6 Things We Learned About Issa Rae's 'Rap Sh!t,' Including If It Is Really A City Girls Origin Story [ABFF 2022]
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Television

6 Things We Learned About Issa Rae's 'Rap Sh!t,' Including If It Is Really A City Girls Origin Story [ABFF 2022]

Insecure might be over, but Issa Rae is dropping another hit for us, just in time for the summer. The creator and executive producer’s newest hit series, Rap Sh!t, will undoubtedly be your new fav. Set in Miami, Rap Sh!follows Shawna (Aida Osman) and Mia (KaMillion), estranged high school friends who come together to form a rap group. 

The show debuted at the American Black Film Festival (ABFF). After the screening, Rae, showrunner Syreeta Singleton, director Sadé Clacken Joseph and stars Aida Osman and KaMillion were all on hand to chat with Jessie Woo about the pilot and their experiences bringing the show to life. 

“This show is going to give you everything,” Singleton said. “It’s going to give you everything that you’re looking for, what you want, what you don’t know you want. I think it’s perfectly timed for the summer because it’s fun and it’s vibrant and has homegirl energy and all of that. But then I also I feel like collectively we’re at a place where we’re all wanting more for ourselves and we don’t know exactly how to get it and we might be a little afraid of it, and we’re looking around is trying to figure out where to go and what to do. I feel that happening, and that’s what this show is all about.”

'Rap Sh!t' showcases the Miami we rarely see on-screen

So often, when Miami is seen in film and television, we get images of Collins Avenue, picturesque beaches, and lots of whiteness. The Black community in Miami is largely ignored and often eliminated. In Rap Sh!t, Black Miami becomes its own character in the series. Miami-born comedian Kid Fury a writer on the series, was on hand to ensure it was authentic. Moreover. Singleton and Rae deliberately showcased specific neighborhoods and highlighted certain musical artists.

Osman and KaMillion had never acted before 'Rap Sh!t'

Though the pair lead the series, neither Osman nor KaMillion had acted professionally before snagging their roles on Rap Sh!t. “We had a lot of fun together immediately and were already ready to be vulnerable and be honest and try new things.” Osman shared. “The journey that you are gonna see Shawna and Mia and go through in the show is exactly what happened in our real life.”

KaMillion added, “Just meeting her in the audition room, and she’s such a witty girl. She’s so smart. I’ve just learned so, so much with her. It was just a great experience.”

Issa Rae had been thinking about Rap Sh!t before Insecure aired

“My manager sent me the original Insecure pitch document,” Rae shared. “When I was reading it, the root of rap was in there. Initially, Issa Dee was gonna try to be a rapper. And then I was like, ‘Lemme just make this a little bit more grounded. Let me stay, you know, in my real life.’ I love the world of music. I love female rappers. And as Mia says in the trailer, ‘We’re in a Bad Bitch Renaissance.’ So many of my favorite female rappers I’ve discovered via social media. And I feel like we watched them on their journeys.’

Social media is a massive component in Rap Sh!t down to how its filmed 

We see the world through their perspective by watching Shawna and Mia navigate social media in the show. “I saw it as a really great challenge,” Joseph said. “The first step toward just approaching that was doing a lot of research, a lot of storyboarding, a lot of editing things together, trying things out. We were trying to figure out how people navigate and look at the screen and how we guide the viewer while keeping it engaging and feeling real. It was all just trial and error, lots of tests. I had to download TikTok cause I had never used it. It was a pleasure as a director to be challenged and really think about how we as a society communicate and relate to each other.”

'Rap Sh!t' is for everyone

Shawna and Mia are vastly different characters in very different places in their lives, but they both aspire to have more and reach a level of success. Anyone who has ever had a dream can relate to that. “They both are making their dreams come true,” KaMillion says. “Like it’s dope. And a lot of girls and people are going to be able to relate to it because these days it, you know, it doesn’t have to be one best rapper. Like a lot of bitches is really doing their thing.”

'Rap Sh!t' is not the City Girls origin story

Though Caresha “Young Miami” Brownlee and Jatavia “JT” Johnson of the rap group the City Girls are from Miami and they are executive producers on Rap Sh!t, this is not their story. “It’s not the City Girls story,” Rae said. “A lot of people think that this is, and there are EPS on the show, and we’re really excited to have their support.”

Rap Sh!t debuted at American Black Film Festival on June 18, 2022. The series premieres on HBO Max on July 21.

Aramide A. Tinubu is a film critic, consultant and entertainment editor. As a journalist, her work has been published in Netflix’s Tudum, EBONY, JET, ESSENCE, Bustle, The Daily Mail, IndieWire and Blavity. She wrote her master’s thesis on Black Girlhood and Parental Loss in Contemporary Black American Cinema. She’s a cinephile, bookworm, blogger and NYU + Columbia University alum. You can find her reviews on Rotten Tomatoes or A Word With Aramide or tweet her @wordwitharamide.

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