Authored by: Eden Carswell
Chile, remember that collective cry in the car we all had when–after years of laughter, sisterhood, and unapologetic blackness– ‘Insecure’ ended its five-season run? Well, dry your eyes and renew that HBOMax subscription, because our black TV bestie is back! Issa Rae has executive produced a new show called Rap Sh!t, which premiered on July 21st and is already making waves in the black-o-sphere.
Didn’t get a chance to watch? Check out the recaps for the first three episodes below!
Season 1, Episode 1: Something For the City
The series premiere of Rap Sh!t opens with a party montage; Miami is known for its glitz, glam, nightclub scene and party culture, which the first few minutes of the episode highlight. The chaos of this flows into the lobby of the Plymouth Hotel, where our main character Shawna (Aida Osman) is introduced. She works at the hotel’s front desk to pay her bills, while simultaneously chasing a stalled rap career; she often posts videos online of her freestyling about politics and race while wearing a mask (much to everyone’s confusion). Shawna is also a lowkey scammer; we see her take a guest’s credit card during a transaction and snap a pic of its info before giving it back to them. While working, she encounters a hotel guest that knows and plays back her work, complimenting her skills and boosting her ego like an IG post like. This scene also establishes the show’s structure–basically one long IG story post or live feed, mostly recorded by Shawna. During this scene, we also catch a glimpse of Jill, a friend of Shawna’s and Spotify staff employee that constantly dodges Shawna’s requests to have her freestyles and posts plugged for exposure. We also briefly see Chastity, nicknamed Duke, a clout chaser and hustler who promotes parties and uses the hotel lobby to rub elbows with A-listers that stay there.
While Shawna takes a much-needed lunch break from the nonsense at the front desk, she gets a FaceTime call, introducing us to Mia (KaMillion). She’s Shawna’s former high school best friend and a single mom to a 4-year-old daughter named Melissa, whom she shares with her trash baby father and audio engineer/producer Lamont. Because Lamont fails to pick Melissa up, Mia calls Shawna to ask for babysitting help as a last resort, which she reluctantly agrees to.
Back at the front desk, Shawna’s coworker Maurice is introduced to us. He shows Shawna a video of Reina Reign, a former acoustic singer turned Iggy Azalea’s doppelganger, who changed her image and lyrics to make money in the industry. Shawna learns that Francois Boom–her former friend and producer that severed ties with her after she refused to objectify or sell out herself–made the beat for Reina’s most popular song.
Mia arrives at the hotel with her daughter, and Shawna puts her up in a hotel room while Mia prepares to leave for one of her three jobs. They talk more awkwardly than two divorcees on a first date, and Mia offers a favor to her in thanks for Shawna helping her out at the last minute.
After work, Shawna spirals and rants on the inannets about the lack of support for her music and superficial, talentless artists that get more exposure. Berating her followers for their misunderstanding of good music, she decides to quit rapping and declares it online. In the midst of her tantrum, her long-distance boyfriend Cliff FaceTimes her. Cliff, a law student living in NYC, tries to relax her and connect by offering verbal support and FaceTime sex only to be met with disinterest and frustration from Shawna. An argument ensues about career trajectories and jealousy, and Cliff hangs up. At the end of Shawna’s night, she sends the credit card details she stole to an anonymous source, and reaches out to Mia to invite her out for drinks.
On Mia’s side of the world, we see her working her last job of the day; she’s revealed to be an OnlyFans model, posting sexual content to her subscribers while scantily clad. After she finishes her session, she calls Lamont to drag him for ditching his daddy duties, to which he responds with nonchalance. Mia hangs up and responds back to Shawna, agreeing to a girls night out.
Cutting to Shawna and Mia at a bar the next night, they record their evening, drinking and talking dryly as Mia tires of the stuffy, basic atmosphere they’re sitting in. They leave and brown bag it; Mia decides they should go to a strip club, which they agree to and enjoy the ratchet, turned up energy Shawna was missing from her life. They walk back to the car, get in, and have a heart-to-heart; Mia admits she was hurt by Shawna’s arrogant, bougie attitude and felt abandoned by her after she went off to college. Shawna apologizes, and admits that she didn’t finish college, dropping out to work with her friend that eventually bailed on her. Shawna and Mia finally let go of their resentment towards one another and reconnect as friends. Mia decides to do some freestyling in the car, turning on a beat from their youth which Shawna happily remembers. Shawna goes in and sheds her conscious rap persona, flexin about money, cars, and men with means as she floats on the beat. Mia ad-libs and raps the hook, showing a musical confidence Shawna didn’t know she had.
