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*Warning: spoilers for the plot of Nope below!*

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#IssaRaeHive, we eatin! Her latest HBO series Rap Sh!t premiered last night and we'll be recapping every episode on xoNecole. This week, we got the treat of episodes one and two in the same night, so let's get into the hour-long premiere of "Something for the City" and "Something for the Girls."

The series starts off giving us location, location, location! An image of earth from space zooms in to show us Miami, Florida, a special flavor of the Black South, but our first introduction to it is through Instagram Stories. People are partying, people are on vacation, all turning up for the cameras. That's when we meet our main character Shawna (Aida Osman), a hotel clerk checking in a group of white women having a bachelorette party. When she's immediately recognized by another hotel guest as being a rapper whose protest anthem went viral a few years back, we're taken out of the Instagram Stories filter and into real life, and it's not a party. Shawna is stuck working at the Plymouth Hotel instead of being paid for her music.

The hotel guest thinks Shawna gave up on rapping and encourages her to keep going, but she assures him, she's still rapping and tries to play a video for him as proof. He's not feeling her "Women's History Month" rhymes and politely backs away, showing us why Shawna's had to resort to hotel clerking in the first place. Her conscious lyrics, baggy clothes, masked face and giant afro are just not resonating with the masses. Like her co-worker Maurice tells her, "You always complaining about being slept on, but you the one putting them to sleep!" That might be why her friend from college who works at Spotify is ducking her calls and texts.

Meanwhile her ex-producer Francois Boom (played hilariously by the Twitter-infamous Jaboukie Young-White) is making big money producing a white woman rapper who got her face and body done to look more "ethnic". We learn Shawna had dropped out of college to work with Francois but he ended up putting her on the back burner to focus on white artists who want to culturally appropriate. Seeing Francois burning money on IG because he's "so rich" prompts Shawna to go Live and announce her retirement from rap, since nobody wants to listen to a woman rapper who's not showing ass and titties.

A FaceTime call from Mia (KaMillion) makes Shawna think it must be a butt-dial. The high school friends haven't spoken in years. But Mia assures her it's no accident, she's a make-up artist working for that bachelorette party at Shawna's hotel and needs someone to watch her daughter since her kid's father Lamont (RJ Cyler) didn't pick her up like he was supposed to. Shawna helps out and Mia promises to pay her back with a favor. The two have gone in different directions over the years -- Mia's also a sex worker who went from clubs to OnlyFans - and they don't agree on using your body to make money or sell a message, but there's a hint of love there.

Frustrated over the day's events, Shawna picks a fight with her long-distance boo, Cliff, who's in law school in New York and letting one of his study buddies flirt with him. She asks Mia if she wants to get drinks. Mia's also upset over Lamont not pulling his weight, so she agrees to get drinks with Mia. After they get drunk together, they go on IG Live and freestyle a song based on their catchphrase from high school: Seduce and Scheme. Shawna wakes up the next morning to a flood of likes and comments like her music has never seen. Though her boyfriend texts her to make up for the fight, Shawna FaceTime's Mia instead, ready to form a rap group. There's only one thing she's excited about, and that's making music that connects.

In episode two, "Something for the Girls," Mia and Lamont are taking shots at each other on IG Live while Mia's at her third job and now their daughter is getting in trouble at school. Shawna's steady trying to get her friend Jill that works at Spotify to repost her music, but Jill's being shady. Meanwhile Shawna's boyfriend Cliff finds out Mia does sex work and gives Shawna misogynistic hell for it, worried about his image, since he wants to be the next Barack. Shawna "can be Melania," his friends joke.

But Mia and Shawna are determined to make this Rap Sh!t work. They link up to record in Shawna's homemade studio (which she got from stealing people's credit card numbers at the Plymouth), but Mia is not feeling Shawna's rapping from the perspective of Sallie Mae. "Bitch, is you rappin bout student loans?!" Best line of the episode. They're just not on the same page with the vision and go their separate ways again.

Mia has Lamont on FaceTime as they conference with their daughter's teacher to find out that she needs to work on her anger, but is also really smart and her teacher wants to put her in a space camp. Mia and Lamont bond over how special their daughter is and how different their lives could've been if they had a teacher like their daughter's. He also cash apps her the money for the rent and they're back cool again.

Mia looks into Shawna's old rap videos and gets a better understanding of her perspective. She meets up with her at the Plymouth and Shawna explains why she doesn't want to dress sexy and covers up. ""My art is not for the male gaze!" Shawna says. "Girl, what the gay niggas got to do with it?" Mia replies and I fell out. In what may be the best non-rhyming rap battle ever on screen, Shawna and Mia have it out over Black women in hip hop and whether we're in a Bad Bitch Renaissance or if the women are all controlled by some powerful men crafting their image and writing their lyrics behind the scenes. Points were made on both sides, but Mia wins out when she says, "You letting these niggas control you. You so worried about making art for them, they got you in a hoodie and fucking mask. Bitch, we in Miami, it's hot as fuck!"

