The story behind Donald Glover’s praiseworthy television series “Atlanta” is told in landscapes. While the show bears the name of the city, there’s perhaps more to learn about the city from the show’s background settings than from its disjointed plot lines or its characters. In each episode the viewer is transported from Atlanta’s forested, working-class ranch-house neighborhoods into the ominous woods mulched around the city; from the secluded mansions of celebrities and agoraphobic elites in Atlanta’s outer-ring suburbs, to the hollowed-out and foreclosed mini-mansions of its inner-ring subdivisions; and, from its strip malls packed with numerous barbershops and nail salons to its ethereal strip clubs— arguably Atlanta’s truest “third places.”
This panoply of residential and recreational spaces gives the unacquainted a vivid idea of what exactly Atlanta is, in the cultural and geographical senses. Place, of course, defines a city as much as its people do, which is why rappers pack so many references to place in their rhymes. When it comes to Atlanta, these references are common currency within the city’s unique brand of Hip Hop. So much so that a young undergrad student from Pakistan studying at Middlesex University in London could learn a lot about Atlanta, and America by extension, by listening to the legendary Atlanta rap group Outkast.