Among those up-and-comers is Alfred Miles, a hot new artist, AKA Paper Boi, who is trying to understand the line between real life and street life.
He is managed by his cousin, Earn, who gets caught up in the local rap scene and his cousin's career after returning home to Atlanta. Earn does whatever he can to try to get Alfred's career to the next level. Darius, the rapper's right-hand man and visionary, is also in Alfred's entourage.
When Earn isn't busy managing his cousin's career, he spends much of his time with ex-girlfriend Vanessa, who is also the mother of his daughter.
Atlanta provides examples of the following tropes:
- Aluminum Christmas Trees: Antoine Smalls (a.k.a. Harrison Booth), the trans-racial character in "B.A.N.", seems like a mean-spirited caricature of transgender people, but people who claim to be "trans-racial" actually do exist.
- Ambiguously Brown: Zan, the internet personality trolling Paper Boi. Lampshading this becomes a Running Gag in the episode "The Streisand Effect; every time he's mentioned, characters ask something along the lines of "Isn't he Dominican?", "Is he Asian?", or (after he casually uses the N-word) "Are you even black?"
- Call-Back: The investment that Darius sets up in Season One episode "The Streisand Effect" is paid back the following season in "Sportin' Waves"
- Calvin Ball: One of the traditional Oktoberfest games Earn and Van play in "Helen" is something called "Hootz-Kutz" which involves people sitting in a circle and passing ping-pong balls around and tossing them at a cup in the circle. No one ever explains to Earn when or why you're supposed to pass or shoot and he amazes the crowd by just leaning forward and dropping the balls in the cup (apparently something no one has ever thought of).
- Celebrity Paradox: The rich white man mentioned under Foreign Culture Fetish has an album collection that includes Childish Gambino’s own album Awaken, My Love!
- Cool Car: NBA star Marcus Miles has an invisible car. Paper Boi is skeptical as it's shown with Marcus showing off pictures & selfies standing around with nothing. At the end of the episode there is a shootout at the club, and Marcus drives off, running several people over with the only thing you can see being him driving. This also averts Visible Invisibility.
- Curbstomp Battle:
Van: "It's Michael Vick."
- Earn decides to challenge Michael Vick, ex-NFL player and codifier of the running quarterback style of play, to a footrace. We don't see the results, but it goes predictably bad for him.
- After the craziness of "North Of The Border", Earn challenges Tracy to a fight in a blind rage. Tracy, being an ex-con and having a good 6 inches on him, kicks the crap out of him.
- Day in the Limelight:
- "Value" is focused solely on Van, with Earn and Paper Boi making small appearances.
- "Barbershop", which is entirely about Paper Boi, with no appearances from any other lead.
- "Teddy Perkins" is focused on Darius with Earn and Alfred having minor appearances.
- "Champagne Papi" is another Van-focused episode, with Darius appearing near the end of the episode.
- "Woods" is another Paper Boi-focused episode, with Darius having a minor apperance in the beginning and Earn appearing off-screen in a phone call to Paper Boi.
- Denser and Wackier: While the pilot is the most grounded, the series has been, with each passing episode, increasingly unusual.
- Foreign Culture Fetish: When Earn and Van visits one of her old school friends in a Juneteenth theme party, they meet the woman's husband, a rich white man who loves and praises African-American culture. Even all of the couple's friends are prominent and rich black people.
- Genre Roulette: Although every episode is still comedic, they switch from dramedy to Magic Realism to outright satire ("B.A.N."), sometimes within a single episode.
- Handcuffed Briefcase: Darius takes one to a drug deal... and forgets to bring the key to the handcuffs. The drug dealers decide they're going to get their money anyway... by opening the briefcase and putting the money in another bag. That was easy.
- Hypocritical Humor: Antoine Smalls, a black teenager who identified himself as a white man named Harrison Booth and wants people to accept his white trans-racial identity, does not accept transgender people and same-sex marriage.
- Literal Metaphor: "Put your foot in it" is a black Southern expression that means "do something well," usually cooking. When Darius says it, however, he means it literally, and proceeds to put his actual foot in his pasta while making it.
- Magical Negro: Atlanta is an odd show for this trope to appear. Indeed, Ahmed White (the stranger on the bus) turns out to be some sort of subversion, parody, or both.
- Magic Realism: The invisible car in "The Club."
- Meaningful Name: Earnest "Earn" Marks. A mark is a form of currency, and Earn is doing his best to ensure he and Alfred get rich.
- Mood Whiplash: In the episode "Streets on Lock", everyone (expect for Earn) has a good laugh at an insane perp in the holding station for drinking toilet water out of a cup. However, it gets dark very abruptly when he spits water at a cop and gets beaten and restrained as a result
- Nice to the Waiter: Earn quickly befriends the janitor, Prince, at a radio station when he wants to gain access without his friend who works there realizing.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Teddy Perkins seems to be this for Michael Jackson, being a former musician who bleached his skin and has Daddy Issues.
- No Such Thing as Bad Publicity: In-Universe example. After Paper Boi's arrest in the first episode, he's gets a large following of fans who consider him a real gangster. Also appears to be deconstructed somewhat in episode 2, since Paper Boi seems to grow increasingly uncomfortable when part of the recognition of his music is also tied to his arrest.
- Another example in season 2, when a white suburban mom makes a video denouncing Paper Boi for explicit lyrics, drug references, and praising Colin Kaepernick, his single sells even more.
- N-Word Privileges:
- In the first episode, Earn seeks out an old white friend that he wants a favor from and has to force a grin as his "friend" unabashedly uses the n-word as he tells a story. After they separate, Earn asks the black janitor who works at the building if he normally speaks like that, and the janitor says that he never does, especially not around him. Later, Earn pushes his friend into repeating the same story, this time with Alfred and Darius with him, and stares stone-faced as his friend awkwardly self-censors himself.
- Alfred explicitly asks Zan "Are you even black?" when Zan casually uses the word. Zan says that yes, he is.
- Only in Florida: Darius speaks of "Florida Man" as if he's an actual, otherworldly being of weirdness.
- Police Brutality: In the season one finale, Earn, Alfred and Darius go to their Uber driver's house to get Earn's jacket back, only to find that said Uber driver is wanted by the police. The police then shoot him to death when he runs out of his house (wearing Earn's jacket).
- Race Lift:
- Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: Inverted. Earn is friends with a DJ at a radio station and wants him to play Paper Boi's song, but the friend tries to claim that all decisions go through the station manager and he charges $500 to listen to a song. Realizing that his friend is just going to keep the money for himself—and maybe won't even pass the song along at all—Earn befriends the janitor at the radio station and gets him to let him into the building through the back door. Once inside, Earn just slides the CD under the station manager's office door and it winds up on the radio later that night.
- Sell-Out: Clark County is implied to be this, doing Yoohoo! commercials and singing about drinking and smoking all the while being sober. At one point Darius and Earn call him an "industry plant," which is a pejorative to describe artists who have major backing from the music industry to aid their careers, but are deceptively presented as an independent start-up.
- Surreal Horror: Pretty much the entirety of "Teddy Perkins", which is essentially just the story of Darius being held captive by a psychotic Michael Jackson takeoff.
- Wham Shot: In the finale of Robbin' Season, when mere INCHES away from an airport security checkpoint, Earn discovers he never took his uncle's gold-plated pistol out of his backpack.
- Whole Episode Flashback: "FUBU" flashes back to when Earn and Al were in middle/high school in The '90s.