Get an Exclusive First Look at Issa Rae’s New Comedy “Rap Sh!t”

TV powerhouse Issa Rae’s second comedy series, titled Rap Sh!t, Couldn’t have come at a better time. The upcoming series follows two somewhat estranged best friends, Shawna (Aida Osman) and Mia (KaMillion), as they decide to start a rap group. And while the show is a comedy, it captures the real challenges faced by women wanting to break into the male-dominated hip-hop scene.

Much like Rae’s breakout series, Precarious, Rap shit! is all about the music (Miami hip-hop stars City Girls serve as co-executive producers), but it’s also about tackling the challenges of young black adulthood. Between hilarious scenes of Shawna and Mia conceptualizing tracks for a potential mixtape, the show depicts the ebbs and flows of a years-long friendship.

Rae says that Rap shit! developed from his original screenplay for Precarious. At first she wanted to focus more on her character, Issa Dee’s secret desire to be a superstar rapper, but then she realized the story of a rapper on the verge of balancing life, love and the industry was a concept that could stand on its own.

“I think it’s such a unique time in hip-hop, especially when it comes to female rappers, because there’s such an abundance, and it doesn’t feel like they’re all competing against each other. with each other. I’m a kid in the 90s, and there was always a tendency to put two women against each other,” says Rae, who wrote the show’s pilot episode. BAZAAR.com exclusively. “It feels like we’re in a time where there’s such a supportive environment now because of this abundance. All of that, combined with my own upcoming story, became the next story I wanted to tell.”

Ensuring this new cast reflected the culture and vibrancy of Miami was a big priority for Rae, who describes the process of finding her two lead roles as long and daunting.

“Because the show is based in Miami, we were looking for authenticity above all else. When KaMillion appeared on screen, the first thing she said during her video audition was, ‘I’m MIA and MIA. , that’s me,” with her tiny Florida accent. Then, of course, seeing her perform, we knew we’d found [Mia]. She embodied everything we were looking for in that character,” Rae says. “She’s actually a rapper in real life, which scared me a little at first, because I wanted Mia to be her own person. I don’t want people to necessarily look at it and make everything feel familiar.”

Aida Osman (left) and KaMillion (right) as Shawna and Mia in HBO Max’s Rap shit!.

HBO Max

Shawna, played by Aida Osman, came to Rae through a less traditional route: through the show’s writers’ room. “Casting Shawna was a much longer process. There were so many elements she had to have. Some actors would be great, but they couldn’t rap or you wouldn’t believe them. Some of them would be great rappers , but they just couldn’t pick up the nuances of Shawna or weren’t really funny,” Rae said. “[But Aida] was a funny and self-deprecating but confident rapper at the same time. Thanks to Aida, we found out who Shawna is. We actually hired Aida as a writer before casting her on the show, but we just couldn’t get her out of our minds, and after the chemistry test between her and KaMillion, it was a no-brainer.”

Balancing time behind the scenes and on screen hasn’t been difficult for Osman, who was previously an editor for HBO. Betty and a writer for Netflix Big mouth. In fact, it turned out to be an enjoyable challenge.

It’s such a unique time in hip-hop, especially when it comes to female rappers.

“I love [doing both]. TV writing is ultimately my favorite thing in the world, and to be able to turn those stories into something fun and brilliant is amazing. It’s comedy, it’s storytelling, it’s music, it’s beautiful bitches!” says Osman BAZAAR. “It’s interesting with Shawna – I give her a lot of my personal stories. In the writers room, we access our own personal stories and give them to the characters just by nature to have conversations about our lives and what’s going on. is happening in the culture around us. We can have real conversations about black femininity and control as a young creative, and that’s beautiful for me as a young creative and a black woman. I can do a lot of self-exploration through the show, and healing and investigating my own life. It’s like constant therapy.

For KaMillion, seeing herself in the character of Mia helped boost her performance. After all, she’s no stranger to the music business, having previously worked with Rihanna, Missy Elliott and Diddy, and even won a Grammy for her work on HER’s self-titled album.

“I found healing within myself just by having the opportunity to navigate Mia’s life,” she says. “I’m just trying to find your place in life and do whatever you need to do to make ends meet, without being ashamed of it! Every time I’ve tried to break up [me and Mia], in the next episode, there was always something that related to my fucking real life. We were making a scene and I was like, ‘Damn, I’ve been through this shit before!’ So that’s been a big help, because when you feel something that you’ve been through before, you can take those things that you’ve learned and bring that shit to life and make it believable.”

issa rae hbo max rap shit

HBO Max

In a sense, Rap shit! serves as a snapshot of women in hip-hop right now, where sexuality, social media, and street smarts are all intertwined. Social media is crucial in the series; it not only permeates the personal lives of the characters, but offers them a pathway to success. Text messages, DMs, Instagram Live sessions, and even Twitch segments are all integrated into the show’s storylines.

“When I think of Cardi B, I discovered her through friends who sent me her videos on social media before she was a rapper, before Love & Hip-Hop. And then being able to watch her journey and see people fall in love with her and root for her, and so root for her falling like that – it’s so interesting to me,” Rae says. “Megan Thee Stallion too. I didn’t become a fan of her until I saw the gas station twerking video she did. When I think of so many female rappers we see today, and even the music industry as a whole, social media is such an important part of that rise. Being famous during this time is so dependent on what you post. The question of how authentic we really are, knowing that people are looking at us, really fascinates me. I don’t think this era of female rap exists without social media.”

issa rae hbo max rap shit

HBO Max

Ultimately, Osman and KaMillion both see the series as a story about the exhilaration of pursuing your dreams and the sacrifices that come with pursuing success. “Finding ways to make money and be successful and become a brand is what a lot of young black women are facing right now. All women, really! Learning how to be a business, especially if you’re a young creative, is something that comes with the job now,” Osman says. “It’s not just about the art anymore. It is also a matter of commercial aspect. How can you sell yourself? How can you actually get people to listen to your music? How do you get people to appreciate your art? And what does that mean? It’s a matter of struggle, but it’s a matter of succeeding through that struggle and being able to redefine happiness once you get it.

Rap shit! only debuts this summer, but Rae and her two stars are already anticipating the reception. “It’s kind of like my second album – I consider goofy black Daughter like my mixtape and Precarious my first album. So with this one, there’s pressure, but I’m really excited about it. I hope people have an open mind, it’s such a fun show,” Rae said. “The fact that it falls in the summer suits those characters and that story. I hope it makes people laugh, and I hope anyone who’s a creator, entrepreneur, or just a music fan can relate.”

As for Osman and KaMillion, they admit that while they’re thrilled to have the public in on Shawna and Mia’s rambunctious adventures, they really only care about one person’s opinion. Speaking for both of them, KaMillion jokes, “I just want to make Issa proud.”

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