Its placement on Lifetime Network notwithstanding, “The Rap Game” is a surprising gem of a reality show that is not without its awkward moments. But the awkward moments arise because its contestants are teenagers, young teens at that. They choke onstage, they develop unrequited crushes on each other – -yes, things get awkward. The show gives the young contestants opportunities to strengthen their rap skills and gain the confidence that comes from mastering anything a young person is interested in.
“The Rap Game”: mastering the art of rap
For viewers who do not understand how rap works, either in general or in freestyle battles, host Jermaine Dupri and panelist Da Brat explain what certain elements of rap are, such as “The Cipher.” Da Brat hosts a segment (just several minutes long) that breaks down the most recent episode and hints at what characteristics of the contestants will help or hurt them. She rates the participants according to her own criteria. The mini-show is a helpful way for viewers new to the show and format to get caught up.
One thing that separates “The Rap Game” from other performance shows is that the parents are onscreen and they live with their children as they participate on the show. The young rappers are also encouraged to do age-appropriate raps.
The latest season of “The Rap Game” is 10 weeks long. “The Rap Game” is the brainchild of Jermaine Dupri and Queen Latifah. Other rappers serve as panelists and mentors of sorts to help the young performers perfect their craft.
This season, there were five bedrooms in the house (it is located in Atlanta) and six contestants. This let everyone involved know that there would be an elimination early on. And, there was. The person who reacted badly to the news? Not the 13-year-old boy who was being eliminated, but his mother. She was rude as she demanded the camera to be out of her face, and informed her son that he was still a star. She resisted another parent’s attempt to comfort her. It was embarrassing.
“The Rap Game”: the role of parents and family
Unlike some of the other shows where people seem to speak in platitudes about “support” and “being there” for performers, participants’ families are not shy, seemingly, when it comes to detailing sacrifices. Repossessed vehicles, the uprooting of parents and several siblings more than 1,000 miles are just two of the sacrifices the families described. The information adds a level of gravitas to a show that some might decry as “teenagers rapping.” Some families are depending on the member with talent to get them out of poverty via rap. That is a great deal of pressure for anyone, especially a child.
Whoever wins “The Rap Game” gets a customized gold chain and a recording contract. A follow-up on the non-winners would be interesting, especially on the families who have given up literally everything they had for a loved one’s dream.