Brian Tyree Henry has sharpened his lyrical skills playing rapper Paper Boi on Donald Glover’s FX drama, Atlanta – but his his classic video game skills could use some work. The FX show’s breakout star fumbled his way through classic arcade game Paperboy for an exclusive Rolling Stone clip, discussing his hip-hop influences along the way.
“I used to play this all the time, all the time,” Henry says. “And I clearly have not played it in a minute. I remember when Nintendos first came out … I saw my father coming in and putting the game underneath the tree. I was like, ‘This is clearly for me. This is my game. No one’s gonna be allowed to play this game.'”
The actor also reminisces about his first musical influence, Michael Jackson, whom he heard while exploring his dad’s record stash.
“My father had one of the biggest vinyl collections I’ve ever seen,” he says. “When I was three years old, one of the first albums I ever heard was Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall. I thought it was amazing because you flip it open and his socks were lit up. The album starts with [mimes drum beat of ‘Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough’], and I was like, ‘I’ve gotta do this. I’ve gotta get into this.’ And I was sold.”
Henry fell in love with hip-hop in the Eighties, which he declares “the best time for rap.”
“It was still clean – there wasn’t lots of cursing going on,” he says. “Hip-hop was really trying to talk about something. [Then] when Biggie came around, I lost it. Here was this dude who was so young from Brooklyn who could do this lyricism unlike anything I’ve ever heard in my life.”
Despite his passion for rap’s past, Henry is still excited about modern-day hip-hop – including trap-rap, a more party-oriented music that’s shifted inspiration from “selling drugs to doing drugs.”
“I love trap-rap because it’s very clear at this point in time it’s all about getting turnt,” he says. “I love that. I love that you can just walk into the club and hear Young Jeezy or hear Fetty, and it’s on.”
Atlanta‘s season finale airs tonight on FX.