Review: Bad Rap
It’s damn near impossible to get “on” nowadays. By “on” I mean become a household name in the world of hip hop. So much competition, so many dues to pay, too many fighting for the same plate of food. You need talent of course, but more importantly since it’s a business, you need a way to sell your art to the masses so the world can digest it. Every single race on this Earth has proven that they can rap (for real, do your homework) so that’s not the issue here. The issue Bad Rap brings up is simple ones: why aren’t Asians well known for being emcees? No other chunk of rapper has had it worse than the Asian world of talent, even though they’ve been blessing the art since day one. From breaking, graffiti, DJing and rapping, the Asian community has been adding greatness to the artform for decades. It just feels way off that Asians are not recognized considering the pool of artists putting in the work.
Several artists have nearly broken the mold with MC Jin coming the closest. Jin won several freestyle battles on BET’s 106 & Park and got the attention of Ruff Ryders Entertainment landing himself a record deal, the same labeled that housed DMX. Things seemed great until he dropped a single called Learn Chinese which only reinforced stereotypes and set other Asian emcees back a bit. I am glad Bad Rap covered this chunk of Hip-Hop history because it’s crazy important to the overall theme of the film.
Currently, the most well known and successful Asian rapper Is Dumbfoundead. Making a name for himself in battle rap circuits, he cut through several rappers who were stupid enough to call out his ethnicity will clever wordplay and tons of charisma. Today he is still making music and touring like crazy, perfecting his live show and yet, despite all of this grinding, not a household name. What is the main obstacle preventing that? Race? Not “hard” or “tough” enough to market? Maybe both?
The film also follows three other talents each with a different vibe showcasing their creativity; Awkwafina, a 5’3”, a silly and crass female emcee with a smooth nonchalant delivery, Rekstizzy, a raunchy dude from Queens, NY with a love for making “bugged out” music and making music videos involving ass and condiments, and Lyricks, a stoic and spiritual rhymer, inspired by faith and family.
Salima Koroma's film does a great job staying on them equally allowing them to express themselves properly. We see and feel all three artist’s grind as they try their best to break further into a cutthroat industry. Candid, funny and often times sad, it’s a very real look into a rapper’s process, how it affects them and non understanding family.
Bad Rap does two things absolutely correct that help make it a good documentary. They let random producers listen to the artists and give real blunt opinions on what they’ve seen and heard. Straight to the point and brutal, but a very truthful look into industry minds. There is also a two year gap in between the interviews of the main artists and the growth and lessons learned are enlightening. It prevents the film for not being one note. The filmmakers hustled hard to make this doc come to life, a very DIY production with the help of online fundraising as well, that very same hustle matches a lot of what it happening on screen and it is quite admirable. Opening credits may need a little work, but it’s not going to stop a hip hop head from seeking this gem out on VOD day one, and getting some education on a scene they may be sleeping on.