Issa Rae is back with something new…something for the summertime.
As her first post-Insecure project, the forthcoming series Rap Sh!t follows two estranged high school friends from Miami, Shawna (Aida Osman) and Mia (KaMillion), who reunite to form a rap group– and hilarity (and drama) ensues. Osman also serves as a writer on the series. The show marks the first major role for both Osman and Love & Hip Hop alum/rapper KaMillion.
Rae is the creator, a writer on the show and an executive producer. Insecure alum Syreeta Singleton was tapped as showrunner. They brought on Yung Miami and JT of City Girls as co-executive producers to bring the true-to-life Miami rap feel to the show.
Ahead of its premiere on HBO Max, Shadow and Act spoke with Rae and Singleton about the inspiration behind the show, her love of women in rap, and how she hopes the show contributes to the narrative of women in rap today.
Issa Rae’s day one fans knows she’s a fan of rap and can spit a few bars without question.
Even before Insecure, her character Jay on her YouTube comedy Awkward Black Girl had suppressed dreams of being a rapper. Obviously, fans loved Issa’s “mirror bae” rap persona on the HBO comedy.
Rae says Rap Sh!t is an extension of mirror bae on Insecure, but it came about more as an observer of watching the conversations regarding women in hip hop today.
“As a fan watching this time of female rappers and seeing them thrive in a way that I have not seen, so many of them thrive in the same way since maybe the 90s. And even then, they were pitted against each other. So that inspired me,” she told us. “And also like seeing so many male critics criticize this time in female rap and then the subject matter that female rappers choose to rap about and also observing that. There is a very specific type of female rapper that gains prominence at this time, that gains mainstream success, and what that means. And so setting a show on that world and watching people watching two young women come up was like, ‘Ooh, I can’t wait to write.’’
An interesting thing about the show is the storytelling device of phone screens and how many of the scenes are told through social media platforms via Instagram live. The decision to do so was intentional on Singleton's part.
Because social media is life, it was only fitting for the show to have it as an integral part of the storyline.
“Social media is something like so many of us use find ourselves sucked into it on a daily, getting our news from it, keeping up with friends and discovering new music. And so because these artists, they’re young women who are users of social media. And they’re also they also promote themselves via social media,” she explained. “When we meet Shawna, she’s trying to get her own music out there. And we have Mia, who uses social media to promote herself in different ways and her different types of jobs. So it just kind of it felt natural and it felt like something that I felt like an extension of what we’re already doing as people, as consumers of art.”
Watch the full interview below in which they dive more into the show, the characters and more: