappers brought guns to just Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson airport. Of all the rappers to get arrested for it, the wildest story has to be Petey Pablo who got caught with a stolen 9mm Smith & Wesson gun in at Raleigh-Durham International Airport on September 11, 2010.

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The True Story Of How “Paper Boi” Became Atlanta ’s Unofficial Theme Song

Stephen glover had no idea that his song would pop off from cali to decatur, boi ..

paper boi cover

“Paper Boi,” the unofficial-official theme song of Donald Glover ’s Atlanta , is lowkey a banger. In the show’s world, the song’s on fire—for the past six episodes, it’s been the talk of the city, and is seen and heard blasting out of car windows. Despite only about a minute of the full song having actually been played on the show, the presence of “Paper Boi” is fully felt, and a quick Twitter search will show you that the song is kind of poppin’ in the real world, too. With “Paper Boi,” Atlanta is proving that original music from music industry-based shows or movies doesn’t have to be corny. To share the story behind the making of “Paper Boi,” we got on the phone with the song’s writer and rapper Stephen Glover (brother of Donald Glover), who’s one of the show's writers and a rapper in real life . He talks about how the Paper Boi character almost ended up with a different name (and song hook), the Atlanta legends who inspired the song’s sound, and what it takes to make the show’s original music good–but not too good.

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STEPHEN GLOVER : When first coming up with the show idea, [the show’s creative team] knew there was gonna be a rapper on there. We were like, “What should this rapper’s name be?” The original idea was that we’d build this scary, black, gangsta, trap rapper, but his rap name would be White Boi. [laughs] We joked around about the hook to his song being: White boi, white boi, all about that white boi . That’s how it all started. Then we realized we couldn’t use White Boi, because there might actually be a rapper named White Boi. So we’re like, “Okay, we’re gonna call this guy Paper Boi.” It still works: Paper Boi, Paper Boi, all about that paper, boi , that double entendre, triple entendre-type thing. That’s how it started. It’s funny, there’s a real rapper named Paperboy. An old rapper, he’s got a song called “Ditty.” You might hear it on the radio, like on [Redondo Beach, California’s, 93.5 FM] KDAY once in a blue moon. So, I didn’t think we’d be able to use Paper Boi for a while either. I thought we were going to have to change his name again, but it’s cool. I’m sure he’s getting a lot of Spotify hits. When we first started the show we talked about how Paper Boi would be a rapper but we didn’t want to make it too good. Donald would call it like a Finding Forrester -type moment, that when people would hear Paper Boi’s music they’d be like, “wow, he’s really good.” We didn’t want to make it where his music is so silly that it’s not believable, and we didn’t want to make it where it’s so good that it becomes a major point of the story. It worked out for the best, because the original idea was to have Paper Boi do songs, and maybe have a different person be Paper Boi each week. Maybe Young Thug can be Paper Boi one week, then Jeezy can do a Paper Boi song the next week. That sort of thing. We were like “it doesn’t matter what his voice sounds like.” We didn’t want to have to force Brian [Tyree Henry, actor who plays Paper Boi] to rap. We felt that forcing him to rap would be weird. Maybe he’s not a good rapper, then what would we do? That’s where the idea of maybe switching the rapper each time came from. That’s an idea right now that might still happen.

Donald was like, “you’re gonna have to record the song for Paper Boi.” He had me and our homies Kari Faux and Malik [ bLAck pARty ] each write a version of the song. I rap, and I work with this dude named Chemist , who lives in Virginia. He’s my go-to producer and does a lot of my own music—he’s on my Rich Black American mixtape. I needed a beat for “Paper Boi,” so I started looking through beats on my computer. I came across a really old one from two to three years ago that I had from Chemist, and I was like, “this definitely sounds like an Atlanta rap beat.” It reminded me of Rocko ’s “ Umma Do Me ,” which is funny because when I talked to [Chemist], he was like, “Yeah, the beat’s inspired by that.” I decided to use it for the song. Now we’re in Atlanta getting ready to shoot the pilot, and Donald’s like, “I need that song,” so I head to Blue Room studios, where I normally go to record when I’m in Atlanta. In the script for the first pilot, Donald wrote Paper boi, paper boi, all about that paper boi, got a team to serve a fiend from Cali to Decatur, boi­­ —something close to that. I used that and tweaked it a little and made it the hook. So I’m in the studio, I got the beat, I had thought of chords a little bit, and then, in about fifteen-twenty minutes I wrote the song. Two verses, everything. I went in the booth and I rapped it, and my homies Swank and Keith [Dawson]– Keith engineers for Migos , Future , YFN Lucci – were like “man, this is kind of good.” I thought, This song works. There are some lines that might go over people’s heads, but it’s catchy. My favorite part of the song is still the “paper clip” line: paper clip, paper clip, yeah I need a paper clip . Once I knew the song should feel like that, it was easy, like kind of filling in what it should be. Like I said, I’m already a rapper, I’m from Atlanta, so I get that Jeezy-type rap or that Gucci Mane rap where it’s more feeling than anything else. I sent the finished song to Donald. He said it was hype enough, and he ended up picking my version of the song for the pilot.

I think everything worked perfectly because I already rapped, I already did music, and so the song was real. It strikes a balance, where the audience is like “this is good, but it doesn’t feel cheesy, and it doesn’t feel like it’s trying too hard, either.” It’s because it was written by a person who’s a rapper who understands that it’s about having fun—this is a fun song.

When people at FX had first heard it, they were like “you wrote this? You performed this, too? It’s kinda good.” I’m like, “Nah, you’re just saying that.” They had no idea I rapped, I guess Since the show’s come out I’ve seen people being like “Yo this song is super catchy!” “I kind of like this song!” People who know my music are like “Yo, that’s Steve G-Lover rapping this “Paper Boi” song. It’s hot. I need this song.” It’s funny because the song came about so fast, but the idea had been simmering for a while. I’m surprised that older people who watch the show like the song. I was at an Emmy’s party, and people who are like, 50 years old, were coming up to us being like “I love this show. And “Paper Boi” – I heard you did the song! I love that song!” That’s the weird part, these older people relating to this song. I think it just happened to toe the right line of not taking itself too seriously, and also not being cheesy or corny. “Paper Boi” is one of those things that are an important part of the show, but everyone [on the show] just forgot about it. It’s funny; even a few weeks ago I got an email from the line producer that said “Oh, I think we have to pay you for recording that song.” Nobody thought about it, which is kind of funny.

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‘Atlanta’ Traces the Anxiety of Early Rap Stardom

In the second episode of the FX show’s new season, Paper Boi and Earn attempt to navigate the streaming music economy’s sleek, rustically decorated halls of power

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Paper Boi and Earn in ‘Atlanta’

The music industry is Atlanta ’s richest farce. In the current season’s second episode, Earn shepherds Paper Boi through meetings with executives at an unnamed streaming music service. With headquarters in Atlanta, the company—run by young, smiling white people—hosts the city’s hottest trappers. One auditioning novice dances on a conference room table—a nod to viral footage of Bobby Shmurda’s 2014 signing to Epic Records. The local rapper Clark County, an eager sellout, cheerfully wanders the music company’s hallways. He seems less like a star and more like a dutiful employee when he encounters Paper Boi and Earn, who both answer Clark County and everyone else’s small talk with mean mugs and punitive silence.

The company is painfully white, and each code-switching impasse illustrates the overall awkwardness of white business school graduates sucking up to black, working-class musicians in search of profits. Paper Boi grits his teeth, suffering their condescension as if it were a colonoscopy. He lasts until the anticlimactic performance of his eponymous, breakout single, which he quits performing before he’s even gotten started. His energy, depleted as it is, cannot translate to these people, who gaze upon him blankly, as if he’s the subject of medical trials. Paper Boi and Earn depart with nothing to show for their embarrassment, save for Earn—who remains homeless—having at least nabbed a snack box of Cheerios from the office kitchen. Alas, the boys retreat to the couch.

On Atlanta , there’s no fate less glamorous than rap stardom. Each week, Paper Boi’s success manages to debase or humiliate, or at the very least irritate, everyone except the unflappable Darius. There’s no real fandom or music criticism on Atlanta ; only sycophancy and lucrative crazes. Glover has said as much about the pressures affecting his own musical career , which began as sad rap and rebranded as funk after years of Glover’s failing, as Childish Gambino, to integrate fully within the hip-hop zeitgeist. To Glover, the music industry is an artless racket. “I realized that no one has good intentions,” Glover told The New Yorker . “We all just have incentives.” In Atlanta , Paper Boi resists a constant barrage of incentives for selling out and blowing up, if only because he’s not personally built for live-wire performance and unrelenting attention from strangers. Paper Boi spends most of the latest episode disavowing his own, local notoriety, laying low, working with Darius to score good drugs in peace.

Apart from the streaming hustle, the rest of the episode, titled “Sportin’ Waves,” invokes Paper Boi’s music career only obliquely, as fans badger him with recognition, praise, and photography. “Sportin’ Waves” is one of the few Atlanta episodes to belabor a single theme—humiliation—with each scene, though the corporate comedy interlude is bookended by much humbler story lines. At the top of the episode, Paper Boi’s own dealer robs him, apologetically, at gunpoint. And in the couch-bound scene immediately following Earn and Paper Boi’s meeting with the music execs, Earn considers sinking $4,000 into the ex-con Tracy’s gift card racket. The streaming music business is the sleekest, most professionalized hustle of all, but somehow the most demoralizing and debased. Toward the end of the episode, Earn, Paper Boi, and Darius spot Clark County starring in a TV advertisement for Yoo-hoo, the only confectionary beverage that can precisely convey just how cheap and childish Clark County’s double-time sellout flow is: “We drink Yoo-hoo like it’s dirty Sprite.”

“He making money,” Darius observes.

“I hate this shit,” Paper Boi groans.

“Shit is good,” Earn grunts.

They’re all high and relatively unproductive for the time being. They’re too busy scamming mall clerks and screening potential weed dealers to sell themselves out. Paper Boi isn’t just blunted and lazy. He’s skeptical. He hesitates. He is far more comfortable with drugs than he is around other rappers and studio equipment. Paper Boi is an artist, and yet Atlanta spends nearly negative time investigating his art, his ideals, or his process. “Sportin’ Waves” presents Paper Boi, Clark County, and the rest of Atlanta ’s rappers as cogs twisting through an indifferent machine. Atlanta and Empire , two very different shows, take inverse paths to arrive at this common cynicism about the music industry. Empire through melodramatic grandeur; Atlanta through satire and spite. The latter show is the most sensible, and yet wondrous depiction of hip-hop ever made for TV.

While the season so far excludes Van, the core boys Earn, Paper Boi, and Darius have all grown closer together, and richer in characterization, if not in fact. The episode ends with the lifelong scammer Tracy presenting his best, potentially reformed self, preserved by a durag, at a job interview in a stuffy office. Only (it turns out) there’s no job for Tracy to fill; the boss quickly reveals that, “unfortunately,” his office is “fully staffed at the moment.” The interview was a waste of Tracy’s immaculate hair care, not to mention his time. Much as Paper Boi perceives a terminal miscommunication between his music and the executives who might promote it, Tracy storms out of his interview with a loud observation that the “fully staffed” office is fully white. After jail, there’s no place for Tracy, save for a coveted spot on Paper Boi’s couch.

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“Atlanta” ’s Paper Boi and the Indignities of Early Rap Stardom

paper boi cover

By Carrie Battan

Image may contain Human Person Pants Clothing Apparel Brian Tyree Henry Jeans Denim Bar Counter and Pub

From an outsider’s perspective, to be anointed the Next Big Thing in hip-hop—the music industry’s most powerful force—is to be given the keys to a playground of social and material joys. The sheer velocity at which a hot song can travel means that, within the span of a few weeks or months, an artist can go from being a complete unknown to a minor celebrity with, seemingly, a suite of fulfilled fantasies: millions of followers on social media, massive live-performance fees, television and radio slots, club notoriety, chart dominance, sponsorships, designer clothes, luxury vehicles, and more. We love a rapper who anticipates such success as if it’s a foregone conclusion. Recall, for instance, that Cardi B ’s No. 1 single, “ Bodak Yellow ,” which was written and recorded back when she was a social-media phenomenon but barely a blip on hip-hop radio, is filled with references to designer clothes and newfound power: “I just checked my accounts / Turns out I’m rich, I’m rich, I’m rich!”

If what we see on Instagram and hear on the radio is to be believed, Paper Boi, the fictional rapper of Donald Glover ’s FX show, “Atlanta,” should be experiencing this kind of celebratory jolt. In the show’s first season, his self-titled single was beginning to pick up. Its catchy chorus—“That paper, boy / Paper, boy / I’m all about that paper, boy”—could be heard blasting from cars in Atlanta. He’d begun to get radio play and name recognition, and his music had all the bluster of a young star. Locals, upon realizing that they were in the presence of a rapper with a buzzy new single, would beg to take photos with him. In the show’s early days, there was a frenzied sensation that Paper Boi (born Alfred Miles) was on the brink of hip-hop celebrity, and that “Atlanta” would be a show that mapped one rapper’s electrifyingly simple and satisfying rise to fame.

But one of the great insights of “Atlanta” is the way it subverts this rags-to-riches mythology. The show instead settled on a story line less dramatic but more complex: the everyday indignities that a performer endures while in the awkward purgatory between normal life and hip-hop celebrity. Paper Boi’s new life is not one filled with designer belts and attractive women. Instead, it’s a parade of minor humiliations, as in his ongoing battle with a twerpy interloper and social-media star named Zan, who posts online a video he filmed surreptitiously of Paper Boi taking out the trash. Everyone wants something from Paper Boi, whether it’s his own cousin Earn (Donald Glover) asking for a job or a police officer, seemingly blind to Paper Boi’s signature grimace, requesting a photo.“Hey, you listen to Gucci Mane?” he asks, grinning.

In its second season, “Atlanta” has doubled down on Paper Boi’s rise-as-plight. At one point, he visits the office of a tech company filled mostly with white employees, who can hardly glance up from their laptops as he performs for them. It’s revealed that one of the company’s earnest white directors has the nickname 35 Savage—a play on the stage name of the Atlanta rap superstar 21 Savage, who raps almost exclusively about the grim world of Atlanta gang violence. “Atlanta” is especially good at telegraphing the mortification that young black artists are subject to once their art suddenly becomes viable to an audience of zealous white fans. There was the young, white radio d.j. who felt comfortable using a racial slur in front of Earn but who clammed up in front of the older and gruffer Paper Boi. Or, in Season 2, the bro-ish white sound engineer who prompts Paper Boi to do increasingly cartoonish takes of a voice-over introduction to a hip-hop playlist: “Let’s do it again, and, this time, like you’re at a party, and everything’s crazy,” he says, as blind as the police officer to Paper Boi’s disbelieving glare.

Of course, Paper Boi is demoralized within his own milieu, as well. When we first meet him he is a semi-successful weed dealer, and, as his rap career has flourished, he has yet to recoup enough money to stop selling drugs. In one scene, he’s brazenly robbed by his drug hookup, who apologizes calmly, assuring Paper Boi, “You’ll be all right, bro. Your song hot. It’ll probably go platinum or some shit.” Paper Boi eventually finds a new dealer, who seems innocuous, at first—until he reveals that his girlfriend has recorded an acoustic cover of “Paper Boi,” and asks if they can all hang out. In this season’s fourth episode, Paper Boi prepares for a forthcoming magazine feature with a visit to his colorful and conniving barber, who winds up dragging him around the city on an unwanted adventure. When they run into the barber’s son, the kid recognizes Paper Boi. He has the nerve to ask the rapper why he “doesn’t look fresh.” Paper Boi snaps, and yells at the kid, “I’m a regular-ass person. Famous people need to get their hair cut sometimes.”

“Most of this rap shit is appearances,” Paper Boi confesses, in the Season 1 finale. His sidekick, the perpetually stoned sensei Darius (played by Lakeith Stanfield) chimes in: “Appearances are money.” But Paper Boi seems unwilling to participate in the theatre of appearances, a reluctance that is broadcast vividly through Brian Tyree Henry’s hyper-specific body language. He is constantly slack, dragging his feet and furrowing his brow, muttering under his breath, grimacing in frustration and embarrassment. Even when he makes a television appearance—he is invited on a talk show to discuss trans issues after tweeting disparaging comments about Caitlyn Jenner—he cannot bear to momentarily transcend his distaste for the charade. If Paper Boi has a counterpart in the real world of hip-hop, it is Vince Staples , a lyrical rapper from Long Beach, California, who’s well-loved but hardly a commercial success. “For the consumer, it’s about perception,” Staples said in an interview on Hot 97 last year. “We don’t give a fuck about your music. What you driving, how much money you got, who’s your girlfriend? Your Jordans are fake.” Paper Boi isn’t quite so thoroughly disillusioned, but you can feel that he might be soon. As the series progresses, and his face begins to stick in a permanent state of disgust, there’s a looming sense that there will be no escape—the brighter Paper Boi’s star burns, the more degradation awaits him.

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Brian Tyree Henry, Atlanta’s ‘Paper Boi’: ‘I love that we can bring our black asses into somebody’s living room’

‘Look man, if I was a 12-year-old kid riding down the road and I saw a billboard with three black men up there, I would have shat myself’

Brian Tyree Henry (l) and Donald Glover (r), stars of Atlanta

There are so many reasons to celebrate Donald Glover’s whipsmart TV dramedy Atlanta . Alfred ‘Paper Boi’ Miles is one of them. We meet the character – played by Brian Tyree Henry – in season one, at the beginning of his promising rap career. Paper Boi’s debut self-titled single picks up traction thanks to its infectious chorus, “Paper Boi, Paper Boi, all about that paper, boy”, which is blasted from car stereos and local radio stations. And Earn Marks (Donald Glover), a broke Princeton College drop-out, determines to convert his cousin’s beats into bucks.

Paper Boi is a burly, straight-talking rapper who deals drugs to make ends meet. Despite this (and despite the fact that he shoots someone in the first episode) he’s a very likeable character. “I scare people at ATMs, I have to rap”, he declares in an early episode. Henry’s delivery of that line is as funny as it is unsettling: just one example of Atlanta’s clever exposition of racial hard truths.

With season two – called  Atlanta’s Robbin’ Season – airing now on FOX (season one is currently available on BBC 2), we catch up with Brian Tyree Henry to talk music, race, and the genius that is Donald Glover.

that new trailer hype. Atlanta 3.1 #AtlantaFX pic.twitter.com/CJwJ5o1ft8 — AtlantaFX (@AtlantaFX) February 13, 2018

How would you describe Paper Boi’s character?

“Well, Alfred ‘Paperboi’ Miles, man, he’s all things at all times. He’s a drug dealer, he’s a rapper, he’s a landlord, he’s a chauffeur. He’s like a caretaker who’s all things. But the best thing about him is that he’s got the biggest heart of anybody I’ve ever seen in my life.”

“As the seasons go on, you start to see this relationship between him and his cousin blossom, but also meet a lot of challenges at the same time. Because when fame and money gets involved it changes the perspectives of people. And I think that what Alfred is doing the most is trying to hold onto that sense of self.”

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What can we expect of Paper Boi in season two? Does he hit the big time?

“Yeah, man. He’s doing appearances, doing concerts. There’s a potential for him to do a European tour. There’s potential for him to make a lot of money. There’s potential for him to actually not be in the streets anymore. But at the same time that does mean he’s going to have to sacrifice a lot of who he is. That does mean that he’s going to have to kind of change the way he dresses, the places he goes to, the people that he hangs with.

“That fucking sucks for him…because he’s made it thus far being who he is but he knows that he wants more and he’s going to play the game. And there’s nothing worse than showing up for a game that you didn’t ask to play because then you got to abide by those game’s rules. I think that he’s realising that and it’s taking its toll on him.”

You’re a stage, film and TV actor as well as a singer. Does Paper Boi’s musical journey bear any resemblance to your own?

“Yes and no. The things that I do as far as when it comes to the art of what I do, like singing and dancing, it was a way for me to survive. It was a place to hide. It was a place to go and explore these different lives of other people because I thought that my life was very stagnant. I’m was growing up in Fayetteville, North Carolina – not that it’s a bad town to grow up in – but, you know, when you’re in a place like that you don’t really know that you have the aspirations to go to bigger cities and do bigger things. I was just able to hide within this form of entertainment and do the stories that I didn’t necessarily think I’d ever read or hear about in my life.

“But then there’s there’s another great thing. When people see the potential of what you do and they want the best for you, you kind of owe it to them to go and do the best that you can because you are a representation of them. Shit, so I guess, yeah it does have similarities….”

Do you have a vision of how your life might have turned out without the performing arts?

“I don’t even want to think about it because it is a big part of who I am, you know? There’s something to be said about having that thing be a part of you, man. You can fight against it as much as you want to but in the end of the day it always rears its head. Like, when I discovered the stage, it was something that I didn’t do for recognition. I didn’t really give a shit if anyone saw what I did.

