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The Musical Relevance of FX Network’s ‘Atlanta’

What makes this soundtrack tick?

If there is one thing that viewers can take away from the FX Network’s Atlanta, it is the fact that the show’s creator Donald Glover has a deeply rooted passion for hip-hop music which tends to influence both his writing and acting on the show.

Each episode features an abundance of music, ranging from pop, R&B, and hip-hop oriented songs to more indie, funk, experimental, and even some jazz. The show centers around Earnest “Earn” Marks (played by Glover), his cousin the up-and-coming rapper Alfred “Paper Boi” Miles (played by Brian Tyree Henry), his cousin’s gun-toting right-hand man Darius (played by Lakeith Stanfield), and his on-again, off-again baby momma Vanessa “Van” Keefer (played by Zazie Beetz). 

Apart from introducing listeners to a variety of new music, the show also features a couple of original recordings that were written specifically for Henry’s character, Paper Boi, including his namesake track, “Paper Boi,” which is first heard at the end of the first episode. But the song itself wasn’t actually written or performed by Henry. The song, along with tracks “Spray” and “Justin Bieber” were actually written by Glover’s younger brother, Stephen, under the pseudonym Steve G. Lover III.

To promote the first season of the show, FX Networks ran promotional ads back in 2016 featuring Rihanna’s cover of “Same Ol’ Mistakes,” originally performed by Tame Impala, and “Sleepless” (feat. Jezzabell Doran) by Australian producer Flume. The soundtrack also features a variety of top-selling musicians sprinkled in with some classic jazz, soul, and funk tracks, which really help make the show what it is.

Now, back for its second season, already in progress, there is sure to be a bounty of music to pick from to adequately portray the soundtrack and the musical depth of Atlanta. Apart from featuring plenty of local artists, including Migos, Gucci Mane, OJ Da Juiceman, the soundtrack features a number of memorable moments, which made it difficult to pick just one. For this reason, we decided to load up the playlist with everything… even the “Robbin’ Season” promos which featuring the track “Gap in the Clouds” by Yellow Days.

But instead of sitting and listing off all the songs from the show, Salute Magazine put together a list of our favorite episodes and moments from Atlanta, and some of the songs that influenced them.

ATLANTA: SEASON ONE SOUNDTRACK

Episode 1 – “The Big Bang”

#1) OJ Da Juiceman – “No Hook”

The very first song introduces viewers to the show with this track by hometown native, OJ Da Juiceman, from his 2013 mixtape, Juice World 2.

#2) The System – “Don’t Disturb This Groove”

Towards the end of the episode we see Earn and his daughter riding the bus when they’re confronted by a man making a Nutella sandwich. Apart from the aforementioned tracks, the first episode also featured songs by Doe B, Sango & Waldo, Emanuel “Vo” Williams, and SNS.

Episode 2 – “Streets on Lock” 

#3) Yo Gotti ft. E-40 – “Law”

The second episode opens with Paper Boi getting released on bail, while his cousin, Earn, remains locked up in police custody. It also features the track “Running Threw It” by Rich the Kid and “Grandma’s Hands” by Bill Withers.

Episode 3 – “Go For Broke” 

 

#4) Cheryl Lynn – “Encore”

Probably one of the most brilliant moments in the show is when we see Paper Boi and Darius singing along to the 1983 R&B classic, “Encore,” performed by Cheryl Lynn and produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. The episode also features tracks by Migos, Kodak Black, Cousin Stizz, Lloyd, Shabazz Palaces, and Max P.

Episode 4 – “The Streisand Effect”

#5) Beach House – “Space Song”

Earn contemplates the gun sitting on the table in front of him as the Baltimore dream-pop duo Beach House plays this track from their 2015 album, Depression Cherry.

#6) Keith Ape – “It G Ma” (Remix)

Darius and Earn enter the Warehouse wielding a sword was an appropriate time for this posse cut-style remix featuring A$AP Ferg, Father, Dumbfoundead, and Waka Flocka Flame.

