Donald Glover, Migos & Hip-Hop Winning In Unlikely Places
“Atlanta is a Trojan horse,” Donald Glover told TIME back in August of his critically acclaimed and commercially successful show, which, hopefully, by now we’ve all seen. “I was like, ‘Let’s make something that shouldn’t be on the air, something controversial.’ If it’s canceled in 10 episodes, I’ll be happy with those episodes.”
Of course, Atlanta is far from in danger of being canceled—the show was renewed for a second season after just three episodes. But Glover’s Trojan horse has traveled further than just a second season.
Last night, Atlanta won a Golden Globe Award for Best Musical or Comedy Series, while Glover picked up the solo award for Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy Series. During his acceptance speech for the first award, Glover thanked all the “black folks in Atlanta for being alive and being amazing people,” as well as Migos for making “Bad and Boujee.” “That’s the best song ever,” he said.
Aside from generating a few faint laughs, Glover’s thank you speech left the audience—noticeably older and whiter than the Atlanta cast that flooded the stage—looking clueless. Jake Gyllenhaal, Jessica Chastain and even Stevie Wonder’s nonplussed expressions were captured on camera (and subsequently spun into internet gold). I’m pretty sure whoever that woman was who was sat next to Lawrence Fishburne and on her phone was Googling “Migos.”
Later that night, Glover was asked by a reporter about this “My-Gos” group and their “Bad and Bojo” song (which feels like a scene right out of Atlanta season two). After politely correcting said reporter, Donald heaped even more praise on Quavo, Offset and Takeoff, dubbing them “The Beatles of this generation," a nod to a long-running internet troll that still riles people up today. “There’s a generation of kids that are growing up on something that’s completely separate from a whole group of people,” he said. “And honestly, that song’s just fly. There’s no better song to have sex to.”
Last night wasn’t just a victory for Glover or Migos or Atlanta—the show or the city—it was a victory for hip-hop as a whole.
The Golden Globes isn’t a place where hip-hop or black culture is particularly celebrated. Since Sidney Poitier in 1964, only six black actors—male or female—have won the Best Leading Actor award in any of the four film categories. The Golden Globes red carpet is a place where Pharrell is likely to be asked about his work on a film called Hidden Fences by Jenna Bush (who got Taraji P. Henson’s Hidden Figures mixed up with Denzel Washington’s Fences for, well, reasons).
But last night, on that stage, Donald Glover brought a slice of Atlanta hip-hop to the Golden Globes that had no business being there. Even if you’re one of those people who wash your ears out with MF Doom after hearing a Migos song, seeing Quavo, Offset and Takeoff—three rappers who rarely dilute their addictive-as-crack trap music—get name-dropped at an awards show decided by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, broadcasted live on TV to millions of viewers, is a win we can all enjoy. Like he says on “T-Shirt,” Quavo does it for the culture.
In The Big Payback, Dan Charnas chronicles all the historic ways in which hip-hop has infiltrated mainstream culture and flourished into one of the biggest businesses around—from “Rapper’s Delight” to Run-D.M.C. to Rocawear. Last night feels like one of those moments: a rapper-actor winning multiple awards for a show about a dope boy rapper while shouting out three of the hottest rappers in the country in front of an audience that's probably never heard of them.
Not to say Glover’s name-drop is about to set Migos up for an EGOT run or anything (even though C U L T U R E is sounding like an early Album of the Year contender), but it does feel like another door opened, the turning of the lock as hip-hop invades a space it wasn’t supposed to.
And who better than Donald Glover to be Migos’ messenger? As a middle-class kid who was raised a Jehovah’s Witness but still bumped Jeezy, Donald has always known how to balance that duality, as evidenced by his work on Camp and Community to Atlanta and "Awaken, My Love!" He’s like the middle point between Gucci Mane and the Golden Globes: Atlanta enough to “represent [the city] well,” according to Quavo, but safe enough to secure his own show with FX. Sometimes culture needs a funnel through which to reach the masses, and Donald Glover was able to spread the gospel of Migos in a place that, until last night, seemed impossible.
With Atlanta season two on the horizon, as well as roles in Star Wars and Spider-Man spinoffs, Donald Glover has an even greater opportunity to “Trojan horse” black culture into white spaces. Migos, meanwhile, will continue to do what they do best—at even bigger level thanks to the meme-driven success of “Bad and Boujee.” The Atlanta trio may be among those criticized for "killing" hip-hop, but last night proved Migos are only giving the culture more life.
By Andy James. Follow him on Twitter.