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EgoTrip’s ‘Miss Rap Supreme’: Episode One

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Reality shows are generally thought of as some awful extension of the “MySpace” generation–as if every young generation isn’t self-obsessed– but the main appeal of reality shows is actually how communal they are. Anybody can enjoy them. For example, where I work, the division amongst co-workers falls squarely between people who watch ‘Lost’ and people who don’t. About all people like me, who don’t watch the show, can do is say, “Oh sorry, I don’t watch that show” or a half-hearted “…maybe I’ll borrow the DVDs and catch-up…”. If one doesn’t like a TV show there’s just no place to meet on it. With reality TV however, anybody can sit down and pretty much figure it out in a few minutes and start talking about it, because the characters are at least kinda real and do real things, shitty and nice (more often shitty) and so, even the dude at work you have nothing in common with, can still discuss why so-and-so is an asshole or why so-and-so isn’t because it’s like talking shit on your co-workers about which co-worker’s an asshole and which isn’t. There’s nothing to understand or interpret on a reality show: It’s all right there.

Okay, okay, okay, so snobs who dismiss reality television as trash or as some kind of further example of the devolution of “our culture” can’t enjoy them, but those fuckers need to put their Baudrillard books down anyways. The rest of us can sit down, well aware of the fact that what we’re watching isn’t reality–but it’s not fake either– enjoy it and even discuss it.

Last year, my friends and I got into the ‘White Rapper Show’ because it has egotrip’s name on it, was supposed to be about rap, and looked like an entertaining freak-show to kill an hour watching and five more over-analyzing. And it was. But the weirder thing was how my fifteen year-old sister and in-their-forties parents got into the show as well. They didn’t know and don’t care who Lord Jamar or Just Blaze are and they didn’t need to because there was this weird drama going on and a snarky but universal-enough edge to the humor that made everyone laugh.

Like a lot of really good things, ‘egotrip’s White Rapper Show’ was really smart and really stupid and it appealed to really smart and really stupid people in equal parts, and that is why it was popular. It was neither lowest-common denominator, nor was it an all-out hip-hop nerd insider jerk-off. It knew it was a reality show, had accepted that from the beginning and tried to just be a good reality show, not a show embarrassed to be a reality show. So now, the show’s back as ‘egotrip’s Miss Rap Supreme’ and it’s pretty good and it’s at least got me back for next week to see how everything evolves (or devolves…).

I started this with a little rant and some hints on the over-discussed nature of “reality” on reality shows because what’s so striking about this first episode of ‘Miss Rap Supreme’ is just how real the cast is and by real, I basically mean weird or unspectacular, but that’s a good thing. For example, Chiba reminds me of the very nice but clearly-weathered chick that helped Monique buy some NIKE Outbreaks at Downtown Locker Room earlier today. Her ability to be really concise and undramatic about the car accident that fucked-up her eye for life, is used as neither a melodramatic hook for her character nor as comedic relief. Later in the episode, she’s shown always wearing some pretty-awesome and if-she-ever-got-famous-could-be-her-signature sunglasses, but we’re also well aware that it’s to hide her one weirdo eyeball. Maybe it’s going too far (or maybe it’s because she’s got this pretty great ‘Strawberry Letter 23′-sampling song on her Myspace), but this weird, sort of awesomely stylish rap chick named Chiba with a fucked-up eye, makes me think of the time of weirdo rappers like Slick Rick or Bushwick Bill. Even a cliched “character” cast member like D.A.B, who fits a kind of weird post-Fergie stereotype of the stupidly innocent, ex-drug addict, white hip-hop girl, is sympathetic, especially once the moronically-named Nicky2States keeps harassing her. It’s hard not to sympathize with D.A.B, she takes the “crackhead” insults she’s probably heard her whole life pretty well…

Creatively, the choice not to simply repeat the concept of last season’s is wise because already, you can see that this season’s cast watched last season’s show and so, switching up the focus and smaller details of the show works. Around a certain season of say, The Real World, they’d all get there and be like “Okay…so who’s the gay one” or “I guess I’m the black guy!” and it just further hindered the pseudo-reality of it all. On the way to their house, Lionezz mentions that she “hopes” it won’t be like last year’s house (back to the “reality” tip for second, how do you cast a German chick that’s not hot at all? That’s part of the show’s genius) and there’s just a general comfort with the curveballs sent their way because they know what to expect, having watched or at least heard about last season.