The next day, Shawna discovers that Mia posted their freestyle on Tiktok. The views are racking up like ones at a strip club and baby, this is the start of something big for the reconnected friends!
Season 1, Episode 2: Something for the Girls
While doing her friend’s makeup, Mia tells her and another mutual high school friend of Shawna’s that they plan to start a rap group. Immediately the roasting starts; they criticize her mask wearing in her rap videos and admit that while Mia hung out with her in high school, they thought she was bougie and weren’t ’bout her at all.
At one of Mia’s jobs on her lunch break, after trying to reach Lamont on the phone to no answer, she makes another advice video on IG cookin’ broke baby daddies everywhere and advising her woman followers to choose men smartly. Mia then receives a voicemail from the learning center her daughter attends about setting up a parent-teacher conference to discuss an incident between her and another child. After listening to it, Mia is told by a manager that her lunch break is over.
Meanwhile, Shawna calls Jill again to try and get her to post their freestyle. Jill questions the break Shawna said she was taking, admits the freestyle is doing well online and says she’ll see what she can do hesitantly. They hang up, and Jill contacts another mutual friend to rant; she feels like Shawna is all over the place, confused, and that Shawna doesn’t respect her career at Spotify.
Fellow students and friends of Shawna’s boyfriend Cliff get sent the freestyle, and one of the guys recognizes Mia from her OnlyFans page. They guys get extra messy and pull up some of Mia’s content, which makes Cliff uncomfortable and raises concerns for Shawna.
Mia gets a coworker to watch her daughter, and goes over to Shawna’s place to record their first song in her makeshift closet studio. It’s about student loans, which Mia (and all of us watching) rolled her eyes at. Mia suggests they rap about something for the girls, a party song, something fun like fast cars, money, and luxury. They disagree on the direction they want to go, and Mia decides to call it quits and watch movies with Shawna’s roommates. Shawna comes out of the room, pulls Mia to talk off to the side, and Mia says she has real responsibilities and can’t waste time ideas that won’t work.
Shawna calls Cliff to rant, and Cliff berates Shawna for being in a rap group with Mia knowing she’s an OnlyFans model, thinking of her reputation and career. They end the convo on bad terms. . . lawd, do these two ever get along?
Mia gets a call from a client in NYC, who offers to spoil and shower her with money since she’s never been to New York. She ends the call since he doesn’t want to spend any money on a session. Later, Mia watches old videos of Shawna and her old producer friend, which shows us the slow deterioration of their working relationship and friendship as
At the learning center,, Mia and Lamont have a half-virtual parent-teacher conference about their daughter Melissa, who said she would “drag someone to space if they didn’t shut the hell up” (I cackled watching this).Talking through feelings and emotional regulation are discussed, as well as how smart Melissa is. Afterwards, Mia and Lamont show each other a rare moment of support and affirmation, with Lamont advising her to live her dreams and do what she wants. He also sends her $4,000 from his most recent placement, which she of course responds to positively.
Mia comes to Shawna’s job to patch things up, and she asks about Shawna’s old producer friend. She said he asked her to rethink her whole image and stopped believing in her as an artist because she wouldn’t change. They try to get their image together and figure out a compromise, and end up getting into a heated debate about female hip hop being tied to the male gaze and selling out to make it big. Mia convinces Shawna to consider a balance of both skill and taking power back in a playful way. Shawna starts to loosen up and have fun, and they finally enjoy rapping together, writing lyrics and recording their first song.
The episode ends with video chat sex between Shawna and Cliff; they share an intimate moment and finally make up post-argument. Cliff admits he feels disconnected from her because they’re so busy and distant. He offers to look for apartments in NY where he’s at so she can relocate to be with him there, but she says she doesn’t wanna live off him and wants a life of her own.