“But…it really did help my soul, it really did help me kind of like clear out the things in my head that said I wasn’t worthy, like being a little black kid in the South – nothing said that I could ever make it to Broadway. I still went out there and I tried because I was like, ‘Yeah, I would love to do a Tennessee Williams play, hell yeah I’d like do Edward Albee.’ These plays don’t necessarily have parts for me, but that didn’t stop me from being like, ‘Yeah, I can be Brick [ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof ] and I don’t give a fuck.’”

NORTH HOLLYWOOD, CA - JUNE 08: (L-R) Actors Brian Tyree Henry, Zazie Beetz, Donald Glover and Lakeith Stanfield arrive at FX's 'Atlanta Robbin' Season' FYC Event at the Saban Media Center on June 8, 2018 in North Hollywood, California

“I don’t think you can sleep when you have that kind of genius. When you have that kind of that fire in you, you have to sacrifice something. And I’m sure it’s sleep. I’m sure it’s space. I’m sure it’s friendships. And I admire that in him.

“What I love about being a part of that is to continue to ignite the flame in him that will show the play. Because all we do is play with each other, like, when we’re on set and we’re telling these stories, there’s a sense of play. And him and his brother [Stephen – a rapper and writer], are two of the most unbelievable minds I’ve ever seen.

“You know, it does take a lot of sacrifice. But it’s completely worth it because [Donald] provides these things where you’re like, ‘Thank you! We didn’t even know we needed that until we realised we needed that!’ So it’s like…I hope he’s not narcoleptic at this point. I hope he’s able to just continue to go out there and have that fire in him and that vision in him to keep bringing something fresh and new.”

Did you know anything about ‘This is America’ before it was released?

“Nope! Hiro [Murai – director, ‘This is America’ music video ] and me went to the Saturday Night Live show Donald was hosting. I did my show that night on Broadway [ Lobby Hero ] and then I went right around the corner to Donald’s SNL . We hung out that night and then the next day I’m on my way to work and I go to Instagram and I see it and I’m like, ‘What the fuck is this?!’

“Hiro is coming to the play that day and he’s never seen me on stage before. He comes upstairs afterwards like, ‘Man, I have never seen that before, that is unbelievable,’ and I’m like, ‘Man, you shut the hell up, when the hell did you guys do this?! We were just together last night!’ But that’s what I love about what all of us do. We continue to surprise each other and try to give each other opportunities to just be shocked at.”

Atlanta has been praised for its dramatisation of race and representation in America. How does it feel to be a part of a show like that?

“Look man, if I was a 12-year-old kid riding down the road and I saw a billboard with three black men up there, I would have shat myself. It just wasn’t something that was really presented or that that made us feel like that was something that was obtainable. And I’m really, really, really, really fortunate and really happy to be a part of something like that. I really love that we can kick down the doors. I love that we can bring our black asses into somebody’s living room who lives in a landlocked state, who never even really shook hands with a black person or even knew what that person was. But they could still relate to it.

“There’s a demographic of people that I just never even thought would roll up on me. I’ve had a 60-year-old great grandmothers wearing pearls around necks saying like, ‘Paper Boi’s our favorite character,’ and I’m like, ‘You gotta be shitting me!’ because this really is just remarkable.

“At the end of the day the stories are what matter. And you know it really is about representation and it’s really good that we are in a time where these stories can come about. [The stories] are relatable, they do exist in a space and we want to claim our space.”

What music are you into? Do you share music with Donald?

“Hell yeah. What I love about us is that music is a good through line and, you know, whenever I’m in the hair and makeup trailer they’re always allowing me to plug in my phone. Music is something that is just very precious to me. Donald introduces me to new music all the time. I think the last thing I introduced to Donald was Little Dragon and SZA and we just continue to bounce stuff off of each other.”

What do you think of Kanye’s new album, ‘Ye’ ?

“I haven’t heard it. I haven’t had time. Anything Kanye-related, I think, is safe to say is off….” Atlanta Robbin’ Season continues Sundays at 10pm on FOX

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The Untold Truth Of Atlanta's Paper Boi

Paper Boi smiling

"Atlanta" focuses the lion's share of attention on Earn ( Donald Glover ), a Princeton dropout who's just trying to find a way to get a steady income in this world, so he can care for his daughter and baby mama. The best way he sees fit to make that happen is to become the manager for his cousin, Alfred a.k.a. Paper Boi (Brian Tyree Henry), who's been gaining a following as a popular rapper in Atlanta.

Paper Boi starts off the series with a decent-sized fanbase in the underground music scene. As the show goes on, he steadily becomes more and more popular, which eventually culminates in his landing a European tour. He's come a long way, thanks in part to Earn's help in getting him gigs, which allow him to grow into the superstar he's destined to be. But at the end of the day, it's all in the pursuit of chasing that paper, boy. Henry plays Alfred with a calm, cool demeanor, which he's able to keep ... until someone crosses him. 

Henry's proven himself a competent actor time and time again with his roles in "If Beale Street Could Talk," "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse," and "Eternals,"  to name a few. But to a generation of viewers, he'll always be Paper Boi. So, if you want to know more about the character behind the glitz, then here's the untold truth of Paper Boi to get you through your next "Atlanta" binge-watch.

A lot of work went into crafting the Paper Boi song

When we're first introduced to Paper Boi in "Atlanta," he's just acquired his first taste of fame. He has a song — appropriately titled "Paper Boi" — that's making it big in the underground scene. And unlike a lot of songs that are made specifically for films and TV shows, it's actually pretty catchy. In the universe of "Atlanta," you can genuinely feel like it's a track that would make it big.

What may come as a surprise is that's not Brian Tyree Henry rapping on the song. It's actually Donald Glover's brother, Stephen, who's the voice of the track. Stephen is a writer for "Atlanta" and a rapper as well, who goes by the name Steve G. Lover on stage. Thrillist  details how the beat was created by producer Christopher Cobb, a.k.a. Chemist, who's worked with the likes of Tory Lanez and Nipsey Hussle. Cobb said of his inspiration for the track, "[Donald] is trying to capture that vibe of pure Atlanta hip-hop scene, which seems to be a dying one — or maybe not a dying one but a changing one — that sound really comes from 2003 or 2008, when most of those synths were developed, those heavy horns and electronic synths. ... I was just trying to capture the essence of Atlanta."

While Cobb doesn't hail from Atlanta himself, he knows what kind of sound he wanted to represent: "With a lot of pop, everything is so fine-tuned and very well mixed and engineered, but with a lot of hip-hop producers, we don't know anything. We just grab expensive equipment and start chopping, and whatever we come up with is whatever we come up with. The ones who work the hardest come up with unique sounds." The result is an instant hit that will have you humming it long after you watch the pilot.

Don't expect a Paper Boi album any time soon

Given how much "Atlanta" draws inspiration from the local music scene, one would surmise there would be a Paper Boi album in the works, especially since Paper Boi has enough tracks to go on a full tour. Although folks can listen to the self-titled track as many times as they want on YouTube , it would make for a great promotional piece to have an album that people can listen to outside of the show. It certainly would have made the long wait between Seasons 2 and 3 a bit more bearable to have some more Paper Boi in our lives.

According to Thrillist , Donald Glover discussed the probability for a Paper Boi album during a conversation at the Paley Center: "We made songs, and the Paper Boi songs we obviously made. I just wanna release [the album] in the coolest way, and also have it live up to what most of the time that stuff doesn't live up to. Something cool, and people will be like ... I actually want to listen to this,' as opposed to it being a novelty project."

There hasn't even been a soundtrack for the non-Paper Boi songs that are used frequently throughout the show. The show's music supervisor, Jen Malone, spoke with Decider about such a release and was awfully cryptic about any impending news. "We want to figure out the best way so that people will know when this scene is happening, what song is playing," she mentioned. "Besides using Twitter and maybe posting stuff, that's definitely going to be a priority." No doubt plenty of fans are waiting on bated breath for an official soundtrack release.

Brian Tyree Henry didn't study other rappers

Although Brian Tyree Henry may not be the one actually rapping for Paper Boi, he does fully embody the role. In the era of method acting and intensive research, it's only natural to wonder if he based his character off of any particular rapper.

Henry was asked as much during an interview with NPR , and he answered, "I wanted to be so far removed from that because I think that every rapper, you know — even their names are ways that they want you to know them. It's not their birth names. It's not, you know — it's very rare that you get a rapper that's known by their own name." It sounds like Henry wanted to put Alfred front and center and focus on developing him as a character, rather than fine-tuning the public persona that would become Paper Boi.

Henry went on to say, "I didn't really want to study any rappers per se because I wanted to get to who he was, you know, who, like — who Alfred really was and where he came from before I could even go to where he was going. Like, Paper Boi is where he's going." However, just because Henry didn't base the character off of anyone in particular, that doesn't mean that real-life inspiration didn't come into the creation of the character. During a Paley Center discussion with Angela Yee, Donald Glover noted that they "wanted to base [Paper Boi] off of what kind of Atlanta hood icons were." He continued, "Like, when Gucci [Mane] first came out ... kind of crossed with Doe B, who's not from Atlanta, just that polo fresh kind of look, which feels like the freshness you get in the country" (via Thrillist ).

Brian Tyree Henry only refers to Paper Boi as Alfred

There are two sides to Paper Boi: the rapper that everyone wants a piece of, and Alfred, who's always needed to hustle to survive. The two names are often used interchangeably in "Atlanta," and you can tell a lot about a person by which name they use for this character. According to Brian Tyree Henry, however, he only ever refers to himself as "Alfred." When asked to describe these two parts of his persona, Henry explained to NPR , "Any time that I talk about him, I only call him Alfred. I've never referred to him as Paper Boi. ... It's not who he is."

Henry goes on to refer to Alfred as a "trap boy," which refers to someone who grew up in a poor neighborhood, usually where "you got the projects and things like that. Have you ever noticed that these residencies look like prisons ... And we call them the trap because what do you do with a trap? When you're in the trap, there's really no way for you to get out."  As a result, Alfred needs to do whatever he can to survive, whether that means starting a rap career or selling drugs. 

He finds success with the former, so Alfred finds himself thrust into the limelight, even though he never necessarily wanted that for himself. All he's really wanted is stability, so it makes sense that Henry would only view his character as Alfred. Paper Boi is merely one of many side hustles; it's just proven to be the most lucrative thus far. 