I do find it strange that the sort of “hook” of the show is how in the past few years, female rappers have been more well-known for their drama and/or inability to live up to musical hype than their music because it sort of side-steps the more complex question of how female rappers fit into the uh, “rap game” since well, there was a rap game. You can mention Salt N’ Pepa and Roxanne Shante and Monie Love and other early pioneers,but they’re still the exceptions. ‘White Rapper Show’ took on the maligned status of the white MC with a great balance of satire and genuine sympathy head-on, while here, the jokes and stuff us rap fans talk about when it comes to female rappers don’t seem to be hovering around as much. In part, that’s because the reality of the female rapper is they just sort of suck and no one seems to know why. It’s the same way female stand-up comedians aren’t funny. It’s not the simple frat-boy thing of “girls aren’t funny” just as it’s not the pseudo-thug toughness of “girls just can’t rap”, it’s some weird, pretty complicated thing related to tons of stuff that hopefully, the show will touch on in future episodes.

The season seems to be a little more sensitive to these female rappers than last season was to the white rappers and I hope that’s more a symptom of there being enough drama between cast members than some kind of playing nice-nice with the girls. The need for a female co-host just makes sense because the dynamic would be weird if it were Serch and Prince Paul clowning a bunch of broads for an hour every week, but Yo-Yo is way too polite and in some ways, just too much of an obscure figure to be a part of the show. The fact that she wasn’t even sold to the audience that may not know of her (not even a mention of being connected to Ice Cube) and the relative lack of nerdy rap references makes me a little worried that this season will be a little more conventional. The all-female cast of essentially, busted crazy women is moving it into ‘Flavor of Love’ territory but as I suggested, even at its worst, it’s only like a quarter of the way there.

In fact, a good way to frame this first episode would be to contrast it with ‘Flavor of Love’ which takes all of that show’s women, pounces on their eccentricities and flaws and then frames the show around them for maxiumum (let’s be real here) “haha I’m laughing at crazy niggers on TV” effect. The fact that ‘Miss Rap Supreme’ literally follows episodes of ‘Flavor of Love’ and the fact that the brilliantly corrective egotrip dudes are making this show, make me think it really is designed as a kind of antidote to the awfulness that is ‘Flavor of Love’. On one show we see a member of one of the greatest and most significant rap groups of all-time clowning himself beyond belief, one another show (if it’s anything like last season) we’ll see old rap legends giving advice and generally coming out looking pretty good.

Unlike ‘Flavor of Love’ as well, the fact that a talent and craft frames the ‘Miss Rap Supreme’ prevents any sense of exploitation from taking over; characters are not rewarded for their negative actions on ‘Miss Rap Supreme’. Take the inclusion of Khia, aka the bitch who sing that weird ‘My Neck, My Back’ song, not as any kind of commentator or co-host but as a competitor. She’s clearly there because it’s like instant drama and division to have a contestant who’s already had a career, but it’s really great the way pretty much everyone is like “fuck this asshole” and Ms. Cherry’s “one-hit wonder” chant is pretty great. It’s probably a stretch, but there’s even a kind of like visual analogue between Khia and actual female rapper Lauryn Hill: Khia sort of looks like this grotesque version of Lauryn Hill.

Maybe it was because it would’ve just been too predictable or maybe it’s because the drama will be good for the show at least for another episode of so, but I think Khia should’ve gotten the boot. Lionezz is pretty awful, but she’s really genuine and the line about how even with subtitles you wouldn’t catch what she was saying was at least kinda hot, while Khia’s just an idiot. And then, you look at these people’s MySpaces and it’s revealed that Lionezz isn’t some kind of like sincere, German rap-naif, she’s just dumb and foreign and opportunistic: According to her MySpace, she appeared in the video for Shaquille O’Neal’s ‘Shoot Pass Slam’…the only time you see any shots of girls– presumably because Shaq’s these weird manchild not interested in girls, right?– is like 1:16 in, but I don’t think that’s her…and while you’re at it, check-out a quick cameo of Dennis Scott because 90s basketball gives me the same feeling as 90s rap…

One last thing…don’t sleep on Lady Twist. Her obvious Twista meets Bone-Thugs midwest flow is well, obvious, but I’ve got a good feeling about her.

egotrip’s ‘Miss Rap Supreme’ is on Vh1 Mondays at 10pm (eastern time)…

Written by Brandon

April 15th, 2008 at 4:45 am

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