Culture

Paper Boi’s Paranoias of Fame Continue To Deepen On ‘Atlanta’

With just two episodes until the season three finale of Atlanta, in eighth episode “New Jazz,” Paper Boi has grown disillusioned with fame.

Maybe “spiritual expanding apparatuses” do work. On the new Atlanta episode “New Jazz,” Al/Paper Boi (Brian Tyree Henry) gets psyched out with Darius (LaKeith Stanfield) on “Nepalese space cake,” as the crew returns to Amsterdam where their European trek began earlier in the season. The Nepalese space cake, as Darius puts it, is made with marijuana “harvested from monks in Denmark,” and hallucinogenic honey from the mountains of Nepal.

At the beginning of the episode, Earn (Donald Glover) offers Al and Darius spa passes before their hallucinogenic trip, but Darius proposes that Al see where the trip takes him. Before indulging in coffee and space cake at another café, the two encounter a convulsing man on drugs who dons a Goofy hat. “That’s a tourist,” Darius says. “Al, don’t be like him.” Once the entheogens seep in, Al starts to bug out (although to viewers, he seems totally normal).

A focus of what arises during Al’s trip comes in the form of his mother, Lorraine. However, this isn’t actually Lorraine but a local claiming to be an “angel,” who gives Al tough love even though she’s not a fan of rappers. “So, who owns your masters?” she asks. “It’s potentially the most lucrative part of making music, babe.”

It isn’t the first time Al has brought up his mother. In season one, Al brushes Earn off when he proposes to become his manager, saying that he hadn’t seen him since his mother died. In season two, Lorraine appears twice: first in “Woods” when Al is in a deep state of depression and a dream-like version of his mother appears in his apartment, warning him not to become a lag. “You know good and well I did not raise a son this lazy,” she says in the episode. Then in “FUBU,” where Lorraine and Earn’s mother, Mrs. Marks, tell Al and Earn to look out for each other. However, as the series progresses, Al begins to question their family ties as he gets deeper in entertainment.

In “New Jazz,” Lorraine and her friends lead Al to “The Cancel Club” in Amsterdam’s Red-light district, where he’s bizarrely greeted by Liam Neeson (who boasts about his racist remarks in 2019 being unable to end his career). “The best and worst part of being white is, we don’t have to learn anything if we don’t want to,” Liam tells Al.

The episode then progresses at warp speed. Having brought Al into the club at nighttime, Lorraine drags him out of the club during daylight before he’s set to perform on stage, chastising him about his decisions and the people surrounding him. “I been telling you what you needed to hear, not what you wanted to hear,” she tells Al. Suddenly, Al assumes a convulsed position, similar to the person he and Darius encountered earlier in the episode. “You can’t move. Your legs don’t work. Your arms? They don’t work,” Lorraine says to Al, wrapping him in a blanket before taking off.

So was it all a drug-induced dream or a manifestation of Al’s fears? As the episode concludes, Al wakes up in a hotel, where Earn admits to finding the rapper passed out before vomiting. Changing Al’s clothes before the rapper was knocked out for 10 hours, Earn is groggily questioned about who owns his cousin’s masters. “You do,” Earn says. “Where’s Lorraine?” Al then asks. “Your mom?” Earn responds as the episode comes to an end.

Throughout the third season of Atlanta, Al has come to terms with fame and fears of losing himself. As fans get closer to the season finale, we might be in for more of Al’s sobering self-realizations.

Jaelani Turner-Williams

Jaelani Turner-Williams is a contributing news writer for Okayplayer with bylines at Billboard, MTV News, NYLON, Recording Academy and more. Read her mind on Twitter at @hernameisjae.

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