But just because Henry knows who the character is, that doesn't mean everyone is in the same boat. People now just see Paper Boi and his fame without getting to know who he is, which is "causing him to get a little further away from the essence of who Alfred is. And, you know — and it's a struggle."

His name wasn't always going to be Paper Boi

At first glance, "Paper Boi" seems like a great name for a rapper. It's catchy and it fits into a song really well. But as tends to be the case, a fair amount of brainstorming had to go into the creation of such an iconic moniker. 

"Paper Boi" wasn't the first name the "Atlanta" creatives wanted to go with, which Stephen Glover revealed in an interview with The Fader . Early on, the "Atlanta" creators knew they'd need a central rap figure. Glover elaborated, "We were like, 'What should this rapper's name be?' The original idea was that we'd build this scary, Black, gangsta, trap rapper, but his rap name would be White Boi." The song would even have the same catchy hook, going, "White boi, white boi, all about that white boi."

At that point, they found out there might have been a real rapper named White Boi, so they had to pivot. Glover went on to describe the process: "So we're like, 'Okay, we're gonna call this guy Paper Boi.' It still works: Paper Boi, Paper Boi, all about that paper, boi , that double entendre, triple entendre-type thing. That's how it started." Granted, there's also another real rapper named Paperboy, but they didn't let that deter them this time.

A different rapper was supposed to be Paper Boi each week

"Atlanta" is a show that thrives on absurdity. It doesn't matter if things don't make sense all the time because sometimes, real life doesn't make much sense either. That's why Justin Bieber can be Black in an episode or Drake can be Mexican . Reality is more of a guideline than a set rule, and as surprising as it might sound, things were supposed to be even weirder in the world of "Atlanta." 

In an interview with The Fader , Stephen Glover talked about the original idea they had for Paper Boi, which was to have different rappers play him over the course of the series. He mentioned, "We didn't want to have to force Brian [Tyree Henry] to rap. We felt that forcing him to rap would be weird. Maybe he's not a good rapper, then what would we do? That's where the idea of maybe switching the rapper each time came from."

Glover talks about different rappers they had in mind, like Jeezy and Young Thug, who could come in to be Paper Boi at different times. "Atlanta" clearly doesn't have a problem getting rapper cameos — for example, Migos popped up as Alfred's drug suppliers — but this would have taken things to the next level. It also would have required the audience to accept a different-looking person each time Paper Boi shows up on screen, which might have taken some getting used to. Although, fans have come to accept a lot from "Atlanta," so maybe it wouldn't have been so bad. 

Brian Tyree Henry was thankful not to be in the Season 3 premiere

After a four-year hiatus, "Atlanta" Season 3 finally came back in March 2022. It was a long time coming, and to pretty much everyone's surprise, the story didn't actually involve the main group of characters . Instead of focusing on another adventure with Earn, Alfred, and Darius (LaKeith Stanfield), we meet a student named Loquareeous, who gets in trouble in class. Due to a series of unfortunate events, he ends up in foster care with a lesbian couple, who can't season their food right and make Loquareeous (or Larry, as they call him) do back-breaking labor. 

It's an absurd story that finally makes sense when it's revealed that it was all Earn's dream. It functions as a prologue to the rest of the season, which takes place in Europe instead of the ATL. It's only natural to wonder how Brian Tyree Henry felt being cast aside for the episode, especially since it had been so long since he had a chance to inhabit this character. He actually didn't mind the break at all. In an interview with Metacritic , Henry was asked how he felt upon reading the script, to which he answered, "I was thankful. I wanted to tell this story. We always want to give the viewer a taste of all different dimensions and we don't ever want you to think that you have us pegged. So, of course, let's give an intro in this weird, bizarro world, and tell it in our way."

He went on to talk about how amusing he found it that audiences waited so long to be reunited with this world of Paper Boi, Earn, and the others, and in the opening episode of the season, these beloved characters are not even in it. But that's "Atlanta" for you: You always need to go in with an open mind and expect the unexpected. 

Brian Tyree Henry missed playing Paper Boi for so long

The lengthy four-year hiatus between Seasons 2 and 3 of "Atlanta" is mostly unheard of with TV shows. During the interim, Brian Tyree Henry and the rest of the "Atlanta" cast had plenty of opportunities to pursue other projects, but Henry always held a candle for Alfred. 

In a conversation with Metacritic , Henry discussed how he missed playing Alfred, even after portraying numerous other characters over the years. He stated, "I missed him very much. I missed Alfred in a way I can't even explain. I know this sounds artsy-fartsy, but there's a true connection between Alfred and I. Having time off from him allowed me space to really focus on me, but then I realized there's not a lot of differences between Alfred and I." In fact, so much time passed between seasons that Henry was even worried if he would be able to step into those shoes once again and do justice to the character. 

Fortunately, he didn't allow that to stand in his way for very long. When the cast and crew touched down in Europe to film "Atlanta" Season 3 , he was already thinking about Alfred: "That was my mantra: Just show up for Alfred the way I would show up for myself." He elaborated, "He gave me a language of how to show up for myself because basically what happened with Alfred is that somebody saw something in him and said, 'Hey maybe you can actually make it out here, and regardless of if you want to fight it, people really do relate to you; people really care.'"

And the fans have shown how much they care about Alfred, a.k.a. Paper Boi, by showing up for the series through thick and thin. "Atlanta" may be ending after Season 4 , but its legacy, like a good rap song, will live on.

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The Erasure of Paper Boi Is “Atlanta”’s Sharpest Joke

By Stephen Kearse

Paper Boi and Earn in FXs ”Atlanta”

Note: This article contains light spoilers of “Atlanta Robbin’ Season.”

The surreal bent of “Atlanta”’s first season made it hard to distinguish between detours and destinations. Episodes could veer from bracing takes on the carceral state to oddball vignettes examining viral fame and customized hot wings. Scenes could morph from Migos making a cameo to Migos committing murder. Connecting all this sprawl was the story of rapper and drug dealer Alfred “Paper Boi” Miles grinding his way into the music industry. Managed by his sharp if feckless cousin, the homeless Princeton dropout Earn Marks, Paper Boi drifted from the margins of rap to an in-depth interview on Black American Network (B.A.N.), a satirical local TV station. It was a very meager come-up: Earn and Paper Boi make little to no money. Earn, a father with no other job options, was much more affected by this hard truth than Paper Boi, who knew the score going in. “Nigga, there is no money anywhere near rap,” he told a vulturous Instagrammer early in season one.

In the follow-up, titled “Atlanta Robbin’ Season,” Paper Boi makes a toast to “white tears” after one of his singles goes gold. Viewers are not privy to this unnamed single, but we’ve heard it by proxy. The white tears in question were shed by a concerned mother who recited the lyrics to the song in a teary video shown earlier in the episode. “Bitch, I need reparations,” the white woman croaked into her webcam, inadvertently transmuting Paper Boi’s brusque lines into a gold plaque. The sequence references a YouTube user once denouncing Vince Staples’ “Norf Norf,” but the joke isn’t just the allusion and the sweet irony of white tears filling black pockets. The real punch line is that we have still yet to hear a full Paper Boi song, despite him being a somewhat successful musician.

The series debuted with Paper Boi’s song “Paper Boi” being nudged from internet curiosity to terrestrial radio via a clutch payola payment. Orchestrated by Earn, the ploy introduced Paper Boi’s music as low-budget but hearty trap. The song was a toast to ballers, and as it boomed from Paper Boi’s car speakers in a key scene, more exposure to his music felt imminent. But it never happened. Since then, Paper Boi songs have been referenced but never played. “Mucking,” his song combining “massage” and “fucking,” gets mocked in a standoff; another time its instrumental wafts from a phone. “Illuminati Sex” and two other Paper Boi songs are referenced in his appearance on B.A.N. The chorus of “Pussy Relevance” is quoted during a goofy smoke break outside a club. Such trolling song titles themselves don’t exactly encourage listening, but in the first season, these mentions could be chalked up to the inherent one-sidedness of trying to break into the industry. Paper Boi needed to be seen as much as he needed to be heard, hence his TV appearances, his participation in a celebrity basketball game, and a begrudging club appearance. Plus, he was in Atlanta, a city where rappers are a dime a dozen. To get listened to, he first had to get noticed.

In “Robbin’ Season,” Paper Boi is more visible and somehow less heard. An episode before he’s toasting to white tears, Paper Boi is robbed by his plug. They’ve been doing business for years, but robbin’ season—the desperate period right before the holidays, when people need cash by any means—is in full effect. Paper Boi isn’t just simply double-crossed, though; his plug justifies the betrayal by insisting Paper Boi’s new song will help him recoup. “You’ll be all right, bro. Your song hot. It’ll probably go platinum or some shit,” he says with a gun to Paper Boi’s chest. There’s no evidence that the plug has listened to the song or even knows its title, but it doesn’t matter. Paper Boi’s got the juice. His music is its own entity now, and despite the reality that he’s still not making money from it, the mere idea that it might be lucrative has turned him into a hot commodity.

When he’s not literally being robbed, Paper Boi is being leached. It starts with the streaming platform Earn links him with to expand his audience. Paper Boi and Earn meet with the platform’s execs in an office that’s Silicon Valley chic: its kitchen is stocked with organic and gluten-free food, exposed ductwork hugs the high ceilings, stylish furniture fills the glass-walled rooms, the staff is young and smiley. The director of music outreach is named Peter Savage, but around the office, he gladly offers, he’s known as “35 Savage.” Chuckles disperse across the room when Savage delivers the quip; Paper Boi grimaces. He’s in the company of a human dad joke, someone who wears rap like a costume; he shrugs it off. The meeting further derails when Earn hands Savage a CD with Paper Boi’s new music. A burned CD worked fine when Earn used it to land “Paper Boi” on the radio in the first season, but the streaming platform’s “state of the art” wireless system lacks disk drives. Technical difficulties ensue, then worsen, and eventually none of Paper Boi’s songs get heard. More than just a comedy of errors, the lack of CD player and embrace of wonky tech convey the disconnect between streaming platforms and the artists they profit from. Paper Boi is perplexed that people so removed from his world can exert so much control over it. They literally have not heard his music.

Still, Paper Boi is asked to record radio spots for one of the platform’s playlists. He deadpans his way through two recordings and is told he isn’t excited enough. Paper Boi grimaces again, turning to Earn to shrug. “How the fuck does this help me?” he says with a vexed look. The question becomes more urgent as Paper Boi is primed to perform his hit, “Paper Boi,” to an unenthused yet leering nerve of cubicles. It’s the same environment that Kanye navigated when he dropped into Twitter and Facebook ’s offices in 2010, but Paper Boi is no Kanye. No phones are out, no excited chatter washes through the room, no livestream beams him into any timelines. He is simply the entertainment of the day. An employee close to the stage nibbles a banana as the “Paper Boi” instrumental blares from the speakers. Paper Boi leaves without performing. His music doesn’t matter.

