Issa Rae’s Rap Sh!t has fun with the less glamorous parts of hip-hop
Set in Miami and shot on location, the story follows high school friends who reconnect in their twenties to form a rap duo. Mia (rapper KaMillion) is a single mom with a five-figure IG following, who wears makeup and strips on OnlyFans but still feels the weight of her responsibilities. Shawna (comedian Aida Osman) is a struggling rapper who spends her days working the counter at a South Beach hotel. Her politically charged rhymes in the style of Noname (only without her humor and playful flows) didn’t take off, while her ex-producer (Jaboukie Young-White) made it big shaping the sound of Reina Reign. (a substitute Iggy Azalea). At one point in the pilot, a man gives Shawna’s music the backhanded compliment: “We need more rappers like you self-respecting sistahs.”
After a boozy night on the town, Shawna sets up a freestyle out of the dome on IG Live while Mia does her thing on the ad-libs. The clip goes viral and Shawna begs Mia to capitalize on their buzz with a real song. Their ideologies on what kind of rap women should do fast clash: Mia wants to do “slutty good shit” while Shawna worries about the line between sexual empowerment and playing in the male gaze. They discuss it and find no magic solution, but Mia is able to expand her friend’s narrow view of art. Their debut song, a City Girls-esque anthem, is a leap forward for Shawna, from self-conscious punchlines that might make Joyner Lucas cringe (she’s writing a rap from a student loan perspective) to knocking down manners. by Megan Thee Stallion.
With the premise established, the show gets to work on what sets it apart: digging into the weeds of the rap world, from its commentary on streaming success to the Southern rap soundtrack and thoughtful original songs. The snippet from Shawna and Mia’s second single, as revealed in episode six, is probably the most interesting for a rap song performed by original characters since 2005, when DJay (Terrence Howard) dove into the struggles of the pandering in Bustle and flow. On a beat that taps into the Cash Money revival of the 2000s, Mia’s assertive “my female dog so bad” hook gives off the Trina feel, while Shawna’s flow is now an airy bounce that wouldn’t be out of place in Memphis. . It’s sharp and region-specific, notes that are aided by the actual influence of the City Girls as a foundation.
Plus, the duo’s conversations about rap sound like the ones fans have in real life: What’s selling like? Who gets a platform and why? And what is hip-hop? Rap shit! isn’t the first scripted comedy for high-profile rappers, but with its critical look at power dynamics in the industry, it’s perhaps the most in touch with the genre.
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