“Bad Rap” is a documentary I waited my whole life to see. The last time I was this emotionally invested into a movie, Eminem had just released “8 Mile”. I actually remember when Salima Koroma and Jaeki Cho first started the Indiegogo campaign for this movie; I was one of the first to donate to the cause. I mean…it’s a movie about Asian rappers trying to make it in America. It was like watching my own life and struggles unravel through the eyes of Dumbfoundead, Lyricks, Awkwafina, and other key figures in Asian-American hip-hop. Not to say that all Asian rappers share the same story, but we do share the same uphill battle when it comes to being accepted into the mainstream, being taken seriously, and facing the persistently-annoying ignorance that plagues the existence of every Asian-American attempting to do something “cool” in pop culture, whether that is music, sports, or film. The film begs to ask the question, why has there not been a successful Asian-American rapper in the US mainstream yet?
For the average Joe that may have never heard of these Asian-American rappers, I think this is a great introduction as to why the game needs to stop sleeping on us. Lyricks is a masterful MC with intricate flows and cunning wordplay, Awkwafina is a niche female rapper with charisma and boundless creativity, and Dumbfoundead is one hit away from being the total package. As a huge fan of Dumbfoundead, I enjoyed the fact that the primary focus of the film was on him because I do think many of us believe he is close to being the one to truly break through and become a star. Personally, I felt like either Decipher or Shogunna should have had starring roles in the documentary too, as their life stories and music are both extremely strong and memorable.
Cameos included MC Jin, Far East Movement, and Timothy Delaghetto (a.k.a. Traphik). One part that stuck with me was when Traphik said that the general public could never accept an Asian gangster rapper because they would immediately write it off as fake no matter how real they may be. As someone who knows Asian dudes who are really about that life that came home from doing prison bids longer than most rappers talk about in their songs, it’s disheartening to think that people will either say they are being fake or trying to “act black”. This ties back into the main issue of the emasculation of Asian males in Western culture. Hyper-masculinity is heavily present in black and Latino culture, but white supremacy throughout the years has painted the picture that Asian men were effeminate and asexual, which causes people even to this day to have a hard time accepting Asians that do not fit in these negative and inaccurate stereotypes. Which makes me feel this film could have benefited from interviewing China Mac, an Asian-American rapper from New York who created a huge buzz for himself after being released from doing 10 years in prison and winning over the streets in a huge way that could have dispelled Traphik’s point that Asian gangster rappers needed to tone down their content to be more “believable” to the listeners.
The appearances from the “industry tastemakers” made me cringe a bit, because I could feel their judgment seeping through before they even heard any of them. When Ebro said race does not play a factor into whether or not people will listen to a rapper, I was baffled to hear such a “colorblind” answer. He named Eminem as someone who was so dope that people did not care for his skin color, which was completely off base. Em was scrutinized heavily for being white, before and after he made it, and it’s the same kind of scrutiny that we as Asian-American artists face in terms of preconceived notions, dismissal, skepticism of our authenticity and talent, and overall marketability. But alas, most people don’t even realize Asian-Americans struggle as hard as we do, so their collective lack of compassion in our plight is nothing new.
For the avid Asian hip-hop fan, this documentary will allow you to get to know your heroes like Dumbfoundead and Awkwafina on a deeper level; I would have never thought Dumb would have ever felt like he was experiencing a slump or creative roadblock at any point of his career. For the average viewer who may have never even knew Asian rappers existed in America, I’d say this is a solid crash course into a few of the dope and creative talents that our community has to offer. Props to Salima Koroma and Jaeki Cho for pulling this project off, I highly recommend y’all watching it (available now on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, and YouTube).