Later that day Paper Boi meets with two new potential suppliers. The first plug offers serious product, but he’s so enthralled with Paper Boi’s fame that he posts a picture of their drug exchange on Instagram. Paper Boi leaves. The second plug is less thirsty, but he shares Paper Boi’s phone number with his girlfriend, a white woman who’s recorded an acoustic cover of “Paper Boi.” Paper Boi discards his phone. Everybody wants a piece of him, but he derives no benefit from all this generosity. This is the dark blessing of those white tears. Paper Boi’s come-up in the music industry has eroded the base—drugs—that made his rise possible, and now he’s in the thick of it without money, product, or dignity. And the only things that can keep him afloat are a white vlogger weeping his lyrics and a streaming platform that doesn’t understand him. Another rapper, Clark County, tells him to pursue deals with brands, but those, too, pigeonhole him: he’s offered an endorsement of a Rap Snack flavored “cocaine white cheddar.”

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These kinds of scathing portraits of the music industry have typically been aimed at individuals or institutions, especially record labels and their executives. “Who’s your A&R? A mountain climber who plays an electric guitar?” GZA once asked. “I apologize to the fans but them crackers wasn’t playing fair at Jive,” Pusha T once rapped . “Fuck Billboard and the editor,” said Ice Cube. In the movie The Five Heartbeats , directed by Robert Townsend, a label boss hires a hitman to settle a contract dispute. Black artists, especially rappers, clearly have a complex relationship with the grim realities of commerce. “Robbin’ Season” continues this tradition, and breaks with it. Its focus is on the entire ecosystem of pillage, not just the folks in the suites and the offices that house them. It dwells on the slapdash circuitry that connects a street rapper to a vlogger to a gold plaque, or a rapper to a police standoff to an alligator. It’s still strange to see Donald Glover of all people depicting Atlanta with such nuance—his early and even fairly recent music tended to use Atlanta to cheaply signal authenticity (kind of like Drake’s shaky mentions of Memphis)—but “Robbin’ Season” is more than a polemic or screed or self-portrait. It’s a mural.

The season opens with a sequence that references Tay-K’s alleged Chick-fil-A shooting and Paper Boi’s story is just a blip within a citywide descent into bedlam. But like the violence of that opening sequence, the erasure of Paper Boi’s music grounds the show’s flighty mood in visceral experience. It’s bizarre how far black music can travel even as black artists stay in place, and withholding the completion of that loop—the playing of Paper Boi’s music—highlights who it truly hurts.

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Paper Boi escapes to nature in Atlanta ’s penultimate episode

“andrew wyeth. alfred's world.” introduces us to the rapper’s safe farm.

Brian Tyree Henry as Alfred “Paper Boi” Miles

I should have known after last week’s excellent mockumentary digression that there was no use of predicting what the last few episodes of Atlanta would cover. This show isn’t a fantasy epic or a linear drama where there are plot threads and questions that have to be answered. Instead, Atlanta created characters who have fascinated fans through their day-to-day struggles. A plotless show like this wasn’t going to end by giving viewers as much time as we wanted with each of the characters; instead, we’ll remember to appreciate what we can get. Still, it is a bit disappointing that this episode only features Al, with a little splash of Earn .

This week’s tagline, “They always making Paper Boi go through something,” is a good categorization for the series’ standalone Al episodes, including his chase through the “Woods” and his bad trip in “New Jazz.” Season four sees him escaping to a farm somewhere north of Atlanta, where he’s practicing his shooting, growing weed, and ignoring everyone’s calls. There have been hints that Al would make a life away from civilization all season, including the mention of a home in the woods in “Born to Die” and his at-home grow setup in “Crank Dat Killer.” Though he’d never mention it out loud, the title card song, “Mind Playing Tricks On Me” by Geto Boys , gives a hint of Al’s mindset after the mall shootout.

For most of this very quiet episode, Al is building a farm alone with very little experience. The property is less gorgeous than the landscape we saw in “Snipe Hunt,” though Hiro Murai, returning to the director’s chair, still perfectly utilizes the landscape. This episode’s setting feels like a middle ground between the dreaminess of “Snipe Hunt” and the menace of “Woods.” The same seclusion that means Al can stumble upon an abandoned tractor covered in wildflowers means there’s no one around to hear him scream. I do not fuck with nature like that, let alone nature without any civilization nearby, so I appreciated this episode’s tightrope between the loveliness of solitude and little splashes of menace that show up even before the feral hogs (mainly the Confederate flag clock and the “We don’t call the cops” sign in the general store).

Once some hogs do break into Al’s shed and discover his weed, the show plays a little bit with the “30-50 feral hog” meme vs. the reality of the wild animals’ threat potential. Back in 2019, the jokes went more viral than the warning articles , so Al’s incredulity makes sense. In 2022, though, there have been way more articles about how these pigs can fuck up a person and the surrounding property . Clyde at the general store (played by She-Hulk ’s boss Steve Coulter ) says Al needs to take them down (with some very aggressive language), but he’s even averse to dealing with a dead mouse, so he tries to feed them poison weed first to no avail.

Farmer Al gets a win the next day, when he gets the tractor up and running. His brief celebration and drive around the lake ends with him stalling on a slope. As soon as he went downhill from the tractor, I was ready for some 127 Hours shit, but luckily his foot only gets crushed and not stuck. His journey back to the house sets up an excellent payoff of all the random threads of the show, from the Amazon driver not hearing his screams to the hogs returning to his back patio for another nightly meal to the rapper finally embracing his anger and going ham on the beast with his new cast-iron skillet. It’s a great moment of catharsis for the character, though I agree with Earn that the breakfast of bacon (from Kroger!) and whiskey is a bit much.

Brian Tyree Henry as Alfred “Paper Boi” Miles

Speaking of Earn, I was worried that some fight or impasse between the cousins had happened offscreen, since most of the calls Al was ignoring were his. Instead, everything seems chill between them, as the manager tells the rapper the same thing I had been shouting at the screen the whole episodes, that “farms are dangerous as fuck.” The episode ends with the team still making moves and negotiating contracts, but now both of them are preparing to move on to new phases of their life, with Earn and the family in L.A. and Al probably going between Atlanta and his Safe Farm. (He looks like a man here to stay, posted up with his ice pack and cane.)

Though this chill bottle episode is underwhelming as a penultimate outing, it does follow the overall Atlanta style. Strip away the unpredictability—shifting genres, impeccable needle drops, surrealist flair, and gorgeous filmmaking—and Atlanta ’s about a group of people making their way from a life of hustling to a future of some sort of peace and calm. Everyone (besides maybe Darius, who’s still strangely underused this season) is just working toward a time where they don’t have to keep paddling like a swan’s feet underwater. Earn found that driving away from the campsite with Sade playing, and Al’s enjoying it as the fog comes in off the lake in slow motion. Whether we like it or not, we only have one episode left of the hustle. At least we’re getting glimpses of what peace will come after.

Stray observations

  • I’m not that familiar with Andrew Wyeth’s work, but the NYT described the painter as “a reclusive linchpin in a colorful family dynasty of artists whose precise realist views of hardscrabble rural life…sparked endless debates about the nature of modern art.”
  • I’d love to read Taofik Kolade’s script for this one-man show of an episode. The points of Al chuckling to himself, and talking to the plants and animals, are so natural and well-placed.
  • Someone in the writers’ room should be proud of “These Backhoes Ain’t Loyal.”
  • The attack on a woman outside Houston actually happened in November 2019 , so it pans out if the episode was planned out sometime in 2020.
  • This ep’s two other stellar needle drops are “Rollin’” by Dungeon Family and “Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Cryin’” by Ray Charle s.
  • My exact notes for the moments when the hogs show up: “Absolutely the entire fuck not nope nun huh fuck this no no no stay the fuck away from him Pumba.”
  • I always wonder whether cast iron is overrated when it goes on sale, and this episode is the best ad for Lodge that I’ve seen.
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Atlanta's Paper Boi Cover Is a Real YouTube Star

From Esquire

This week's episode of Atlanta closes its observation of uncomfortable whiteness with a cringeworthy acoustic cover of Paper Boi's hit song. The cover song plays during the closing credits as a lasting reminder of appropriation, desperate allies, and the delicate conversations between black and white people. Besides a necessary Jeezy song during the title card , this Paper Boi cover is the only other music in the episode - a rarity for a show like Atlanta .

And it turns out that this hilarious cover comes from an actual YouTube star named Bryce Hitchcock. She's a good sport about the whole joke, and spoke to Vulture about how Daris's jab of “White girls love that shit," is pretty accurate.

“Most white girls aren’t great rappers, unless that’s your thing, so they just do something acoustic with it because rap is popular and they want people to see their videos," she told Vulture.

She'd actually never covered a hip-hop song before, and worked to make it her own before the audition. She played it once and they thought it was perfect - “They were all like, ‘Oh, dang. Where’d that come from?’" she said.

Atlanta writer Jamal Olori says the idea was actually inspired by Niykee Heaton’s viral 2012 cover of Chief Keef’s “Love Sosa." As he said of the situation on the show:

“It’s about selling cocaine. We knew it’s something that would happen in the real world. You wouldn’t hear a middle-class white girl singing about this. It’s things she would run away from. But because the song is so popular, She gravitates to it. It also shows that the song has gotten so big in our world, that it even caught onto hers.”

The idea is funny on its own, but only Atlanta could take it to this next level.

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‘Atlanta’ Episode 8 Recap: Paper Boi’s Life-Changing Trek Through the ‘Woods’

Here are all the highlights from episode 8 of "Atlanta."

By Lauren Alvarez

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Brian Tyree Henry as Alfred Miles on Atlanta.

In “Woods,” the eighth episode of Donald Glover ’s FX series Atlanta , Paper Boi aka Alfred Miles finds himself unexpectedly in the woods fighting for his life. In what he thought was going to be a chill day with Ciara, a former stripper-turned-Instagram model, quickly turns into a life-changing (but very dangerous) adventure. When his “lady friend” gives Alfred a harsh lesson about the modern fame game, he rejects any notion of its excessiveness and races out of the nail salon ironically entitled. That’s what lead to the young rapper’s voyage. 

