Since the late 1980s, the south has remained a haven for some of the best rap music — but it’s no secret that Atlanta, Georgia is quickly becoming what may be the nation’s number one hip hop hub right now. With trap music dominating the charts, it seems like every new artist that emerges, like Lil Yachty and 21 Savage, are either coming from Atlanta or have broads there (forgive me).
Ever since Love & Hip Hop Atlanta began back in 2012, the show has been giving us a glimpse into the inner workings of the music scene in the city. Though a big majority of the show is obviously focused on relationship drama, the scenes inevitably give us a fair share of hip hop scoop and the lives of those behind the music. Fast forward to September 2016, when the public declared that they’re still here for more southern hip hop tales, as Atlanta premiered on FX with the best ratings of any basic cable comedy in three years. Beside the obvious contrast of it being scripted rather than reality, this show tells alternate stories from a similar universe, about divergent groups of people working toward the same goal.
Two shows about Atlanta, but there’s a blatant difference in class, largely due to the fact that Love & Hip Hop focuses primarily on already established artists and producers, and Atlanta is a group still trying to pave their way. While personalities like K.Michelle and Stevie J. hold high regard for their image and attend sought-after events on the regular, those very affairs are the bane of Earn and Van’s existence (which we witnessed explicitly in the “Juneteenth” episode) on Atlanta. Both focus around a community of Black people branding themselves in Atlanta, but within this realm are two castes of people who couldn’t be more different.
Humor me, if you will, and picture Atlanta as a prelude to Love & Hip Hop Atlanta. Creator Donald Glover might clench his fists at the thought, but the “guilty pleasure” reality show vs. wittily-written component aside, it’s not a crazy thought. Though all of the Atlanta characters are seemingly repulsed by ideas associated with fame —Paper Boi not wanting to be approached by fans of his hit single, Earn hating the club and the type of people that go there — fame and success is the end goal for them, right?
It’s comical to consider characters from one cast in a scenario we have viewed the opposite in, but for some of the personalities on Love & Hip Hop Atlanta it probably isn’t far off from their actual past. We see Waka Flocka and Scrappy flaunt their wealth now, but it’s easy to think situations like Earn calling his credit card company to report fraud after a fancy dinner he couldn’t afford could be reminiscent of their humble beginnings.
Being privvy to two such different portrayals of the same environment depicted on our TV screens is alluring. Most probably wouldn’t discuss Atlanta and Love & Hip Hop Atlanta in the same sentence, but consider them as complementary elements in a bigger picture. Though their structures and content heavily differ, both shows illustrate what could be seen as different phases in the lives of musicians living in Atlanta.
Atlanta’s first season is ending tonight and has already been picked up for a second season, and though we’ll likely never see a crossover episode anytime soon, it’s inevitable that the lives of these characters are going to mimic those of Love & Hip Hop. One discernible character comparison that can be made is of Darius and Scrappy who both often play the role of comedic relief on their respective shows. Darius almost never has a main story line in any episode, though somehow shines through to make his lines the most memorable.
Comedy itself actually plays a main character in both series, and does so in a very evident way. Love & Hip Hop Atlanta definitely has a case for being the funniest of the franchise, partly because they all know how to poke fun at themselves and the ridiculousness of the situations they end up in. Atlanta is similar, in that the story lines are simultaneously pointing out how outrageous the people of this city are while making them equally lovable. There’s something about this place that makes it’s constituents so undoubtedly Atlanta — and that’s a great thing. Georgia isn’t slowing down any time soon, so we can look forward to seeing the highs and the lows of it’s communities on our screens in a multitude of different ways.