Shawna can't even respond on that one! They head back to the studio and make a fun record about seducing and scheming, with no men controlling them. Shawna is actually so empowered by their rap session that she finally has FaceTime sex with her boyfriend even though he does NOT DESERVE IT!

Catch us next week for Ep. 3!

MORE BARS:

Tasha from Insecure (Dominique Perry) says "What did Maya Angelou say? 'When someone shows you who they are, remember dat.'"

"A broke nigga have my pussy like a bag of chips, just dryyyyy."

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In 2018, Miami-bred rap duo City Girls (JT and Yung Miami) dropped the mixtape Period, featuring a song detailing their rise to success: “Rap Shit.”

My own daddy said I wouldn't be shit / I looked at him, like we gon' see bitch / I'm up now, I don't give a fuck about my past bitch / I don't really fuck with this rap shit

The track has all the elements of City Girls music: a braggadocio anthem for the girls who are defying the odds and making it in a fake, male dominated industry on their own terms, with your daddy’s money. Even as they share their real hardships, the mood is fun, something for the summertime, no matter the season.

Creator and executive producer Issa Rae captured the mood and the mission of this song and the City Girls as a whole and turned it into TV magic with her latest HBO hit series Rap Sh!t.

Set in Miami, Florida, and very loosely based on the show's executive producers City Girls, Rap Sh!t follows Shawna (Aida Osman) and Mia (KaMillion), two former high school friends who grew apart and find themselves back in each other’s orbit when life doesn’t go as planned.

Now a hotel clerk, Shawna’s rapper dreams have stalled as her conscious lyrics and incessant need to cover up her face and body keep her music and style from resonating widely. Mia turned to sex work to support her young daughter, but her large social media fanbase doesn’t always translate into the dollars she needs to make ends meet. After a drunken night of reconnecting, Shawna and Mia decide to form a rap group.

Issa may have come to prominence being relatably awkward and insecure, but in Rap Sh!t we see a creator standing fully in her confidence, using social media as a cinematic device to expose layers of her characters. So much could go wrong with switching between IG lives, stories, FaceTime and IRL to tell the story of these Black women and how they perform vs. who they really are. But under the leadership of showrunner Syreeta Singleton, the transitions are smooth, and the device is not an indictment of the characters' (and the viewers!) social media obsession, but a compelling revelation.

With Issa's Raedio label serving up the soundtrack for the series, the music becomes a character itself, revealing even more about where Mia and Shawna are in their lives. Their first hit song, “Seduce and Scheme” sums up the duo perfectly. While Mia knows how to get a man to break some bread off, Shawna’s also got some tricks up her sleeve that might not be totally legal. The two are in survival mode and become each other’s life rafts. Their rebuilt friendship is the heart of the show and works because Osman and KaMillion ooze chemistry.

Osman, who also writes for the show, brings sincerity and vulnerability to Shawna who may be oblivious to her own self-righteousness but has a heart of gold that makes you root for her, even as she’s stealing people’s credit cards at work. And real-life rapper KaMillion was a reality TV star on Love and Hip Hop: Miami and the “Queen of Twerk Music,” but the multi-faceted talent moves like a seasoned vet through Mia’s hilarious one-liners and heart-breaking desperation.

READ OUR RAP SH!T EP. 1 & 2 RECAP: BAD BITCH RENAISSANCE HERE

In a show full of rising stars, Jonica Booth stands out as pimp and club-promoter Chastity, the self-proclaimed Duke of Miami, who tries to hustle her way into being Shawna and Mia’s manager. The always excellent RJ Cyler rounds out the cast as Mia’s baby daddy Lamont, whose immaturity makes him seem like more of a deadbeat than he intends.

Devon Terrell’s Cliff serves as the foil to Lamont as Shawna’s law school-future politician boyfriend. But this is a show about the complexities of Black life and Black love, and it shatters the stereotypes of what makes for a good partner. By episode six, Cyler has an opportunity to flex his charm, and does not disappoint.

It’s in that sixth episode (directed by Insecure alum Amy Aniobi and the last of the eight-episode first season given to press) when it clicks for me why I love this show. Yes, it’s fun and laugh-out-loud funny from the jump and the characters are consistently full and beautifully Black and specific to Miami – but there’s something else that’s crystallized toward the latter end of the series.

Episodes five and six take us through some serious issues that Black women face; in other hands, bringing this subject matter to screen could have done some damage to its Black audience. But if we know anything about Issa Rae, it’s that she’s rooting for everybody Black. In her and Singleton's hands, the trauma explored on screen is authentic without retraumatizing the Black audience for the white gaze.

Though I haven’t seen the final two episodes yet, if they cover any of the real-life drama the City Girls have publicly faced, Shawna and Mia might be in for some serious heartbreak. But there is joy in knowing that this team of writers cares about the viewers as much as its characters. Like all of Issa’s work, we love it because it loved us first.

Rap Sh!t premieres on HBO July 21 at 9 p.m. EST.'

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