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Sunday, 23 September 2018

Review: Bad Rap (2016)

Bad Rap
Cast: Dumbfounded, Awkwafina, Rekstizzy, Lyricks, MC Jin, The Fung Bros., Far East Movement 
Genre: Documentary

Synopsis: Four Asian-American rappers run into tough obstacles as they try to make it big in Hip Hop: a genre rooted in Black culture 

'Hip Hop Doc That Can't Quite Pop'

Despite some impressive footage curated, the documentary, Bad Rap sidesteps some of the other issues such as cultural appropriation, the model minority trope of being well educated, geeks & how the artists seek to dismantle this stereotype image of Asians & Asian Americans. The four subjects of this feature are Dumbfoundead of Koreatown, Los Angeles, Queens' Rekstizzy, Lyricks, who hails from West Virginia whose Christian faith acts as a source of his work and last but not least, Awkwafina and her amusing song, 'My Vag', who has since recently become one of the prominent faces of Asian American cinema, due to her starring turns in Crazy Rich Asians and Oceans 8, alongside singer, Rihanna and actresses, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway and Sandra Bullock. 

That and Bad Rap doesn't dig deeper into the individual reasons as to how being Asian American, these rappers see themselves as, connects internally and externally through hip-hop and rap culture, and not just from a musical aspect. Whilst, in addition, trying to break away from the ethnic stereotypes, labels & cliches they have been lumbered with (the geek/nerd, being good at piano & maths, being perceived as the same as native Asians when their identities are far more multi-faceted).  

The film also features an appearance of MC Jin, who was dubbed as the 'Asian Eminem', & is noted for being the first prominent Asian American rapper signed to a major label, who made his name with outfit, Ruff Ryders alongside fellow members, DMX and Eve. His solo effort single, ''Learn Chinese'' failed to light up the charts, however. 

Whilst documentaries on hip- hop, rap, fashion, culture include sociological perspectives and how by rapping about their experiences relate to being African American, Black and being brought up poor and living in the ghetto, Bad Rap focuses on the rapper's work and for me, that, alone, just didn't make this film more sufficient as I'd wanted it to be. By avoiding and not tackling subjects such as the racial tensions between the Asian American and African American hip hop communities, racial identity, misogyny & even coming to grips with the broader issue of the lack of Asian American stars in popular entertainment through film, TV, music in general, Salima Koroma's execution implies this acts more of an exposure of their talents. 

Final Verdict:

In the end, I didn't gain a deep-seated insight into their frustrations and hurdles they have to contend with in the music industry. With a subject matter that should have been ripe for exploration, much like MTV, Bad Rap is nothing more than a gateway to plug an artist's music. 


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