Remember, it’s not WHAT you measure, it’s HOW you measure


You are a producer with the show Unpretty Rapstar, a hip-hop competition featuring female rappers that is affiliated with Show Me the Money. On your show, one of the contestants is a high-school student named Yuk Ji Dam. She has an uncle or grandparent or someone high enough in your organization to fire you if he or she is displeased—and this person will be displeased if Yuk Ji Dam does not at least make a decent showing.

Five (or maybe more) of your eight contestants will win the opportunity to appear on an album put out by the show. (No, you can’t have a nicer prize than that–the world of Korean hip-hop is just too small: Even your host has appeared on some extremely provocative tracks with one of your contestants.) So, “a decent showing” is going to involve this Yuk Ji Dam gal winning at least one episode.

How do you make this happen without resorting to such crass (and illegal, and obvious to Yuk Ji Dam AND her wealthy relative) tactics such as bribery?

Easy! Remember, there’s no need to stoop to the crass and illegal if you can simply groom the playing field to your advantage.

On your show is an idol rapper–Jimin from AOA. She has oodles and oodles of stage experience. Let’s let our episode judge, Zico, weigh in here! (All translations and subtitles by unprettyrapstar.)


I mean, yeah, she’s got so much stage experience, it’s a given that she’ll win any competition focused on stagecraft.

So, she gets to pick a team (aka Team Shoo-In) to compete on stage.

And the bitch doesn’t pick Yuk Ji Dam. Fuck!

No problem–you are resourceful! You want to keep your job!

Magically, a crisis appears! Even more magically, this crisis applies only to Yuk Ji Dam.

  jidam1 jidam2

Yeah, she’s underage! Even though there was no problem before, all of a sudden the club won’t let her in. Oh, nos–she can’t compete as part of Team Destined To Lose!

Even better–she’s now an underdog. Farewell spoiled princess who did mysteriously well on Show Me the Money! And her reaction to the news is why it’s doubly important that Yuk Ji Dam not know what you’re doing: It makes good television only if she’s genuinely upset, ignoring Zico’s cries of, “Cheer up! Cheer up! The fix is in!” (I may have contributed my own translation to that last sentence.)

So, first Team Shoo-In wins (duh):

zico0 Zico1zico8

Now that the strong rappers have been disqualified, suddenly this turns into a competition judged solely on rap skills! And just as suddenly, justice comes to the underdog!


Everybody wins! Or, rather, Yuk Ji Dam wins, and you, the producer, get to keep your job. Yaaaaaay!!!!

(Oh, and of course there’s going to be a singing-competition episode. In a rap competition. It shall be titled, The Episode We’re Having So That Jessi Will Win One.)

This kind of contrivance is a major reason why I don’t watch reality television any more. The other reason is people like Jessi (wasting her time on a rap competition, but building her reputation as a “personality”), but I’m far too familiar with writers forcing a certain ending. At this point, it just doesn’t interest me.

* * *

The one thing I hope people do take from Unpretty Rapstar is to realize just how hard it is to actually rap well. A huge part of rapping, perhaps even more than with other forms of performance, is not getting freaked out–it’s this weird Zen thing where you stay relaxed and have flow while maintaining alertness and being able to quickly respond to whatever comes at you.

Which is a large part of why so much of rap revolves around things like battle rapping and diss tracks–as Lil Cham ably demonstrated in this episode, if you can’t rap under stress, then in a very real sense, you can’t rap. So there is this confrontational culture in rap, but it’s not because rappers are assholes or gangsters or whatever–it’s because it’s necessaryYou will find similar cultures in newsrooms, firehouses, and police stations. These are place where, if you can’t do your job well under pressure, it’s a significant limitation, so people ramp up the pressure to test you and to keep you sharp.

* * *

And no matter how she does, I have to say that I have tremendous respect for AOA’s Jimin. There’s been a lot of “How dare these unworthy bastards judge my goddess Jimin!!!” and I really have to credit her for not taking the easy road and just spending all her time with the kinds of fans who would quite happily kill for the opportunity to lick her asshole clean. Good on her for wanting to challenge herself and grow as an artist instead.


21 responses »

  1. Wow, I never thought of Yk JiDam as having a contact, though it makes sense. (But I don’t care because a, that happens everywhere including Hollywood, Wall Street, and the Hill here in DC, b, contacts are just another type of advantage that people might have and that’s life, so whatever, and c, she’s friendly with people like Snacky Chan who got kicked off SMTM3 despite getting favored, so she’s probably an okay person with some talent.)

    What I thought was happening was some weird deal between Brand New Stardom and MNET that went: Heo In Chang, Yuk JiDam’s coach and first gen Kpopper, isn’t THAT interesting on TV, so instead of him joining SMTM3, lets bring in his photogenic high school student, but give him occasional cameos so he stays relevant. And I’m thinking BNS is her agency, or HIC her agent as an imprint-type sitch.

    Meanwhile, what I LOVED in this ep was Zico’s funny, totally Block B dancing, the underdog story (that worked), and Zico helping rehabilitate Kisum as more than a pretty face because she has some amazing energy and loves to perform (I was throwing hearts at him then). As a plus, the Lil Cham shade was funny because it was true (and she might as well either work harder or do something else because resorting to sexual lyrics is more annoying than Jessi’s tantrums to me now).

    And I think Zico really did like JiDam: as a high school underground rapper, he must’ve had similar stage fright experiences that weren’t on national TV, and I felt his empathy.
    (But what is with Tymee? People talk about how good she is, but she always forgets her lines.)

    I guess my point is, yes it’s biased and edited and fixed, but when Zico was awesome, does it matter? 🙂

    • It doesn’t bother me from a justice perspective–I assume all the contestants have contacts of some sort or another, otherwise they wouldn’t be on the show (note all the Show Me the Money alumni). It does bother me from a predictability perspective: They’ll figure out some way to give Jessi and Jimin wins, because they’re the celebrities and the albums will sell more if they’re on it. Then the nobodies will duke it out in an actual rap competition–or the show will make everyone a winner and give everyone a slot. The string-pulling is such a reality-television thing.

      Both Lil Cham and Tymee can rap well in a controlled environment–unfortunately, those are rare when you’re performing….

  2. Ha, Jessi got her track today! And they threw in Cheetah because people are already wondering why she’s losing so often when she’s the best rapper there.

    This show is better than any Kdrama, except, possibly, Maids.

  3. I had no idea Yuk Ji Dam had all these connections, and I have to agree that it made the whole situation look manipulated. But I really did think that she deserved to win this round. I was really iffy about her when she first showed up but after her performances it seems that she really does have potential! So yeah, maybe her connections helped her but she definitely has talent to back her up

    • They all have talent! Even Lil Cham, who was a train wreck that episode, has put out a very good album. And of course Yuk Ji Dam won the competition =she participated in= fair and square, just like Jessi won the vocal competition she participated in fair and square and Jimin will win whatever stagecraft competition she’ll participate in fair and square. That’s what reality shows do: They fix the game by shifting what is measured to ensure a particular outcome, be it a victory by the underdog or the non-elimination of a popular character. (Watch: Jessi will be exempt from elimination next week because she won the vocal competition–which just so happened to take place the week before.)

      • I’m impressed: you’ve totally been calling the story line. 🙂

        And yes, they all deserve their wins. I watched ep 3 raw and, though Jessi rapped, she and Cheetah did make a terrific pair with Kangnam. It was well-produced, and not totally by Verbal Jint.

        Sidebar: verbal jint was looking very hephap in the Bobby sense of the word.

  4. Pingback: What are contests actually good for? | My Other Blog

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