The episode also featured music by legendary jazz musician Lee Fields, Eearz, and Michael Kiwanuka.

 

Episode 5 – “Nobody Beats the Biebs”

Around mid-way through the series, the episodes started to take on names that would occasionally include a throwback to a classic song. For episode 5, the title is a reference to the 1988 track “Nobody Beats the Biz” by Biz Markie and DJ Marley Marl.

#7) SYPH feat. Tracy T – “The Bag”

We hear the track play throughout the basketball game and again when Paper Boi tries to tackle Justin Bieber. The episode also features tracks by Billy Paul, Nappy Roots, Rex Schnelle, Martyn Laight, and Terry Day.

Episode 6 – “Value” 

#8) Funkadelic – “Hit it and Quit it”

The classic funk track from Maggot Brain (1971) plays as we see Van attempt to siphon “clean” urine from an infant in order to pass her drug test. The episode also features tracks by The Ebonys, George Benson, and Jeremih.

Episode 7 – “B.A.N.” 

The Emmy winning episode features Paper Boi in an interview with Montague, a fake talk-show host on the Black American Network (B.A.N.) The term has also been used elsewhere in hip-hop music, such as the 2008 track by David Banner on his album The Greatest Story Ever Told.

#9) 21 Savage – “Red Opps”

Episode 8 – “The Club” 

#10) Young Thug – “Digits”

The track plays as Paper Boi starts to talk to the girl in the VIP section. The episode also features music by Future, Young Dro, Young Dolph, Crime Mob, Dreezy, Adamn Killa, The New Bloods, Baby Huey, Black Dave, and Little Beaver.

Episode 9 – “Juneteenth” 

#11) Kamasi Washington – “Change of the Guard”

This jazzy intro is one of two tracks from the saxophonist, composer, and bandleader Kamasi Washington, who first started to gain critical acclaim for his 2015 breakthrough album, The Epic. The episode also included music by Sam Cooke, the Belmont Silvertone Jubilee, Jack Trombey, and James Cleveland.

Episode 10 – “The Jacket”

#12) D.R.A.M. ft. Lil Yachty – “Broccoli”

Dedicated to the city that bears this show’s name, the Platinum-certified single was appropriate to start off the season’s final episode. The episode also includes tracks by ILOVEMAKONNEN, Erykah Badu, Outkast, Cool Amerika, Daye Jack, Nelly, and Jennifer Lopez featuring Ja Rule.

ATLANTA: SEASON TWO SOUNDTRACK

Episode 1 – “Alligator Man” 

#13) Tay-K – “The Race”

We hear this track playing as a car pulls up to the “Mrs. Winner’s” Chicken Drive Thru.

#14) The Delfonics – “Hey! Love”

To try and adequately sum up the episode in a single track, the classic soul song plays when Alligator walks out of the house and we see Willy running down the street. The episode also features music by Death Grips, UGK, Jay Critch & Rich the Kid, Yung Bans, Breakwater, Donnell Pitman, L.T.D., and Curtis Mayfield.

Episode 2 – “Sportin’ Waves”

#15) Jeezy – “All there” feat. Bankroll Fresh

Paper Boi walks back to his car after getting robbed by his dealer. The episode also features tracks, “Coronus, The Terminator” by Flying Lotus, and “4L Gang Shit” by Young Nudy.

Episode 3 – “Money Bag Shawty” 

#16) Slugga Black – Rake it Up

The gang walks into the club as the track plays. The episode also features music by 2 Chainz, Lil Wayne, King Krule, Berhana, Rayana Jay, Gucci Mane, 6Lack, Miguel Fresco, and the single “Marsupial Superstars” from Sahbabii feat. T3 of Slum Village.

Only a portion of the way through Season 2, there is certain to be much more music featured in the series as it continues. To see more Atlanta, be sure and tune into FX every Thursday night at 10 p.m. EST.

LISTEN: THE MUSICAL RELEVANCE OF ‘ATLANTA’

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