Bad Rap - Awkwafina

Bad Rap – Documentary Review

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Summary

A fascinating look at the cross-cultural clash of four Asian-American rappers looking to succeed in the world of rap and hip hop.

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Bad Rap comes to Video on Demand (VOD) this Tuesday, May 23, 2017 on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play and Vudu.

Since the 70’s hip-hop has made global stars of its finest artist. Those artists are predominantly black, white and brown. Bad Rap follows four Asian-American rappers in their quest to perfect their art and as they try to break into a world that that treats them as outsiders.

Release Date: May 23, 2017
Director: Salima Koroma
Cast: Dumbfoundead, Awkwafina, Rekstizzy, Lyricks, Jin the MC

A documentary, like Bad Rap, is hard to put together. The director, Salima Koroma, masterfully chooses the most pressing topics, present the state of Asian rap and provide insights into the melding of Asian and hip hop culture.

Bap Rap follows four Asian rappers: Dumbfoundead, Awkwafina, Rekstizzy, Lyricks. All at various stages of their careers. It looks at their careers and the challenges they face as Asian breaking into a world that does not necessarily know what to do with them.

The movie starts with the most controversial topics when two cultures collide. The first being Asian in the world of hip hop. Are these artists trying to be an individual rap artist or are they simply Asian-version of rap. Is just enough to bring Asian references into a song or will audiences slap on the label of “Asian” and dismiss the music as second-rate.

Culture appropriate is the next controversy addressed. The idea that hip hop music is an African-inspired form of music and that Asians are trying to make money from an artform that is not there’s to take. Most fascinating is an argument between singer Rekstizzy and producer Jaeki Cho. The two battle over the appropriateness of Rekstizzy’s new music video, where he sprays ketchup and mustard on the posteriors of his Black background dancers. Is it culturally offensive or is it freedom of speech?

Bad Rap also spotlights female singer, Awkwafina, who managed to create her own style of hip-hop-influenced style and music. She created a unique laid-back style of rap and successfully broke into the mainstream. Even with her success, her contemporaries question if her success came, because it’s “easier” to book Asian females over Asian males.

Bad Rap also looks at other pertinent topics of Asians in the arts. For many of these artists, they had immigrant parents, who came to the United States and worked hard so their children would have a better life. Rap was not the life they imagined. For the artist, Lyricks, who comes into conflict with his deeply religious background. He struggles to maintain a mainstream rap career while struggling over his Christian upbringing.

Director Salima Koroma does a few things that are fascinating. She allows mainstream bookers and producers to view the work of the four artists. They give their honest and insightful opinions on the crew’s talent and potential. She also documents Dumbfoundead’s return to his roots of battle rap as he comes face-to-face with celebrity rapper, Conceited. Finally, Koroma jumps forward two years to see how each artist progressed over time.

Full Disclosure: I am not a fan of rap or hip hop, but I am an Asian-American. For me, Bad Rap excels in documenting the struggle of Asian-Americans in finding their individual voices as they blend in with the world they live and the culture they came from. It’s a story of individuals who find that hip hop is the only way they can express who they are and what they experience. It’s the story of these individuals finding meaning in a world they hope sees them as a serious artist and not a novelty.

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