For a musical genre that prides itself on being inclusive, the lack of Asian American rappers shows that this group remains on the fringe. While it remains a unique occurrence this day and age to see Asian American rappers, the artists featured in Bad Rap—Rekstizzy, Dumbfounded, Awkwafina and Lyricks—are four examples of artists trying to turn Asian American rappers uniqueness into the mainstream consciousness.
First time director Salima Koroma directs a really thought-provoking, insightful documentary that also delves into the history of Asian Americans and their connection to rap, suggesting that Asian Americans were as much a part of creating the West coast hip-hop scene as Blacks and Latinos were but were never seen as equals. It’s something Asian Americans continue to have to prove that they belong in the rap game and seen as equals as their black, Latino and even white counterparts.
The big problem all four seem to face is marketing: How do you market an Asian American as a credible hip-hop artist? It’s not the lack of skills—we see each of the artists display their skills on stage, in rap battles, and in videos though some are obviously stronger word smiths than others. It just seems as though the public, especially in this day and age of politically correctness, Asian rappers still have a lot to prove before they’re seen as equals. The four principal subjects struggle with this as we see and hear them go through the process of trying to get a label deal, getting radio play and trying to prove to critics they have the skills. Midway through the documentary we see a litany of hip-hop experts—critics, radio DJs, record label executives—critique each of the artist’s work and some of the criticism is bare no punches brutal.
Still, we get a great balance of music, a look at their personal lives, and a rich and lively examination of the history of rap and Asian American roles in hip-hop. Most interesting is a look at what they are doing currently and look back when they agreed to take part in the documentary. A few are doing better than others but each of the artist’s are still determined to make it in hip-hop. Their biggest hope is for all rappers who happen to be Asian American is to be seen as rappers, not as Asian American rappers. You’ll definitely get a great understanding after checking out this wonderful documentary.