We have all wanted to stunt or floss. A lot of our favorite rap music is rooted in the idea of s—ting on someone; G-Unit even dedicated an entire record to teaching the basic principles of stunting. But Atlanta will not let the high rollers roll high without a lesson to be learned, and as the great Biggie Smalls told us in 1997, "Mo money, mo problems."
Airing March 15, this week's episode, "Money Bag Shawty," opens to a white mother taking to Instagram to voice her discontent with lyrics of Paper Boi's that she heard on the radio while driving her ten-year-old daughter to school. Reciting lines such as, "B—h I need reparations/N—s tired of dancing like the Temptations," the woman forewarns that the raps are not her words. She, however, does not hesitate to say these "disgusting" words in front of said daughter, whom she is defending from the atrocities of rap culture. Slapping tricks and the denouncement of a college education puts this woman over the edge to tears. "I'm sorry," she cries. "This is what was on."
The single in question has been certified gold, thanks to the woman's powerful tears. At a restaurant, Alfred, Earn, and Darius celebrate the victory. They are served by a young waiter, who offers them shots on the house. His intentions are revealed when he tells Alfred that he wants to talk business. Aggressively dismissing manager Earn, the waiter demands that Alfred put him on.
Alfred's struggle with fame has been a focal point of the series on several occasions and they have typically been depicted as local, around-the-way tribulations. A gold record and some money to count come with its setbacks. Everybody's got their hands out now, should it be for money, fame, or opportunity. Interestingly, the encounter mirrors last season's "Streets on Lock" (also written by Stephen Glover) when Al and Darius get a special order of lemon pepper chicken wings from a passionate fan. The waiter presents them, wanting nothing from Alfred other than for him to know that respect was being passed from one to another.
Similar to Alfred, Earn is also basking in his come-up. According to Van, he's made enough money to get them robbed and as this season continues, we learn that "Robbin' Season," in the context of Atlanta, is a rather fluid phrase. In effort to treat Van to a great night, funds available, Earn finds himself getting robbed of being able to experience a stunt. At a movie theater to see a Fast and the Furious film, Earn's inability to spend a $100 bill, or swipe his credit card, he deems racist. Choosing to spend his money elsewhere, Earn and Van attend a hookah lounge. The environment appears to embrace a balling Earn, yet he is failed again when the lounge's owner claims Earn's $100 bill, used to pay a cover charge, is a fake.
Disappointed in the night, Earn and Van assemble the crew, including Tracy, to hit up Onyx, a strip club. Earn's logic: "Going somewhere people definitely know how to treat someone with money." Where racism may have prevented Earn from exercising his wins, Onyx gives him exactly what he wanted, and more than he bargained for. Earn's rapid spending leaves him empty and regretful. Needing a hundred singles (obviously), he's charged twenty percent, and must pay another two hundred for bottle service when he was originally sold on a bottle included with his table… first, he must buy the table.
"Money is an idea," Alfred explains to Earn. "You need to start acting like you're better than other n—s and they'll start treating you better than other n—s." To Al's point, the art of stunt rests on the bravado of the one stunting. Assertion is not Earn's strongest trait and plays an important factor in the way he carries himself. You know the type. The ones who let things happen to them. Earn's mistake throughout the episode is believing that money would equate to some form of recognition. His choice of spending one hundred dollar bills is not for the faint of heart, Earn wants you to know that he got money. And what did that get him? Finessed by the strip club.
"Money Bag Shawty" is one of the series' strongest episodes and covers quite some ground, from stunting, to Al and Darius' studio time with Clark County, the Yoo-hoo ad rapper who may or may not throw hands, to the growing success of Paper Boi and the verbal-less questioning of Earn's success as his manager. To an amazing degree, we learn plenty about our protagonists, if not ourselves, through facial ticks, reactions to an environment at large, and the yearning to want to flash your success. Those elements reflect on director Hiro Murai's intimate atmospheric settings and Stephen Glover's talent as a writer, a winning combo.