Atlanta Season 4 Episode 3 Recap: Born 2 Die

Bob Dylan once sang, “The Times, They are A-Changin'”. (Matthew 7:6) also cited: “Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet and tear you to pieces.”

Do the math on which lasted longer in your memory.


Season 4 Episode 3 Recap

We open in on Paper Boi (Brian Tyree Henry), backstage finished from his set for a Bar/Bat Mitzvah. He’s approached by a father who is massively impressed by him and his stage presence.

In fact, he wants to employ Paper Boi’s services for his son; teach him to be more like him, and teach him how to rap. Paper Boi’s not got time for silly games, as he’s a busy musician.

However, to the tune of one million dollars, Paper Boi’s namesake would be fucking disingenuous if he refused the request.

At Earn’s talent management company, the HOC (Paden Fallis) informs the room of a newly signed client: a quickly climbing author whose sales are in an even quicker slump for a viral video of her pulling a gun on a black teen fundraising at her doorstep. The company needs to devise a plan on how to make the ‘oops’ vamoose before the lightning in a bottle becomes flash in the pan.

Some suggest digging up dirt on the kid or painting the area as high in crime. Earn (Donald Glover), fed up with the situation simply wants to work on other signees instead of contributing to the systemic bleeding hemorrhoid on the ass of society.

HOC knows their plate is full, throwing out D’Angelo to Earn as a high-profile act as a way to dismiss him, but he takes the challenge, convinced he can sign the elusive prodigy, much to the snickering of everyone around.

He’s welcome to go on his snipe hunt, however, reaching out to someone who knew his hair braider.

Elsewhere in the ATL, Paper Boi meets his client at the lab. In the booth, a young kid, yodeling via autotune to a trap beat is done with his take. Al introduces himself to another kid lounging. Meet Benny (Daniel Rashid), the child whose dad “bought” him. He’s also introduced to Yodel Kid (Tucker Brown), who recognizes Al as someone he used to listen to when he was “a kid.”

The pipsqueak ain’t nothing but a goddamn tadpole. Fucking youth of today, man.

Though Al wants to earn his keep, Benny’s cool with him doing nothing and collecting his check.

Already feeling slightly stressed about not feeling needed with a pregnant woman on the couch not helping the vibe, the little bespectacled white lad named Lil’ Rick Moranis (ugh) certainly isn’t making the scene any better. Lil’ Rick’s accompanied by an older black man that immediately recognizes Paper Boi. This is Bunk (Charles Malik Whitfield), an artist that Al respects as well.

Bunk invites Paper Boi to escape the out-of-body experience that is little white kids playing big adult rappers to chill in Studio Three.

There, whilst enjoying some sticky, Paper Boi speaks his mind on the ridiculousness of the scene, going as far as to say it’s not even rapping. Bunk may agree, but disagrees with Al making a mill off of this when he in reality should be making ten times that amount.

Al asserts he’s fine with banking what he makes, but in Bunk’s words of wisdom: “Saving money ain’t making money”.

Maybe touring for Paper Boi isn’t the only way to keep on the grind. Buck invites him to a gathering he holds with a few others to talk about these exact things.

Earn pulls up to a Rally’s. Perplexed that one exists in Georgia (where it should only be a Checkers), he continues around the building to find two doors: one labeled employees only and one labeled D’Angelo with the universal symbol for ‘human’ upturned.

Upon entering, he encounters a large empty brick-walled room, with a gentleman (Zach Humphrey) reading a magazine next to a large vault door. Though Earn asks to see D’Angelo, the man remains silent, leaving Earn to shack up in the Waiting Area which is simply a corner with a piss bucket and a sleeping bag harboring a mysterious bloodstain underneath it.

The next night, Al joins the “YWA Meeting” and according to the board, the talking point of the evening is “Ready For Your Grammy?”

Bunk welcomes him. In comes rapper Gas 90 (Jay Jones), gold chained up, sunglasses on. He asserts that the meeting isn’t about rap, so those concerned with it could kindly see themselves out. Al is confused but isn’t headed for the exit.

Gas 90 swears anybody in the room could rap with the best of them, but if rap meant money, Cassidy would be dripping in shekels, proceeding to show the first slide. It’s a group of black kids mean-mugging for the camera with a singular white kid in the middle.

The question posed is which of them is generating billions of streams landing them on the Billboard charts?

It’s a simple, self-evident answer that scoffs at a raised hand. Gas 90 has a solution to make the black man the money he should be making.

A rising tide lifts all boats, and with that, Gas 90 presents his foolproof equation for success: YWA + GRAMMYS = $$$

What is YWA, you may ask? “Young White Avatar.” An example would be the little rascals he was hanging out in the studio with the other day. To Gas 90, you have to get one, train and nature them, and ultimately catch ‘em all. Yes, like Pokemon. Or slavery in reverse.

Al thinks it’s laughable, as he can make a better album, win a Grammy and use the steam to go back out on tour.

Bunk knows the artistry will be better, but the cold, shivering truth of the matter is that nobody will want to hear him because he’s old.

