When Rap Sh!t showrunner Syreeta Singleton said, “We’re not playing games this season,” in front of a group of journalists on a set visit, I thought she meant Gat’s cringe-worthy colorism game. I couldn’t have imagined the whirlwind season two would take me on and we’re only halfway through. But Issa did warn us, “The second half of the season, people aren’t ready.”
On paper, Rap Sh!t is about two female rappers, from Miami, one right connection away from superstardom. Rap Shit peels back the veil on the sinister entertainment business with dark humor that makes you cackle. Did Mia’s friend really call Lord AK Burna Boy? Why am I laughing? But deeper than that, Rap Sh!t is a grown woman’s tale about breaking generational binds and balancing family, friends, careers, and relationships without losing yourself and your dreams. And the joy of Black sisterhood that makes us laugh when we want to cry.
Season one of Rap Sh!t introduced us to Shawna and Mia, played by Aida Osman and real-life rapper KaMillion. While Shawna is in a constant battle against herself about maintaining the integrity of traditional rap through thought-provoking bars about the culture, Mia is all about the City Girl lifestyle and her art imitating life. Mia is Miami to the core and teaches Shawnahow to embrace and harness her femininity and rethink old-school respectability politics.
With the help of Chastity (Jonica Booth), an ambitious pimp-turned-manager, they become Seduce & Scheme. Chastity, known as Duke on the streets, is starving for a change of scenery and uses her street smarts and connections to get the girls their first major gigs. Chastity is Shawna and Mia’s biggest advocate.
Rap Sh!t explores Black womanhood through the juxtaposition of Shawna and Mia. It’s rare to see the nuances of Black womanhood delicately portrayed on TV the way Issa Rae and the scribes in her writer’s room capture it.
As a mother, Mia faces added pressure to provide for her child by any means necessary. And sometimes that means performing on an OnlyFans-esque platform or finding a baller so smitten by her brown skin and full lips that he drops 30k within moments of meeting her. We watch Mia mimic her mother’s behavior through her manipulation of men. She lives the City Girl lifestyle for real and men reward her with funds and luxurious goods in exchange for her attention. Being so alluring and confident is one of her greatest assets. Eventually, Mia will reflect on her learned behavior and hopefully, it will ease the tension between her and her mother (played by Bobbi Baker), who self-medicates with liquor, when they both learn they’re more like one another than they thought. There’s a pride both of them can learn from one another.
Mia’s daughter, friends, mother, and baby daddy keep her grounded. We watch Mia juggle her persona in the industry and her foundation — home.
Unlike Mia, Shawna’s family unit is more financially secure but not supportive of her dream and cut her off. Mia’s experience living the starving artist life takes form before us. At her lowest, she has $12 in her bank account and stole snacks from the convenience store during a tour stop while wearing no socks. All of which pales in comparison to facing potential jail time after her scamming partner was indicted on fraud charges. Shawna also struggles with social media validation, making her character a mirror to us all who seek instant gratification from likes and shares. She means well but often gets in her way when it comes to reading the room and letting her insecurities dictate her moves and words.
Black Sisterhood In Rap Shit
When Insecure ended, it left us with one less show that highlights the ebbs and flows of Black sisterhood. Rap Sh!t picks up where it left off, providing a fresh take on friendship with the same clever laughs. This is an intentional thread laced throughout Issa Rae’s career “We need the young Black female perspective now more than ever,” she said in an interview.
Mia’s friends Nelly and Alesia, played by Dominque Perry and Brittney Jefferson, are a crucial part of her life. And comedic relief even when inappropriate. Nelly and Alesia are Mia’s right and left hands. She trusts them enough to leave her child with one of her friends over her own mother. It speaks volumes of their friendship. It’s real and it is relatable.
Shawna and Mia’s relationship, on the other hand, has struggled through a few snags. “Where you find them, even in Season 2, I don’t know that they’re completely aligned. They’re both still very much figuring out what they want for themselves and are both, at many moments, coming at it from a selfish place,” showrunner Syreeta Singleton told TheWrap. Issa Rae didn’t mince words, “They don’t trust each other.”
But after seeing their potential while on tour with Raina Reign, the two lean on each other after watching the tour that propelled their careers go down in a blaze. Shawna, displaced and silently struggling through reliving the moments burned into her memory, moves in with Mia and they reconnect a seemingly take a turn back on the path of sisterhood.
Rap Sh!t thrives off of personable characters in supporting roles that draw you so far in, you’re deeply invested. Whether it’s Chadtit’s uncle, who stood on business for his niece, or Reina Reign who profits off Black culture and Black women wearing corn rows and uses colloquialisms she doesn’t understand, we want to know more about everyone.
Chastity is a multi-layered and underrated character on Rap Sh!t. Without her sacrifices, Shawna and Mia wouldn’t have the buzz that lands them their biggest gig yet. Chastity is at a crossroads between the family business and the music business. As a street savant, Chastity has to often tap into her Duke to get down and dirty and make money moves. With lines like, “Now is the time to make demands,” Chastity is a natural leader, but will she ever let the life go? It’s only getting more dangerous.
Insert Francios. The quintessential industry dude also faking it until he makes it but a few steps ahead of the rest of us. Francios is a polarizing character because we need him, but we don’t. We understand some of his tactics, but we don’t. Thanks to his history with Shawna (he was seriously in love with her and felt played), they reconnect and it results in Seduce & Scheme’s landing an opportunity to tour with Reina Reign on Lord AK’s tour. It also challenges Shawna’s moral code as she struggles to just go with it when it comes at the cost of her integrity. She finds herself being doused in champagne after accusing Lord AK’s insecure flunkee Gat of colorism. It’s a tug-of-war that plays out throughout the series.
Lamont (RJ Cyler) is the representation of a positive Black father on screen. Also chasing his musical career, Lamont is a hungry producer with admirable talent and loyalty. He shows up for Mia even when she disregards his feelings. After she dissed him to play along with her Cash Chaser, Lamont rejected her advances but remained loyal. “I’m not doing this with you, but I’m here for you though.” Mia has proven she doesn’t want him, or doesn’t she? Their semi-healthy co-parenting situation is refreshing and real. And listen, the ladies are on Lamont, Mia is soon to find out.
The latest episode of Rap Sh!t (spoiler alert) comes during a time when the fog around blasphemous practices in the entertainment industry is being exposed. Lord AK’s mental depression was palpable but seeing him set on fire at the end of episode three, left my jaw agape.
Showrunner Syreeta Singleton joked about not knowing if Rap Sh*t would be coming back for another season so they’re swinging for the fences with big storylines.
Shows like Rap Sh!t are needed for balance. With so many depictions of Black women tearing each other down, Rap Sh!t shows what it’s like when Black women are surrounded by Black women who continue to uplift them in the face of the Francois and Reina Reigns of the world.
Catch Rap Sh!t on HBO MAX every Thursday.
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