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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Bad Rap is a 2016 documentary centered on four Asian American rappers trying to take their careers to the next level. There is constant use of "f--k" and its variations as well as occasional use of the "N" word. During the filming of a video, one of the performers is shown spraying ketchup and mustard on twerking dancers. Another performer has a song called "My Vadge." Alcohol and beer drinking. Marijuana smoking. During rap battles, rappers who compete against Asian American rappers frequently employ racial stereotypes as punchlines. This documentary charts the development and rise of Asian American hip-hop, some of the prejudice and marginalization some of these performers face, and how they embrace their cultural heritage as they use hip-hop as a means of self-expression.
What's the story?
In BAD RAP, four Asian American hip-hop artists seem on the verge of wider recognition and success. Dumbfoundead from Koreatown Los Angeles is a champion of rap battles. Rekstizzy from Queens is unafraid to court controversy in his videos and lyrics. Lyricks from Fairfax, Virginia has used his Christian faith to inform his artistry. And Awkwafina from Queens has a quirky style and humor that could help transcend sexism or could also permanently relegate her to being a hipster novelty amongst larger audiences. All four talk of their lives and careers, the stereotypes that defined their culture in society and media, and how it still has a negative impact on how they are perceived and received among some in hip-hop culture.
Is it any good?
By presenting the lives, opinions, and approaches of four different Asian American hip-hop artists, BAD RAP reveals the diversity within Asian American hip-hop and how it's perceived as a whole. The artists articulately speak of the stereotyping that defined their culture to the rest of America for so long and how that stereotyping has impacted what they do and how it's received. To watch Dumbfoundead try to suffer through a press conference in which reporters seem to care more about his take on Jackie Chan than the music he's making, coupled with the weak and obvious attempts at stereotypical humor he gets during rap battles, speaks volumes about how far our culture still needs to go.
Focusing on the life and work of four performers limits the documentary to how deep each performer wants to go in terms of their art, heritage, and history, and how all of it plays into what they do. Whereas recent documentaries on the rise of hip-hop music, fashion, and culture include sociological perspectives on how the conditions in the South Bronx of the late 1960s and early 1970s played an integral role in hip-hop, this documentary gives frequent space to catty gossip and opinions on audience-drawing power and who signed with which agency. Discussing more difficult subjects, such as racial tensions between African Americans and Korean Americans in the '80s and '90s, or offering more on the seminal performers who put Asian American hip-hop on the map, would give the documentary some needed heft. But overall, Bad Rap does reveal much about an often overlooked part of the ever-growing and expanding world of hip-hop.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about music documentaries. How is Bad Rap similar to and different from other music documentaries?
How do these artists address and confront the stereotypes and prejudice their cultures have faced in both society and the media?
How are similarities and differences among the four performers in the movie presented?
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