Donald Glover

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As the episode develops, Paper Boi departs by walking home only to find himself confronted with three boys who conveniently recognize him on an odd pathway next to the woods. Once they do, they give each other reassuring looks to suggest they are all on the same page for one deed — to jump and rob Alfred. The trio puts a gun to his head, leaving Paper Boi with no choice but to attempt to fight back. He struggles to battle back, but finds it in himself to do so and ventures off into the woods to escape the situation. This is the beginning of Paper Boi’s evolution.

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Here are all the highlights from Thursday night’s Atlanta .

1. Instagram Models Have No Shame In Their Game — And Can’t Afford To

Ciara picks up Paper Boi from his house in a SUV-type car for a day out on the town. She points to a strip club asking Alfred if he’s ever been to that particular one because, if so, he may have seen her there. “I could have been grinding on your junk thinking you was just another dumb broke n*gga,” she boldly said.

The musician, who obviously had no patience for the conversation, replied, “Oh yeah? And I could have thought you were just another stuck up hoe with too many damn stretch marks.” Unphased by his low-level attitude, she begins hysterically laughing — continuing to tell him how happy she is to spend time with somebody who just “gets it.” She means someone who gets the young, rich, and famous life. As they cruise, Paper Boi’s buzzed-worthy song comes on the radio, and he finally cracks a smile — demonstrating he’s not really phased by much these days except for events that seem authentic to him.

From calling out Alfred’s manager, Earn, for not getting the artist free merchandise to demanding help from a white male employee at a contemporary boutique, Ciara is feeling herself on a whole new level — embracing all the attention fame has to offer while Paper Boi has no regard for it. It’s obvious that he’s at the point in his career where he’s numb to the perks and the advantages most dream about. There’s a moment when his lady friend takes a selfie with a fan, and Paper Boi just smokes a cigarette wondering why she’s so willing to do so. This event forebodes what is to come later from Paper Boi because it shows a contrast between how he responds to this situation as opposed to how he handles it later in the episode.

After doing so, they make their way to the nail salon where they get pedicures. Ciara goes on a tangent about her “brand,” claiming that she’s “Instagram famous.” “I can’t be selling my wigs out here looking janky,” she stated. “I got to compete with white girls with lip fillers and butt injections…spray tan shit. Everybody want to be a black girl but the black girls ain’t making no money from it.”

She then goes on interrogating Alfred about why he doesn’t post more on Instagram. He sticks to his guns, and replies, “I into what’s real,” referring to music as his priority and none of the background noise that comes with being a rapper. 

She calls him out about being “real” claiming that being on the radio and making money isn’t real in the first place. Ciara is nonstop. From one subject to another, she is all about the business and no one can prevent her from taking every opportunity that comes her way. She tells Paper Boi that she thinks they could be good together and that the two can get money from it since they’ll be giving people something to talk about. This triggers Alfred, who lividly gets up out of the massage chair to leave the salon.

Donald Glover Stayed in Whiteface the Entire Time on Set During the Filming of Latest 'Atlanta'…

2. The Three Boys Who Could and Did

Putting his shoes back on in the parking lot, the MC begins to walk home, stopping to get food while he’s at it. As he makes his way to his destination, he comes across three boys. At first, they appear as fans saying they’ve been following his career from the start, but as they continue asking questions, they’re scoping him out. When the random strangers realize he doesn’t have a car, the boys exchange glances — giving each other the cue to rob him. The male to the left of Paper Boi throws a drink in his face and another pulls a gun out on him.

They start beating him up, so they can steal his wallet and chain — which is a direct reference to the theme of season two, Robbin’ Season . Alfred luckily fights them off, but realizes the last man he pushes to the floor is holding the gun. Paper Boi makes a run for it, entering a mysterious and eerie woods in the ATL.

'Atlanta' Episode 5 Recap: Paper Boi's Absurd Adventures With His Barber

3. Nothing Was the Same for Paper Boi?

Paper Boi finds himself in the woods with a bleeding lip and a vast amount of fear. In fact, this is the most terror viewers have seen from the character all season. Making his way through nature, he comes across a creepy older man who somewhat mocks him because he’s so petrified to be in the woods. Alfred continues walking off asking the man not to follow him. 

Fast forward from daylight to nightime, Alfred, who is clearly suffering from exhaustion and hunger, hears a man humming. The impatient rapper yells, “Man, can you shut the f— up…Take your ass home!”

The mysterious nameless man responds, “You in bad shape.” And quite frankly, Paper Boi is in awful shape. Trying to avoid the outspoken male, Miles ignores him only to hear him babbling once more. When they see a dead deer on their path, the man utters, “That’s you, deer guts. That’s what I’ll call you…big old black boy deer guts. You’re stubborn and you’re black.” Again, Alfred shouts to leave him alone.

There comes a point where the peculiar man turns on Alfred in the woods, lecturing him that the musician better make a decision of how he’ll get out of the woods. Paper Boi doesn’t take him seriously — probably because every encounter with him has been filled with jokes and unthreatening gestures. 

The man whips out his knife and raises it to Paper Boi’s neck. He tells him, “I’ma count to 30 and if you don’t walk out of here, I’m going to hurt you.” Alfred pushes out through the man, but as he’s leaving he trips in the woods making direct eye contact with the elder man. He quickly gets up and sprints as his life depends on it because at this point, it does. Paper Boi finds himself miraculously at a gas station. He stands there sobbing in shock.

Alfred makes his way to a liquor store to buy a soft drink when a fan asks if he’s Paper Boi. He replies, “Yeah, I’m Paper Boi. Do you want a picture?” Quite the different approach from the previous selfie incident earlier in the episode, the two take a number of selfies willingly. After their done taking photos, Alfred tells the young white kid, “Thank you. Be safe out there!” 

Let’s just say, after experiencing a near-death experience, Alfred Miles is a changed man. 

Atlanta Robbin’ Season continues Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on FX.

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Atlanta Paperboi recap When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong

Paper Boi is the Embodiment of When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong: 'Atlanta' Season Two Episode Eight [Recap]

Warning: spoilers ahead..

Dave Chappelle had a segment called “When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong” on Chappelle’s Show . It looks like Paper Boi is catching a serious case of the issue on this week’s episode of Atlanta .

Paper Boi has been desperately trying to maintain his “realness” for all of Robbin Season . When Paper Boi went to the office of the startup, in "Sportin' Waves," he refused to give a minstrel performance for a clearly unenthused audience. He regularly goes out with his homies at general bars and restaurants. He tried to get weed from his usual connect, and got robbed at gunpoint. And instead of finding a new barber for his magazine photoshoot, he went to his usual barber, who strung him along on a dangerous, neglectful day that could have landed him in jail .

READ: Van Loses Herself Going on a Dummy Mission Looking for Drake: 'Atlanta' Season Two Episode Seven [Recap]

The realness wars continued this week, when Paper Boi is hanging out with his love interest, a stripper-turned-IG model named Sierra. The two have some sort of chemistry, as she gets him to crack a rare smile while they're clowning around. She also wants better for him; she encourages him to find a manager who will work for him and get him the opportunities he deserves. But the two butt heads when she takes a photo of him without his permission while they’re getting pedicures, and suggests the two have a fake relationship to keep people interested on social media. Al scoffs at the idea, and leaves her behind at the salon. “I don’t need to change who I am,” Paper Boi said. He then leaves to go for a walk, which is where he gets robbed at gunpoint by a trio of teenagers who scoff at him for “keeping it real.”

READ:  What Happens When Darius Meets a Michael Jackson Lookalike Inside of a Creepy Mansion? ‘Atlanta’ Season Two Episode Six [Recap]

Retreating from the armed teenagers, Al runs into the woods, getting lost in the seemingly endless path of trees, darkness and dead animals. He tries to avoid a delirious old man who’s following him. The man is seemingly a figment of Paper Boi’s imagination. The man keeps badgering him, and Al is fed up.

“Nigga, you’re so useless,” Al said. Then, the man puts a blade to his throat, telling him to “make the decision” about how he’s going to get out of the woods. Before threatening to hurt Al if he doesn’t leave by the count of 30, he gives him a bit of advice. “Keep standing still, you’re gone boy. You’re wasting time,” the old man tells him. “And the only people who got time are dead.”

It’s another bit of elderly advice offered to the Atlanta crew this season. In "Alligator Man," Earn’s uncle, played by Katt Williams , advises him to lose the chip on his shoulder. And, in episode 6, Teddy Perkins tells Darius that all positive things come from pain. The old man gives Paper Boi guidance that, hopefully, will help steer him to make the right decisions.

Ironically, Sierra may have provided a template for Al to find his own path to realness. She’s all about her money, but as a former stripper, that’s her idea of realness. Providing for herself and making her fans happy — that is what’s important to her, and she makes no qualms about it. Her approach may not be the same as his, but she’s doing what’s most authentic to herself in a way that doesn’t put her in danger.

It looks like it’s time for Al to stop “standing still” (as his imaginary father says) and upgrade his ideas of realness. That means either getting a bodyguard or being more mindful of where he goes alone. And that also may mean that he doesn’t get Earn that paperwork that he asked for at the beginning of the episode.

Every week  Atlanta is less interested in making us laugh. It’s clear from the offset that Robbin’ Season would be much darker than the first , but there are episodes where I barely laugh at all. Donald Glover told the New Yorker that he was Trojan Horse-ing FX last year, to get in the door and make the show that he really wants to make. Thankfully, both of those shows,  Atlanta Season 1, and Robbin Season,  are phenomenal.

The Soundtrack For “Woods”

EarthGang & J.I.D. "Meditate"

Smokepurpp, "Drop"

2 Chainz & Travis Scott, "4 A.M."

Amindi K. Fro$t, "Cocoa Butter Shawty"

Jacqueline Taïeb, "Petite fille Amour"

Alice Coltrane, "Turiya And Ramakrishna"

William E. Ketchum III covers entertainment, pop culture, race and politics for the likes of NPR, Billboard, Complex, The Guardian and more. Follow him ( and us! ) on Twitter at  @WEKetchum.

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Don't have eclipse glasses? Here's how to safely view the 2024 solar eclipse.

paper boi cover

ASHEVILLE – Looking for eclipse glasses last-minute? From tree leaves to cereal boxes, here's a list of last-minute alternatives to protect your eyes.

For any readers who didn’t know, North Carolina won’t see a total solar eclipse today . While we aren’t in the path of totality, Asheville's maximum coverage at the time of the eclipse's peak will be 84.6%. The celestial event begins at 1:51 p.m., peaks at 3:09 p.m. and ends at 4:24 p.m. for a total time of two hours and 33 minutes.

