Donald Glover decided against writing or performing music on “Atlanta,” but he still brought some of his own experience as a musician into the series. However, not everything is directly inspired by the rapper’s own life.
“Some of [Paper Boi’s experiences] are my brother, and some of them just, like, the writers’ experience, all the guys and gals in the writers’ room,” he explained. But there was one aspect of his own life that the “Atlanta” series creator wanted to communicate loud and clear.
“Being a rapper is super awkward,” Glover confessed. “It’s just awkward.” In this way, he set out to create “‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ for rappers.” This awkwardness is created by the stark contrast between hip-hop imagery, Glover explained, and the mundanity of everyday life.
“[Y]ou’re in a video and you’ve got, like, you know, champagne and butts close to your face […] And then you have to go to Whole Foods and the person’s like, ‘Hey, you’re that dude!’ And you’re like, ‘Please […] I just really want to buy this ice cream.’ But they’re like, ‘Yo, you gotta be you right now, so let’s take this picture,’ and you’re like ‘Okay…’ You have to be that wrestler face, but in the real world all the time.”
As his success grows and his lifestyle improves, a greater discrepancy is created between Paper Boi’s musical persona and his lived experience. Alfred often has uncomfortable run-ins with fans and self-image (see the season 4 episode “Born 2 Die,” among others). Glover’s early career in comedy may have spared him some of these expectations, but not entirely. Still, he didn’t feel called to play out these awkward moments on television — he left that to his co-star, Henry.