The music industry, naturally, plays a lead role in Atlanta also. As the show begins, Earn attempts to convince his cousin, a rapping drug dealer named Alfred "Paper Boi" Miles, to hire him as a manager. We don't know how much experience Earn has that qualifies him for this job, but Earn quickly shows he get results that Alfred can't get on his own. For their part, Alfred and his cloud-headed sidekick Darius exist somewhere between music-industry dreams and dope-boy realities, which, as cliche as it's become, is still a tangible path many emcees take to pay for studio time, production, touring, and the like. And there's no denying that Atlanta hip-hop continues to set trends worldwide by pumping out megastars like 2 Chainz, Future, Young Thug, Lil Yachty… and the list goes on and on.
But when it comes to the drug-dealing activities of Alfred and Darius, we see past any semblance of thug personification and humanize them instantly, seeing them as individuals with unique complexities. Alfred talks about how lucrative the drug business is, yet he and Darius seem to be doing just well enough to live somewhere between the slum and the suburbs. Their apartment, with its arched walls and generic furniture, makes them look more than poor but less than rich, squarely existing in a place with temporary comfort but no guarantees. These scenes remind us that Atlanta is a place where anything can happen, even under the perceived guise of safety and comfort.
The show also makes a point to shine a spotlight on racial demographics. You cannot, try as you may, live in Atlanta and deny that you're in a black city. The 2010 US Census put the City of Atlanta's black population at 54%. The next largest group is white, at 38%. Atlanta makes no attempt to cower from or apologize for blackness, and accordingly, it refuses to pretend this isn't Atlanta's reality. Because of this, the show feels relatable and real. It gives the viewer (and ATL resident alike) a chance to gaze into Atlanta's dominant demographic through an unusual lens that many people often don't get the opportunity to see. The show also illustrates that, while Atlanta has a solid black middle class, there's still a problem with wealth inequality. Sure, you'll find enough successful black people here to make a case for the city being a center for racial progress, which it certainly is, although the truth is much more real than what we see and hear in a lot of music, movies, and television today. And though the sheer volume of black people amplifies the notion of progressive wealth distribution, notions aren't always true.
A key thing to understand about Atlanta is that it isn't content to simply force blackness upon viewers. Instead, it bakes stories and situations with universal appeal into the plot themes, and makes them unapologetically black. In a very radical way, the show forces people to think about Atlanta as being a majority-black city, and the culture is portrayed in a way that is simplistic yet abstract, the very definition of what our city is.