Eye protection is crucial to a safe eclipse viewing experience, and regular sunglasses won't cut it. Special eclipse glasses are actually 100,000 times darker than the darkest pair of sunglasses – with just a few hours until the celestial event, here's a list of last-minute methods to protect your eyes if you didn't manage to hunt down officially-approved glasses.

Tree leaf projector

Spring has sprung in Asheville just in time for the 2024 solar eclipse. One of the simplest safe ways to observe the eclipse without officially-approved glasses is to stand under a tree and look to the ground. Sunlight will project mini eclipses onto the earth as light passes through gaps in the leaves.

This method allows you to track the eclipse from start to finish, and enjoy the natural beauty of the season while you're at it.

Colander projector

Another simple viewing method with similar results involves your kitchen colander . Allow sunlight to pass through the small holes in your colander to create tiny eclipses on the ground or a surface of your choice.

Make your own pinhole projector

With a pinhole projector, sunlight travels through the pinhole to create a small image of the sun. With this method, you can safely view the eclipse as a projection, no glasses needed.

To create a pinhole projector you'll need a piece of cardboard, something to cut it with, foil and tape. Cut an inch square in the middle of your cardboard, tape foil over the square and poke a small hole in the foil. Then simply angle the cardboard so the light travels through the hole and onto another piece of cardboard (or whatever surface you can find to get a clear image) to create a projection of the sun.

Find a few examples below of how to turn household objects into simple pinhole projectors.

Turn a cardboard box into a pinhole eclipse projector

This pinhole projector can be worn like a helmet. That means the first step is hunting down a cardboard box you can comfortably place over your head. Cut a square hole on one end of the box and tape the foil over it. Poke a small hole in the foil. On the opposite side, tape a piece of paper inside the box.

When you're ready, turn your back to the sun and place the box over your head. Angle the box so the light streams through the hole and projects onto the paper to view your pinhole projection of the eclipse.

Convert a cereal box into an eclipse viewer

This cereal box pinhole projector comes straight from NASA as a suggestion on how to view the eclipse. The materials you'll need are similar to those used in the other pinhole projectors listed here, except for the addition of an empty cereal box.

After ensuring you've removed the inner bag that contained the cereal, place a piece of white paper or cardboard at the bottom of the box. Cut both ends of the top, leaving just the center flaps. Tape the center to keep it closed. Cover one of the openings with foil and poke a small hole into the foil, leaving the other side open.

Once you've prepared your cereal box, turn away from the sun and angle the box so sunlight enters through the hole. Look into the box from the opening to view your projected image of the sun at the bottom of the box.

Shoebox eclipse projectors

One more pinhole projection method similar to the cereal box method uses a shoe box.

Follow roughly the same steps to create this pinhole projector. Cut a small hole on one end of the shoebox and tape foil over it, poke a small hole in the foil and tape a small piece of paper inside the shoebox on the other end.

You can cut a hole to look into either on the foil side or on the long side of the shoebox near the paper for a closer view. When you've finished these steps, close the shoebox and angle it so the sunlight passes through the pinhole, down the length of the shoebox and onto the paper. Take a look inside to see your projection of the eclipse.

How to use your hands to view the eclipse

Believe it or not, you can use your own two hands to create a pinhole projection similar to the ones created by the cardboard creations above.

Take both hands and  overlap your fingers  with one hand vertical and the other horizontal. Your fingers should cross over each other and form square gaps.

Angle your clasped hands so the sunlight hits them. Sunlight will pass through the gaps like pinholes, projecting mini eclipses onto the ground, or whatever surface you choose.

Can I still purchase eclipse glasses?

Many eclipse-watching events in WNC including the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Nantahala Outdoor Center provide eclipse glasses to viewers: See previous reporting from the Citizen Times to check for last-minute availability.

As for stores in the area that carry eclipse glasses, many Walmart, Target and Lowe's locations advertise appropriate eyewear for around $2-$5. Just make sure the glasses comply with the ISO 12312-2 international standard, as stressed by the  American Astronomical Society . And with only a few hours to go until the anticipated celestial event, you may want to check stock of individual stores before making the drive.

What not to do

Without proper eye protection, viewing an eclipse can seriously damage your vision. Remember: Eclipse glasses are roughly 100,000 times darker than the darkest pair of sunglasses. Scientists warn that severe damage can occur in minutes or seconds, and generally occurs without noticeable pain to warn you of the harm. This is especially true for children, who have underdeveloped lenses.

Here are a few final suggestions on how to make your viewing experience as safe as possible:

  • The only safe way to look directly at the sun is through glasses designed to do so.
  • If you're using eclipse glasses, make sure they are the correct ISO. Look for an ISO marking inside the glasses of ISO 12312-2. More information is available at  science.nasa.gov/eclipses/safety  and  eclipse.aas.org/eye-safety/how-to-tell-if-viewers-are-safe . 
  • Look down to put on the glasses before looking up at the eclipse. Look away before taking them off. Remind children to do that as well.
  • Consider practicing correct usage of eclipse glasses with your children during a pre-eclipse test run.

More: Will it be cloudy or clear for the eclipse in Asheville area? Will we be able to see it?

More: Protect little eyes during the eclipse

Iris Seaton is a trending news reporter for the Asheville Citizen Times, part of the USA TODAY Network. Reach her at [email protected].

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Solar Eclipse Could Make Some Clouds Perform a Disappearing Act

A recent study found that cumulus clouds, the small cotton ball-like ones typical for a sunny day, can dissipate once an eclipse begins. But if the skies are overcast, your view could still be obstructed.

  • Share full article

Small puffy clouds above western Nebraska.

By Judson Jones

Judson Jones is a meteorologist and a reporter for The Times.

  • April 8, 2024

As the eclipse begins, some view-blocking clouds could actually disappear. A recent study found that after 15 percent of the sun becomes obscured, cumulus clouds, the small cotton ball-like ones typical for a sunny day, can dissipate. Even if you are outside the path of totality, watch what happens to the clouds.

If the sky is full of these little clouds at the start of Monday’s eclipse, it would be fun to count them and watch as they slowly disappear, said Victor Trees, an author of the study and a Ph.D. candidate at the Delft University of Technology and Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute. But if the skies are overcast, he said, “we do not expect the eclipse to let this cloud deck disappear, and it indeed could ruin the view of the eclipse for a local observer.”

The type of clouds in Dr. Trees’s study, cumulus, tends to bubble up because the sun’s warmth on the Earth’s surface forces low-level air to rise, similar to the way water bubbles up as it boils in a pot. As the warm air rises, it cools to a point where condensation can occur. During the eclipse, the temperature near the ground will cool, limiting the rising air, almost like someone reducing the heat on a pot of boiling water to a simmer.

While some cumulus clouds may be present on Monday, the dominant cloud cover in portions of the South and Northeast is likely to come from a few storm systems that create types of clouds less affected by the temperature change created by the eclipse.

For those lucky enough to be in a place where clouds disappear, wait and watch them begin to pop back into view after totality.

Judson Jones is a meteorologist and reporter for The Times who forecasts and covers extreme weather. More about Judson Jones

Watch CBS News

How to make solar eclipse glasses, cereal box viewers and pinhole cameras to watch the 2024 show safely

By Sara Moniuszko

Edited By Allison Elyse Gualtieri

Updated on: April 8, 2024 / 12:08 PM EDT / CBS News

If you can't get your hands on a pair of solar eclipse glasses, experts say there are still ways to enjoy the event safely.

There are also unsafe alternatives, including wearing your normal sunglasses — or even stacking two or three.

"There's no amount of sunglasses that people can put on that will make up for the filtering that the ISO standard filters and the eclipse glasses provide," said Dr. Jason P. Brinton, an ophthalmologist and medical director at Brinton Vision in St. Louis.

You also shouldn't look at the eclipse through a camera lens, phone, binoculars or telescope, according to NASA, even while wearing eclipse glasses. The solar rays can burn through the lens  and cause serious eye injury.

So what can you use? Here's what doctors suggest:

How to make your own eclipse-safe glasses at home

If you don't have the traditional solar eclipse glasses, Brinton said you can also look through No. 14 welder's glasses (for people who may have access) or aluminized mylar plastic sheets.

Just like with traditional solar eclipse glasses, Brinton said it's important to make sure the material you're viewing through is fully intact.

"Make sure that there are no scratches or damage," he said. 

How make a pinhole projector for safe eclipse viewing

No glasses? Indirect viewing is another way to enjoy the eclipse without damaging your eyes. 

Brinton said there are several ways to indirectly view the event, including a homemade pinhole projector. Here's how to make one:

  • Put a small pinhole into a piece of paper
  • Face away from the sun, holding the paper out so the sunlight hits it
  • Watch the pinhole projection of the sun on the ground (or on a second piece of paper you hold underneath), seeing it go from a complete circle gradually disappearing 

"If you're in the path of totality, of course it completely disappears." Brinton said. "That's an indirect way of viewing it that is appropriate."

How to make an eclipse viewer from a cereal box

If you want to make your indirect viewing tool a bit more elaborate, you can make an eclipse viewer with a few more materials around the house. Here's how:

  • Find a small box (popular options are cereal and shoe boxes)
  • Cut two openings at the bottom of the box
  • Using tape, cover one of the openings with a piece of paper or aluminum foil punctured with a small pinhole
  • Face away from the sun, allowing the light to hit the pinhole
  • Looking through the remaining opening to the inside of the box, watch as the sun projection goes from a complete circle to an eclipse

hey-ray-3.jpg

Need a visual? CBS Pittsburgh meteoroligist Ray Petelin  demonstrated an easy step-by-step on how to make a cereal box pinhole viewer, which you can watch below.

Doctors share how to make sure your eclipse viewers are safe

"Theoretically, since you are not looking directly to the sun during the eclipse or partial eclipse, (eclipse viewers) should be safe," said Dr. Yehia Hashad, an ophthalmologist, retinal specialist and the chief medical officer at eye health company Bausch + Lomb. "However, having said that, it's implementation that sometimes makes us worry."

  • Are your eclipse glasses safe? Here's how to know if they'll really protect your eyes during the total solar eclipse .

Why? Sometimes people have a small peek at the sun in order to adjust the box or pinhole in the right direction, he said. This can be especially common with children, who may not understand the consequences of looking at the eclipse.

"This is what makes us sometimes conservative about this method," said Hashad. "We always worry, unless you are supervising the implementation of this, especially with children since they are very vulnerable to these types of situations."

Why do you need a special viewer for the total solar eclipse?