According to the program, the three stages to downfall are simple. Stage 1 is Young Street, how they all started. All swagger, all love. Stage 2 is O.G. when the young bucks look up to them as a sign of respect for the influence. Lastly, Stage 3 is unceremoniously Family Films, riding on the cusp of O.G. to the road of selling out.

Al still isn’t buying it. He swears he’s still popping, selling out arenas, but Bunk hits him hard that arenas are soccer stadiums. In fact, the kids in the studio barely knew who he was.

Still adamant that he’s still remembered as he still speaks for the streets,  Gas 90 asserts to Paper Boi that the streets can’t feed him. Case in point, Blue Blood, whom all adored, but few realized had an album out until it was too late.

Bunk suggests that to maintain the lifestyle they are accustomed to, a Y.W.A. within the next five months is imperative, so Al takes a field trip. To a high school.

There, he sees Benny making it rain to a crowd of adoring, impressionable minds. These are the kids that will beg their parents to spend as much money as possible to support this brat who raps about Twitch views. The streets will always be real, but the internet has a reach that is unimaginable.

He also spots Yodel Kid, a child sick on Ecstacy. Al manages to get a word with Benny but much to his surprise, the guy’s already signed with Bunk. Hey, new game, new block.

Not one to be left out in the dust, Al swallows his pride like one who struck out at a bar and goes for second-tier: Yodel Kid.

So long as his acquisition doesn’t yack in the ride, the relationship may be beneficial. In Yodel Kid’s words, he’s a legend that’ll “live forever.”

Having spent a week at the Rally’s, Earn looks disheveled, biding his time away waiting, his mental state slowly deteriorating. He finally asks for water and is guided to a closet with Dasani’s. This is his breaking point and out of desperation takes one of the man’s magazines.

Taking a moment to breathe, he achieves a moment of enlightenment, questioning what D’Angelo is, then asserting that we’re all D’Angelo before requesting to experience D’Angelo.

This prompts the man to open a door in the brick wall. It’s a dark passageway, to which Earn gets in and proceeds forward into the black and dank before emerging out of a closet and into another room.

A black man with braids singing along to Al Green’s “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart” pauses his video game to fix himself a peanut butter and fried chicken skin sandwich. From behind, the braids seem unmistakable. The voice sounds nigh angelic.

Upon turning around, however, we see this is ostensibly NOT D’Angelo. According to this gentleman (Enoch King), Earn asked to experience D’Angelo and at the moment, they both are D’Angelo.

Earn’s tired, unbathed, needing desperately to sign D’Angelo. According to this person, the company is not ‘true believers’ and are deemed unworthy of his presence.

Defeated, Earn entertains the person’s thought of what a D’Angelo is, which is a complex, global network of people, including D’Angelo’s.

Earn’s fucked if he doesn’t show up with the real D’Angelo. This D’Angelo keeps this in mind and through the network relays to earn that since Earn was eight, he’d dream of hands pulling him down as he was swimming wouldn’t let him escape. This D’Angelo questions him on why he believes the hands had any intent to harm him in the first place.

After taking a beat, Earn is off through the way he came.

It’s the red carpet at the Grammy’s and Boogie Bunk along with artist Benny are among the industry’s elite alongside Gas 90 and his proxy Post Malone. They’re met by Paper Boi, all decked out. He’s not nominated for a Grammy though. Yodel Kid is, having gone Platinum in eleven days. There’s only one catch.

Yodel Kid is a no-show on account of him being dead, most likely an OD. You know what they say about death in this industry…

At a bar, Al, Earn, and Darius (LaKeith Stanfield) watch the awards recap on the tv screen.

Who is the rap album victor? Of course, it’s Yodel Kid with “Born to Die.”

Congrats are in order for Alfred, but he confesses to not being cut out for managing, querying Earn about how he does it.

Earn’s answer is simple- it’s not about what feels good, it’s about what survives. This gives Al pause, as he’s authentic, not the flavor of the week.

Earn dips for business in the morning, Darius dips for an after-party and though he invites, only Paper Boi remains in the booth. Food for thought.

Season 4 Episode 3 Takeaway

Though not under the patented helm of Hiro Murai, this episode had a bunch that needed to be unlocked like a videogame bonus.

From the treatise of gimmick-rappers skyrocketing in streams to lives of actual legends and the illegitimacy of the Grammys, the message was clear. Mind you, by a show of hands, how many of you heard of Big L? Now, how many of you heard of Jack Harlow? Casket-case closed.

Duran Duran said it best: “Don’t say a prayer for me now. Save it ’til the morning after.”

4/5 Stars.

Robert Kijowski
Robert Kijowski
Robert Kijowski is a script writer who enjoys a good chuckle and an even better weep when indulging in art both good and even better bad. He's written for pop culture and film websites alike. You can hear him on Spotify (After the Credits) and reach out on Instagram, X or by English Carrier Pigeon.

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The episode has a lot going for it in terms of the music industry, its snaking ins and outs, and what makes those tick as opposed to those who Tok. That being said, it feels ever more like the first season than the second, which isn't a bad thing.Atlanta Season 4 Episode 3 Recap: Born 2 Die