5 Lessons We Learned From Season 1 Of 'Rap Sh!t'
Culture & Entertainment

5 Lessons We Learned From Season 1 Of 'Rap Sh!t'

If you’re like most Issa Rae- and good TV-loving humans with a pulse, you probably ran, not walked, to catch HBO Max’s Rap Sh!t. On top of celebrating Black women in their most authentic essence, the show highlights Florida's rarely seen yet indulgent side. As a Florida-born and raised woman who loves her Cuban sandwiches, slowed-down music, rims, bass, and never-ending sunshine, seeing Rap Sh!t pay homage to my state has been like receiving an overdue love letter in high school from the guy you’ve been crushing on for weeks.

Rap Sh!t follows the unlikely yet revived friendship between Mia (KaMillion) and Shawna (Aida Osman) as they dip their perfectly pedicured toes into the world of a rap duo. The two, who belong to different worlds in the same city, in Miami, Florida, find themselves randomly paired together after connecting on Instagram and soon are drunkenly creating a viral hit called “Seduce & Scheme.” Mia, a single mother and 9-to-5 influencer with more followers than funds, finds herself intrigued by the possibility of doing the unthinkable: being a rapper. Shawna, on the other hand, is a semi-established “woke” rapper with a seemingly stalled career and a fraud scheme or two up her hotel reception sleeves.

The two are different - as most great connections and friendships are - but they make it work. They see the magic. They understand that what they have is rare. While they wade through the world of pimps-turned-managers, toxic ass boyfriends and mothers, and deferred dreams, they find that making it is the easy part; maintaining it is where it gets tricky.

Alicia Vera/HBO Max

As usual, Issa Rae authentically gets the stories of Black women right. With Insecure, we saw it come to life in California; in Rap Sh!t, we see the Black Girl Magic in the Sunshine state away from reality TV. For far too long, Florida’s music scene has been considered gimmicky hip-hop by the mainstream - with artists like Major Nine, Tom G, Tokyo Jetz, and even the show’s star KaMillion - staring at us, waiting for us to “get” it. Hip-hop in Florida is just as monumental as in any borough in NY or any ‘hood in Cali.

There’s more than the beaches and nightclubs; the show represents the duality of how something appears and the underlying beautiful spots we often don’t take the time to see. Similarly, the duality of being a Black woman in America is that, wherever you reside, and whoever you stand beside, you’ll always have the weight of working towards a dream while ensuring your superwoman cape doesn’t strangle you simultaneously. Rap Sh!t gets all the things right about being caught in the middle of doing everything for others, by others’ standards, and with everyone else in mind at the expense of your destiny.

While we sit on pins and needles waiting for season 2 of Rap Sh!t, we can rest assured that the five lessons we learned from the show will live rent-free in our heads until then. And if you haven't binged the season already, be aware that some light spoilers are ahead.

1. Be a better friend.

Alicia Vera/HBO Max

First things first, Shawna is a questionable, if not bad, friend. While I’m not saying Mia is perfect, there’s a layer of superiority that Shawna knowingly carries around with all interactions she has. From claiming to be the “pen” behind the entire group while belittling Mia to nothing more than branding, to taking it upon herself to be more focused on her boyfriend than her business (while leaving Mia to do all the work, which she doesn’t get credit for); it’s not hard to see why the two had a disconnect. In life, we have to understand that, as Oprah, we rarely meet our Gayle; so when we do, we have to work like hell to be the type of friend to them that we’d want in our corner. The connection and trust you have for someone to give them the title of “friend” are more understated than we acknowledge.

Part of me wonders if there is a conflict in how Shawna and Mia treat friendship because they’ve received friendship on opposite ends of the spectrum in the past. One from the outside looking in and the other from the inside looking out. Either way, check on your strong friends, your weak friends, your rich friends, and your poor friends. Being a good friend is as simple as showing up consistently. This season, we saw Mia showing up more for Shawna than vice versa. It could be because, secretly, Mia was searching for someone who would see her as more than the loud, popular influencer she is. She wanted someone to finally see her for her.