Season 1, Episode 3: “Something for the hood”
At the strip club; Guapdad4000 is in a section with his squad and recording on his phone. Chastity–also self-proclaimed as Duke–served as their host for the night and got their bottle service set up. After the club closes, she asks to “settle up”, but Guapdad4000’s manager wasn’t trying to pay her what she felt she was owed for her time. Later that morning, we end up at her uncle’s house, a brothel, which is hotter than the devil’s armpit and littered with flies because of a broken air conditioner. She and her uncle argue because he tells her to cover the rent, using her staying there rent free for six months when she first came to town as a manipulation tactic. She agrees with an attitude.
Lamont is “babysitting” his daughter, (watching Scarface with her, mind you) but has to leave to work and asks his mom to take her for a few hours in true deadbeat fashion. His daughter is disappointed, but he tries to smooth things over with affection before he takes off. He walks out the house to find his car gone; a neighbor across the street tells him it was towed.
Duke is at the strip club trying to get paid for bringing in high profile guests to the tables for bottle service, but her cut is unexpectedly small. While talking to the strippers that work there backstage, one of them points Duke to Mia’s rapping video and compliments her skills. The gears start to turn in her head–clearly Duke sees something in Mia she wants to capitalize on.
Lamont calls about an invoice for his audio engineering but gets curved by one of the people he did the work for. He then goes to pawn a piece of his jewelry–a gold bracelet–to come up with the funds for the impound. His daughter Melissa calls on FaceTime to ask for him, and his mother tells him she can’t watch his daughter anymore today. Knowing he’s low on funds, she mentions a job her pastor offered to him and implores Lamont to call him. He reluctantly takes the number and then texts Mia to get Melissa’s car seat.
Maurice and his cousin go to the store to buy over $5,000 worth of items on a stolen credit card. The cashier at the checkout asks for ID but they don’t have it (for obvious reasons). Maurice distracts the cashier while his friend puts the credit card into the reader without her seeing. The transaction goes through, they take their stuff, and leave without being caught.
Mia arrives with Melissa’s car seat, and they argue via FaceTime as he comes out of the studio to retrieve it. He admits he’s over not being paid and begging for money, and Mia sympathizes with him. Mia gives him a pep talk and shows support for his hustle and musical talent, despite their tumultuous relationship. She offers a deal to him; she’ll give Lamont the money to get his car out the impound if he considers producing her and Shawna’s song.
Duke gets a call that the sex workers she employs got robbed by a client. After arriving at the site of the theft, one of her sex workers tells her how it happened, including a very in-depth conversation about sexin’ curved genitalia (not even going to elaborate on that one). Duke is angry over their money for the week being jacked by a client, and asks them if they have any idea who it might’ve been. One of the workers mentions a black car, and a line of questioning by Duke alludes to who the culprit might be.
Shawna’s coworker comes to “fix her sink” (bring her credit card money). He sees Shawna’s recording setup and they discuss the credit card fraud scheme they’re doing–he agrees to keep getting money from the cards she takes (“just a couple more pieces”) and do the dirty work for her.
Duke picks up one of her workers from and receives payment from a tryst she had just finished. While riding back, the worker criticizes the rookie behavior that got their money stolen. Mia’s freestyling comes up in the conversation; while the worker is not impressed by Mia’s rap skills, Duke expresses an interest in possibly working with her.
Meanwhile, Maurice and his cousin pack their contraband in suitcases to be sent to Haiti, where their family resides. As they sort and discuss whether or not he trusts Shawna with the credit card scam and he says he doesn’t.
Lamont comes to Shawna’s to help Mia and Shawna by producing their song; he compliments her setup and notes how expensive her microphone is (a product of the fraud, we assume). He puts headphones on and immediately gets to work, cookin’ up like Gordon Ramsay and producing a fire beat to accompany their lyrics in a short time frame. Lamont plays it back for them and the twerking commences! The beat slaps, and the girls approve of his skills.
After the night settles down a bit, Duke hits Mia up on FaceTime to show her some love on the new song. She asks what the next steps are, and Mia puts it in Shawna’s hands since she has music industry experience. Duke offers to be Mia and Shawna’s manager in exchange for her helping their song get exposure. Ooh, things in Miami are about to get real interesting!
Tune into HBOMax Thursdays at 9pm to watch Rap Sh!t, and in the style of our good friend Issa Rae, keep rooting for everybody black!