Growing up in South Africa, I always thought that I knew what living in the US was like. The more American content I was fed from TV series and blockbuster movies the more I wanted to live and act the way Americans do because it seemed cool and so different from what I saw in my own life.
Without a doubt 2016 has been a great year for TV shows, Netflix alone invested $5 Billion on producing original content this year which has forced other networks like HBO & FX to commission fresh new shows to go up against all Netflix has to offer.
This small shift from producing stock standard and generic shows to creating new, more relatable shows has created an influx in authentically simple TV concepts becoming a reality. One such show is Donald Glover’s Atlanta.
The series follows the life of two cousins, Earnest “Earn” Marks (Donald Glover) and Alfred “Paper Boy” Miles (Brian Tyree Henry), as they try work their way up the thriving hip hop scene in Atlanta. The series is one of the most refreshing hip hop stories to come out as it does not dwell on the lavish and pretentious hip hop superstar lifestyle we usually see on TV. Atlanta rather focuses on how life continues after glorious nights at clubs and you are now faced with the real problems of life, like paying rent and taking care of your daughter who’s currently living with your baby mama. You get to see how Donald Glover who ironically goes by the name “Earn” is constantly broke as he tries to make something of himself by managing the career of his cousin “Paper Boy” who has recently become a star in the hood. It’s a perfect representation of the everyday black person who has just become famous within their hood after getting their latest single playlisted on all the major radio stations around - but as we all know; getting your song on-air might make you famous but it doesn’t mean you’ve already made it or making any real money.
The show is directed by Tokyo-born filmmaker Hiro Murai, and written by Donald Glover a.k.a Childish Gambino who is also known for being one of the writers on the popular sitcom 30 Rock. Atlanta plays on realism, comedy, drama and sometimes simple, plain stupidity. They show you what it’s actually like to be a “Hood Star” and how money is nowhere near the rap game and that people really do it because they love it, but mainly because they need a ticket out of the crazy world they live in. “it’s an essential portrait of ordinary black life, a grounded account of underground hip hop fame, a no-nonsense love letter to Glover’s hometown (Atlanta), a thorny relationship drama, and a fantastically funny comedy” – Inkoo Kang (MTV).
Atlanta is only one of a few hip hop based TV shows which have come out this year. There has also been HBO’s Insecure, which follows a strong and confident black woman who writes her own rhymes to deal with her insecurities, and Netflix’s The Get Down, which documents the emergence of a new art form called hip hop in the late 1970s, but I can confidently say that ATLanta by Childish Gambino is one of my favourite hip hop based series to come out this year.