In Rap Sh!t, the rise of a female hip-hop duo is shown in a funny way.
Aida Osman and KaMillion have the makings of a great TV friendship in Issa Rae’s HBO Max comedy.
The last episode of Insecure was a bittersweet end to a show that changed the way friendship sitcoms are made. But fans could take comfort in the fact that Issa Rae’s empire would produce many more shows. Her new project, HBO Max’s Rap Sh!t, take ideas from Insecure and expands on them. It takes viewers from the world of young professionals in Los Angeles to the world of amateur rap in Miami. And by doing so, Rae and her team have made a funny, experimental comedy that is driven by great new talent and real, complicated stories of Black life.
Rap Sh!t is about two friends who grew up together in Magic City. Aida Osman, a comedian and former co-host of the show Keep It, goes by the name Shawna. She is an experienced rapper who has already been used by the music industry. She quit college to work with Fairfax’s Jaboukie Young-White, who is a manipulative producer. Now, she has a day job and puts her songs online, but they don’t get much attention. She feels stuck in life. It’s kind of like Rae’s Issa Dee in the first season of Insecure. (I promise that’s the last time we’ll compare things.) Then there’s Mia, who is a rapper who used to be on Love & Hip Hop: Miami. She has several jobs and raises her daughter with a rising record producer (RJ Cyler). Mia runs an OnlyFans, and Shawna sells stolen credit card numbers, both to help pay the bills.
When the old friends meet again after years of being apart, they get along right away thanks to Osman and KaMillion’s easy chemistry on screen. During an Instagram Live, they do a front-seat freestyle to Khia’s “K-Wang” after a night of partying. They decide right away to take advantage of the good vibes and form a rap group. Their freestyle becomes famous in Miami and catches the attention of Chastity, a club promoter and want tobe manager who calls herself the Duke of Miami (Jonica Booth).
Rae and showrunner Syreeta Singleton tell the story of the rap game with confidence in the six episodes they gave to critics. JT and Yung Miami, two rappers, are co-executive producers for City Girls. In 2019, Rae started an audio production company and record label called Radio, which is in charge of the snappy music in the show. The writers also do a great job of showing how much self-promotion, scheming, and luck are needed to make a grassroots hit. They also do a good job of showing how hard it is to make art every day, with jobs, annoying roommates, and all the other things you have to do to stay in the game.
The cinematography also shows how important social media is in this business, where an artist’s influence is based on how many people see them. A lot of the show is filmed as interactions on video platforms, like Instagram Lives, Facetimes, OnlyFans, and often self-recordings by the characters. In addition to being a new way to tell a story, which is usually only done in movies (think Zoom or live-stream horror movies), this device adds a layer of purpose: Who is this person putting on a show for? What is different about how Shawna or Mia act when they talk to a loved one on FaceTime instead of Live? How does the distance of a video call make it hard for Shawna to talk to her long-distance boyfriend Cliff (Devon Terrell), who likes Obama?
From the first montage of Instagram feeds from tourists, Rap Sh!t plays with how people see things. The image of Miami as a party capital is shown, and then the story shifts to Shawna, one of the many service workers who help keep that image. Later, she takes a bus home to a part of the city that people in the area call the real Miami-Dade county. Each character has the same struggle between putting on a face that makes money and being who they really are on the inside. How much does how we present ourselves to the world match up with who we want to be and who we really are? When a character’s true self comes out, it’s either a magical moment or a complete disaster.
Rap Sh!t has a lot of interesting topics to talk about, like the state of the music industry, the rise of social media, and Rae’s decisions about how she wants to be remembered, but it’s mostly a funny show about women trying to change their lives. The song “Seduce And Scheme” by Shawna and Mia came out of a fun and friendly night spent together. Every time the song plays after that, it gives the viewer a little hit of dopamine and reminds them why they want the two to win. In the end, Rap sh!t is a funny, heartwarming show with just the right amount of humor about Black people. Do yourself a favor and watch if you’re ready to laugh, shake your booty with the musical duo, and wince a little at how much a character reminds you of your ex.