Eye protection during the eclipse is important to prevent eye damage.

"If someone briefly looks at the eclipse if it's extremely brief, in some cases there won't be damaged but damage can happen even within a fraction of a second in some cases," Brinton said. "As an ophthalmologist, I have seen patients who have so-called eclipse or solar retinopathy."

Signs and symptoms of eye damage following an eclipse viewing include headaches, blurred vision, dark spots, changes to how you see color, lines and shapes.

Sara Moniuszko is a health and lifestyle reporter at CBSNews.com. Previously, she wrote for USA Today, where she was selected to help launch the newspaper's wellness vertical. She now covers breaking and trending news for CBS News' HealthWatch.

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Don't have glasses to watch today's solar eclipse? Here are 7 safe alternatives.

The 2024 solar eclipse has finally arrived! This afternoon, millions will have their eyes on the sky to witness the celestial event.

Many locations giving away or selling solar eclipse glasses are out of stock, so you may not find a pair within the next few hours.

People are also reading: Where to buy solar eclipse glasses, according to the experts

Don't panic though − there are alternative forms of eye protection you can use instead.

Watching the light pass through tree leaves. Peering into a modified cereal box. Angling a kitchen colander. You can view the solar eclipse using these safe, alternative methods and more.

Live updates: Everything you need to know for today’s solar eclipse

Tree leaves project mini solar eclipses

A fun way to view the eclipse is by watching the light pass through tree leaves. Sunlight will project mini eclipses onto the ground as the light passes through gaps in the leaves.

You will be able to track the progress of the eclipse from start to finish, and see a cool natural effect.

Use a colander to show the solar eclipse

Similar to leaves, you can use a colander to project mini eclipses. The light will pass through the small holes in a colander to create a dazzling sight of tiny eclipses on the ground or on a canvas.

Senior lecturer and astronomy coordinator at UT Sean Lindsay likes this method as it's a more direct and safe way of showing the progress of an eclipse.

More: What time is the total solar eclipse on April 8? Search your ZIP code for a viewing guide

Create a pinhole projector to see the solar eclipse

With a  pinhole projector , sunlight travels through the pinhole to create a small image of the sun. The projector makes it safe to observe the solar eclipse if you don't have eclipse glasses.

All you need to do is take a piece of cardboard, cut an inch square in the middle, tape foil over the square and poke a small hole in the foil. Afterwards, angle the cardboard so the light travels through the hole and onto another piece of cardboard to show an image of the sun.

Warby Parker provided a guide on how to  DIY your own pinhole projector , or check out  NASA's video tutorial .

How to turn a box into a pinhole projector to view the eclipse

Another way to make a pinhole projector includes a box, tape, scissors, foil and paper.

Find a cardboard box you can comfortably place over your head. Cut a square hole on one end of the box and tape the foil over it. Poke a small hole in the foil. On the opposite side, tape a piece of paper inside the box.

Once its ready, turn your back to the sun and place the box over your head. Angle the box so the light goes through the hole and projects onto the paper. Now you can see the eclipse.

Watch: Can't watch Monday's total solar eclipse in-person? Watch our livestream here.

Convert a cereal box into a solar eclipse viewer

You can also make a pinhole projector using a cereal box.  NASA provides instructions  on how to craft one.

Empty the contents of the box and place a white piece of paper or cardboard at the bottom. Cut both ends of the top leaving just the center flaps. Tape the center to keep it closed. Cover one of the openings with foil and poke a small hole into the foil, but leave the other side open.

Once the cereal box is ready, you will need to turn away from the sun, angle the box so sunlight goes through the hole and peer into the box from the opening. The light will project an image of the sun onto the bottom of the box.

Turn a shoebox into a solar eclipse viewer

The cereal box method  works with shoeboxes , too.

Cut a small hole on one end of the shoebox and tape foil over it. Poke a small hole in the foil. Tape a small piece of paper inside the shoebox on the other end.

You can cut a hole to look into either on the foil side or on the long side of the shoebox near the paper for a closer view. When it's ready, close the shoebox and angle it so the sunlight passes through the pinhole, down the length of the shoebox and onto the paper. It will project an image of the sun inside.

Use your hands to view the solar eclipse

Take both hands and  overlap your fingers  with one hand vertical and the other horizontal. Your fingers should cross over each other and form square gaps.

Now, angle your hands so sunlight hits them. Sunlight will pass through the gaps like pinholes, projecting mini eclipses onto the ground or a canvas.

Are you in the path of totality?

Can't see our graphics? Search your ZIP code for a complete eclipse viewing guide

Morning Rundown: Arizona Republicans distance themselves from abortion ban, cancer institute retracts studies, ex-principal charged over 6-year-old who shot teacher

https://media-cldnry.s-nbcnews.com/image/upload/rockcms/2024-04/240408-total-solar-eclipse-mexico-ew-212p-1fe045.jpg

Solar eclipse 2024: Photos from the path of totality and elsewhere in the U.S.

Images show the Great American Eclipse, seen by tens of millions of people in parts of Mexico, 15 U.S. states and eastern Canada for the first time since 2017.

Millions gathered across North America on Monday to bask in the glory of the Great American Eclipse — the moment when the moon passes between the Earth and the sun. 

The path of totality measures more than 100 miles wide and will first be visible on Mexico’s Pacific coast before moving northeast through Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois and upward toward New York, New Hampshire and Maine, then on to Canada.

Total solar eclipse 2024 highlights: Live coverage, videos and more

During the cosmic spectacle, the moon’s movements will temporarily block the sun’s light, creating minutes of darkness, and will make the sun's outer atmosphere, or the corona, visible as a glowing halo.

Here are moments of the celestial activities across the country:

Image:

Breaking News Reporter

paper boi cover

Elise Wrabetz is a Senior Photo Editor for NBC News digital

paper boi cover

Chelsea Stahl is the art director for NBC News Digital

No glasses? No problem. Three cool ways to safely view the eclipse.

‘pinhole projectors’ will do the trick. so will plants in your backyard..

The April 8 total solar eclipse is finally here — and it’s sure to amaze and delight the millions who see it.

Everyone in the Lower 48 states will be able to view at least a partial solar eclipse, assuming cloud-free skies .

To savor the eclipse, you don’t need special equipment. Even if you can’t get your hands on eclipse glasses , there are old school, low-tech ways to see it. If you’re crafty and canny, the eclipse can still be a memorable experience.

2024 total solar eclipse

paper boi cover

Safety first

The first rule of enjoying the eclipse is to avoid looking directly at the sun without eye protection. Even brief glances can cause permanent damage.

The only exception to this rule is for lucky spectators in the path of totality during the few minutes of the total eclipse, when the sun is fully blocked by the moon.

For those witnessing the partial solar eclipse, even when most of the sun’s surface is blocked, the remaining, visible crescent is still intensely bright and cannot be safely viewed without eye protection.

But, if you don’t have eye protection, here are some safe ways to experience the partial eclipse through indirect means:

Make a pinhole projector

A way around looking directly the sun is to make your own eclipse projector using a cereal box. It’s a safe and terrific way to capture the eclipse action.

Clear the kitchen table and find the craft scissors. In addition to the cereal box, you’ll need a piece of aluminum foil, tape and a small nail or pushpin.

First, eat your Froot Loops — or whatever toasted grain you prefer — and keep the box. On a white piece of paper or white cardboard, trace the bottom of the box. Then, clip out the traced rectangle from the paper and put it in the bottom of the opened box. That’s your screen that images of the eclipse will project onto.

Cut out two squares (1.5 inches should suffice) on the lid of the box and then tape the lid back together. For one square, cover the hole in foil and tape it down. Gently put a pushpin or small nail hole through it, as that is the lens that the sun’s light will pass through. The smaller the hole, the sharper the projected image.

When using your personal box theater, turn away from the sun — and let the sun’s rays shine through the tiny pin hole. Look through the other hole in the lid to see the eclipse action — during the eclipse you’ll see the moon biting a chunk from the sun.

Other kinds of small boxes — such as shoe boxes or small package boxes — work well, too. And your kids can decorate them for fun.

Looking to the trees

If you’re not inclined to make a projector box, you can also view the partial phases of the eclipse in the shadows of trees and plants.

The small gaps in between leaves, branches and pine needles act as miniature projectors. When light passes through, a small image of the sun is cast onto the ground. As the partial eclipse progresses, you’ll see the small circles evolve into sickle-shaped crescents, eventually waning to a sliver.

You may consider holding a white piece of paper or poster board beneath a tree or plant to make it easier to spot the shadows.

Gadgets and fingers

Leaves aren’t special — they just happen to be good at producing tiny projections. But realistically, any hole that’s about a quarter inch wide, give or take, will do the trick. That means you could even parade around outside with your pasta colander, cheese grater or serving spoon with holes in it and look at its shadow. Place white paper or poster board on the ground to see the projection more clearly.

You could also just hold your fingers out and crisscross them to make for half a dozen or so small openings between. Just extend your fingers on both hands as if you’re trying to make a W , and then overlap them.

Simple, yet elegant.

A total solar eclipse passed across the United States on Monday, April 8. See photos and videos from the path of totality and read our reporters’ coverage from scenes across the nation .

Looking ahead: Missed this one? The next eclipse visible in the United States won’t be until 2044 — and then we’ll see another shortly after in 2045. If you did watch this eclipse but without proper eyewear, here’s what to do if your eyes hurt .

The science: This eclipse appeared especially dramatic because the sun was at its most active period in two decades. In the past, solar eclipses have helped scientists learn more about the universe . Here’s everything else to know about the solar eclipse.

  • Your ultimate guide to the total solar eclipse, its path and how to watch April 8, 2024 Your ultimate guide to the total solar eclipse, its path and how to watch April 8, 2024
  • Here’s what not to do to safely watch the total solar eclipse April 5, 2024 Here’s what not to do to safely watch the total solar eclipse April 5, 2024
  • Eclipse tourists should plan for overloaded cell networks April 2, 2024 Eclipse tourists should plan for overloaded cell networks April 2, 2024

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VIDEO

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COMMENTS

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    Then you ain't a money maker, boy [Verse 2] Dm Paperclip, paperclip Am Yeah I need a paperclip Dm I'm stackin' up this paper, man Am And I could make that paper flip Dm Paper flip, paper flip Am I'm gonna make this paper flip E Then head to Magic City E N.C. And I bet this paper make her strip [Verse 3] Dm Paper man, paper man Am I'll be in the ...

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  21. Paper Boi (acoustic cover) : r/AtlantaTV

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