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.
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):
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.
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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 necessary. You 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.