Before Donald Glover hopped on the fast track to EGOT, he made an album under his rap alter ego Childish Gambino called Because the Internet. It was a multimedia project that magnified our fraught relationship with life online — its cover was a GIF — but in the years since, Glover has largely divorced himself from the internet. Of course, he’s still lurking: “I try and find subcultures. I try and find communities. I talk to people as a regular person. It’s the only place you can be anonymous,” he recently told Esquire.
Internet culture remains woven into the fabric of his hit show Atlanta, specifically anything that makes Black Twitter tick. Be it a send-up of the social-media star, Rachel Dolezal, or a Chris Brown parody so subtle that it took months for star Lakeith Stanfield to notice, what’s happening online often happens on the show. The Atlanta writers room slips in inside jokes that wink at viral moments and pop culture so seamlessly, they’re even easier to miss in the second season. Here’s an episodic guide to all the references, updated weekly.
Episode 1, “Alligator Man”
Atlanta gets a lot of its laughs from hood tales and urban legends, so it makes sense that we hear about “Florida Man” first from Darius (Stanfield). He’s eerily described as being “responsible for a large percentage of abnormal incidences that occur in Florida,” and as “an alt-right Johnny Appleseed” whose identity remains unknown, but who works with the government to “prevent black people from coming to and/or registering to vote in Florida.” Earn (Glover) doesn’t buy it, but his Uncle Willy (Katt Williams) verifies Darius’s account. (Naturally, neither man explains how or why they know it’s true.) In real life, “Florida Man” is a meme that’s ripped from newspaper headlines, which often use the moniker to explain the unexplained shit that seems to happen only in Florida. The meme has spawned a Twitter account, a subreddit, a Wikipedia page, and even website that’s dedicated to Florida Man’s exploits.
When we finally meet Earn’s uncle and learn he keeps an actual alligator in his house, Darius makes a joke: “This nigga got a full-grown Caiman in here surrounded by chicken carcasses. It’s like an Azealia Banks Snapchat.” Two years ago, Banks caught heat when she shared video of herself clearing up blood splatter in her apartment … from sacrificing chickens. (She practices witchcraft.)
Episode 2, “Sportin’ Waves”
Spotify and Apple Music
It wouldn’t be a show about a rapper without a few cracks about the streaming industry. Both Paper Boi and Earn pay a visit to a fake streaming company — no name is ever stated by anyone who works there, because all tech start-ups look and feel the same from the inside, but it appears to be called Fresh from what we can discern from Paper Boi’s spiel for a rap playlist. There are a lot of workers but not a whole lot of work getting done, unless playing ping-pong fits the job description. They just want to show Paper Boi “how we can grow your reach through our platform,” despite the fact that they can’t even figure out how to play a CD on their bougie sound system. It’s a clear jab at the Spotifys and Apple Musics of the business, as well as the façade of streaming overall.
At this streaming company, Earn and Paper Boi meet a white dude named Peter Savage, who also has some vague job title