‘Rap Sh!t’ is back with a grittier season 2

The show's writing remains sharp, funny and fresh as we follow duo Mia and Shawna struggling to make it in the music business while being on tour with a mediocre white female artist doing a pale imitation of Black women.

Rap Sh!t review, theGrio.com
Aida Osman and KaMillion in "Rap Sh!t." (Photograph by Erin Simkin/Max)

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

After a delay due to the WGA and SAG strikes for fair wages, our favorite scammer and sex worker rap duo are finally back for “Rap Sh!t” season two. While season one was a bit more fun and games as Shawna (Aida Osman) and Mia (KaMillion) seduced and schemed their way into an emerging rap career, season two is all about facing the consequences of their season one actions. 

All last season, failed woke rapper Shawna had turned to credit card scamming guests at the hotel where she clerked to make ends meet. After teaming up with former high school friend Mia and her large online following from sex work, Shawna finally loosened up enough for the two of them to write fun, viral songs and start to make a name for themselves in the rap game. But just as they had decided to go on tour as background rappers for an Iggy Azalea wannabe, Shawna gets brought in by police for questioning for credit card fraud.

Season two picks up with the girls on tour and an obvious rift between Shawna and Mia over Shawna’s selfish, scamming ways. Though they’ve both dreamt of tour life, the reality ends up being a nightmare. The racial power dynamics between Shawn and Mia and their white woman headliner are amplified with every detail on the tour, from their segregated housing and tour bus down to the costumes they’re allowed to wear. With the police hot and heavy on Shawna and her accomplices’ tails, Shawna has never been more alone, as everyone has turned on her.  

Mia might be free and clear from the law, but her Hot Girl Summer activities, jumping from baller to baller while playing with her baby daddy (an excellent RJ Cyler) Lamont’s feelings for her lay the groundwork to get her reputation and her feelings caught up. KaMillion shines in scenes with Mia’s mother (a hilarious Bobbi Baker) as their relationship dynamic brings new depth to Mia as a loving single mom, co-parent and a grown woman who wants to pursue her own life and career without turning into her mother.

Series standout Jonica Booth deftly handles a dire turn in her storyline as Chastity, a local pimp and Shawna and Mia’s self-titled manager. As Chastity tries (and fails) to gain respect as a Black queer woman in two male-dominated industries known for their exploitation of women, Booth infuses heart, humor and humanity into a complex character who spends all of her time performing for others. Chastity’s breaks in character are only visible at times in the subtleties of Booth’s eyes or gritted teeth.

As “Rap Sh!t’s” No. 1 antagonist Francois Boom, Jaboukie Young-White continues to prove he’s more than the best Twitter troll to ever do it. He delivers a pitch-perfect portrayal of the seedy talent manager who’s exploiting Shawna and Mia’s free labor and regularly gaslighting them that they should be grateful they’re even there.

Trigger warning: There are some seriously horrific and disturbing images as a character attempts to harm themselves. It’s an unexpected turn for a show whose writers actively chose not to show the sexual violence Mia encountered in season one, focusing instead on how that trauma informed Mia’s character in the aftermath. 

Still, the writing, led by showrunner Syreeta Singleton, remains sharp, funny and fresh, as they excoriate the music industry’s penchant for violent misogynoir and colorism while platforming mediocre white artists’ best imitations of Black women. While Mia ignores the ignorance as much as possible to get the promised-yet-elusive bag, Shawna has the hardest time swallowing the injustices around her. 

Osman is in her element as Shawna wrestles with the cost of an unguaranteed success. To even get a chance at a career in hip-hop, they’re supposed to be grateful that they get to hop on the coattails of a wack white woman rapper doing Blackface without the paint. They’re supposed to be quiet about colorism if they see it — especially if it’s not happening specifically to them. They’re not allowed to complain and they better not get depressed because, as Francois repeatedly reminds them, others would kill to be where they are, and they could be replaced at any moment. 

It’s no wonder season two feels heavier and more depressing; Shawna, Mia and Chastity are in the throes of the music industry’s underbelly, at the intersection of fame and vulnerability in the streets of Miami, with no safety net and no protector their assailants would respect. But one thing about “Rap Sh!t” remains the same: That soundtrack is fire.

Brooke Obie is an award-winning critic, screenwriter and author of the historical novel “Book of Addis: Cradled Embers.”

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