Still, consistently we see Shawna put herself and her ego over her friendship, her group, and the promises they made to each other. Now, Shawna has to pay the price for it by losing the authenticity of a true friendship. Point blank: Romantic relationships aren’t the only relationships that deserve your attention. Your friendships are like any other relationship in your life; they deserve to be watered, prioritized, and nurtured.

2. Chase those dreams.

Alicia Vera/HBO Max

I’m not gonna hold you long on this one, sis. The known dream for one (Shawna) and the unknown dream for another (Mia) came together by simply stepping out of their comfort zones. Imagine if Shawna kept her nose turned up at the “Seduce & Scheme” track or if Mia had politely turned the opportunity to freestyle down because it wasn’t her “thing.” Too many of us stay in places where we’re comfortable simply because we’re scared of what happens if we fly.

Be more fearful of the magic you’re leaving behind if you DON’T fly. Chase those dreams. Do all the things. Even if every inch of your body trembles. Have something to reflect on and say, “I’m glad I at least tried.”

3. Pivot!

Alicia Vera/HBO Max

Shawna starts the season off as a “woke” but not watched rapper. Sure her rhymes have bars that would likely impress someone on a BET Cypher, but beyond that…nobody’s checking for it, and she knows it. Sometimes, you have to be flexible about HOW you get to your destination (within reason) without sacrificing the journey itself. There is so many layers of who you are that exist and the intersection of change and more change. Sometimes the pivot is truly your purpose, shifting gears. With Mia, they laughed and doubted her transforming from an Only Fans model and influencer into a solid rap artist.

Both ladies leave us with an important reminder of just how important it is to be flexible and open to change. That’s not to say you need to abandon your dreams, but it is to say that sometimes the vehicle to get to your destination isn’t quite what you picture in the Lyft app in your mind. Be open to change. Be open to the pivot. Be as aggressive about both.

4. Don't be a Reina Reign.

Alicia Vera/HBO Max

Be you. Do you. Authentically. Even though Shawna was probably less likely to throw on Trick Daddy before hanging with Mia, that music, that beat, that feeling is in her Miami-born DNA. So she’s able to bring the pieces of her that aren’t the traditional sides seen in Miami and fuse them with the parts of Miami that make it one of the most intoxicating cities in the world.

Then there are Reina Reigns of the world. The ones who will code switch their way out of their blessings and purpose simply because it sells. Or because people like it. Or because people will click. Peeling back all the layers of who they are will reveal the truth, but the mask has to get hot and heavy on the surface. Be you. Do you. Love you, sis. ‘Nuff said.

5. Say bye to toxic men.

Alicia Vera/HBO Max

Cliff is trash. There, I said it. As women, we can sometimes find ourselves clinging to what was for fear of what maybe-kinda-sorta-may-never-be-again. Stop blocking your blessings by holding onto dead weight, begging to be let go. Also, when someone shows you who they are - believe them. I think at one time Cliff (Devon Terrell) genuinely loved Shawna, as long as she fit into the box of what he deemed her most valuable. If a man makes you choose between the deliciously honey-drenched versions of yourself, don’t hesitate to decide for him.

If you can’t embrace me in all of my Caresha excellence, don’t expect to ever witness my Michelle O. magic.

The moment she stepped out of that box he’d placed her in, he began to treat a diamond like an empty roll of toilet paper; sadly, Shawna allowed it. There are so many relationships in my past that have me wishing I would’ve done things differently, but the reality is no one could’ve told me what was toxic until I was detoxed from it enough to see it. Still, we know when the ones closest to us hurt us in the ways they know will penetrate us the most: words.

It’s easier said than done, but you deserve better than toxicity in any relationship in your life - especially the one you lay up with while they minimize your greatness—hard pass. But don’t worry; they’ll spin the block once they realize they can’t find your replica. That’s not your business, though. Focus on your focus and love who (shows and proves) that they love you right back.

Rap Sh!t was a fantastic journey into our layered and often complex relationships with our friends, love, and dreams. Whether you’re chasing one or all three simultaneously, you deserve all the good sh!t - no seduce and scheme, necessary.

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Featured image by Alicia Vera/HBO Max



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