ego trip's The (White) Rapper Show

(i)

 

Idol moves to the Bronx ... sort of.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The show purports to teach lessons to white people about black culture, specifically as it relates to hip hop. Some of these lessons come through (and are beneficial), but the focus on drama, conflict, and competition drowns many of them out.

Violence

Lots of verbal attacks, with intense cursing and physically threatening behavior. Possibility of some physical violence. Lots of rhymes about violence, including some about guns.

Sex

There's a good deal of sexual language in the rhymes ("boner") and some sexual discussion about show contestants. Slow-cam close-up of bikini-wearing contestant. Blurred-out sex toy is used as a threatening weapon.

Language

Steady stream of expletives -- the harshest ones are bleeped, but they're still very obvious. Words like "bitch," "dildo," and the "N" word aren't bleeped. One contestant is punished for using the "N" word.

Consumerism

Brands associated with New York (like Sabrett's hot dogs) are displayed as art in the loft. Some discussion of materialism, both pro and con.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Occasional heavy drinking to the point of intoxication. Beer and hard liquor bottles visible. Some smoking.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this reality show focuses on a group of white rappers competing for $100,000 and a shot at fame. The subject of race is at the forefront, and some issues -- like use of the "N" word -- are addressed directly. Contestants swear almost constantly, both in general discussion and in their rhymes. Some rhymes include graphic (if lyrical) descriptions of sexual acts and mature concepts. Intense arguments beteen contestants include verbal threats and physical intimidation. There are occasional discussions of tough life circumstances, like being homeless and some sexual imagery, including slow-cam close-ups of one female contestant's body.

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What's the story?

In a twist on American Idol's talent-search format, EGO TRIP'S THE (WHITE) RAPPER SHOW puts 10 Caucasian wannabe emcees to the test in a competition aimed at finding the next Eminem. Hosted by early white rapper MC Serch (aka Michael Berrin) of 3rd Bass and legendary hip-hop producer Prince Paul, the show gathers the contestants together under one roof and pits them against one another for a shot at $100,000 and a fame boost. While the format is familiar, the show's tweaks to the mansion-and-hot-tub setup seen on reality shows like America's Next Top Model are intended to reflect the essence of hip hop, so this crew lives in the South Bronx instead of Los Angeles, their digs aren't as plush as some might expect, and instead of a limo ride to a fancy restaurant, challenge winners get a van trip to the mini-golf range. The contestants are a motley group: Persia has the most street cred, though her attitude threatens to overpower her talent; shifty-eyed John Brown is out to commodify himself as "King of the 'Burbs"; and Misfit is a sexy, blonde Brit whose looks may outweigh her confidence. Along with the others, these rappers face challenges like walking through a tough urban neighborhood and spitting rhymes to (mostly African-American) folks sitting on the stoop -- an intimidating idea to some of the white kids.

Is it any good?

QUALITY

The neighborhood challenge demonstrates the show's attempt to engage the racial issues involved in hip hop -- which are made explicit by the show's exclusive focus on white rappers. The crew behind the show (creators of the respected, now-defunct hip-hop magazine ego trip) has a history of deftly and cleverly interrogating racial topics with books like ego trip's Big Book of Racism. But while The (White) Rapper Show courageously takes on the incredibly loaded subjects of race and hip hop, the series' focus often (and predictably) shifts to conflict in the house. In one episode, for example, the group is drinking after a long day, and an intoxicated Persia starts harassing John Brown and challenges him to a rap duel; when he refuses, she sticks a dildo (blurred onscreen) in his face and starts calling him the "N" word. The ensuing drama takes up more of the episode's allotted 60 minutes than do the more interesting rhyming exhibitions.

While teens, especially hip-hop fans, may find some nuggets of wisdom in this show, parents should know that, as in most reality shows, drama rules supreme. Yelling, threats, crude sexual language, drinking, and general stupidity steal the show.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about race and hip-hop. Parents, did you listen to rap growing up? What were your first experiences with hip-hop like? Teens, how about you? Where do race and hip-hop intersect? Do you think being black or white affects a person's ability to rap? How do stereotypes come into play on the show? What's the history of hip-hop? Where could you learn more about the roots of hip-hop?

TV details

Cast:Grandmaster Flash, MC Serch, Prince Paul
Network:VH1
Genre:Reality TV
TV rating:TV-14
Available on:Streaming

This review of ego trip's The (White) Rapper Show was written by

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