After premiering on HBO Max on July 21, 2022, viewers and critics agree that Issa Rae’s new sitcom Rap Shi!t is a fun diversionary summer trifle about two young women in Miami trying to break into the hip-hop scene, find their voice, forge an identity, and have their artistic expressions seen and heard. A stylish coming-of-age tale, Rap Sh!t has a lot to say about the modern-day trendiness of the rap game and how confident swagger tends to trump talent and hard work.
In that regard, Rap Sh!t joins a highly amusing pool of TV shows steeped in the rap music industry that focus on young characters finding their voice, pursuing their dreams, overcoming inevitable industry hiccups, and persevering through thick and thin to realize their ultimate goals.
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10 Insecure (2016-2021)
Stream On HBO Max
In terms of tone, temperament, and humorous sensibilities, Rap Sh!t shares a direct umbilical cord with its series creator Issa Rae’s previous show, Insecure. The acclaimed HBO series follows the trials and tribulations of Issa Dee (Rae) and her close friends as they try to navigate the societal mores of Los Angeles as modern-day Black women, shedding trenchant insight into a specific time and place in Inglewood, California.
Like Rap Sh!t, Insecure explores the identity of its main characters through the misperceptions of others, with Issa having to prove her Standford-level education again and again upon returning home and Shawna (Aida Osman) and Mia (KaMillion) having to overcome pushback to achieve success in the rap game. In both cases, it’s about overcoming the insecurity of what others think to find and voice one’s true identity.
9 Atlanta (2016-2023)
Stream On Hulu
For those looking for a little trippy surrealism among their aspiring TV rappers, Atlanta is the hottest destination. The original and highly entertaining sitcom follows Earn (Donald Glover) and his up-and-coming rapper cousin Paper Boi (Brian Tyree Henry) and their visionary friend Darius (Keith Stanfield) as they hustle their way to the top of the Atlanta music scene, the birthplace of mumble trap rap.
Winner of five Emmys and currently rated #132 on IMDb’s Top 250 TV Shows of All Time, Atlanta has been extolled as one of FX’s best original series for its eccentric sense of humor, rich characterizations that feel real and relatable, and its fearless reflection of serious contemporary topics like police brutality, racial profiling, inequality, and the like. Moreover, the profound statements Atlanta makes on the nature of modern-day rap celebrity, trendiness versus talent, and the cautionary pitfalls of the industry make the show perfect for watching along with Rap Sh!t.
8 Dave (2020)
Stream On Hulu
Real-life rapper Lil Dicky aka Dave Burd stars as Dave, an overanxious wannabe rapper from suburban Philadelphia who thinks he’s one of the greatest lyricists on the planet. Setting out to prove his skills to others, Dave faces extremely funny characters and one humble and humiliating hiccup after another, yet doggedly perseveres to reach his lifelong dream of reaching superstardom.
Dave and Rap Sh!t both feature wildly disillusioned characters who, despite harboring a modicum of talent, think the world owes them far for than it does simply because they believe it and say so. It’s this self-aggrandized blindspot that Dave and Shawna and Mia must recognize, confront, and evolve past in order to become the talented rap stars they’ve always dreamt of.
7 Empire (2015-2020)
Stream On Hulu
To contextualize Shawna and Mia’s progress in the rap industry, taking a macro glimpse at the cutthroat business as depicted in Fox’s hit show Empire is a wise investment indeed. The Shakespearean drama concerns Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard), a powerful hip hop record label owner torn over which one of his children he should bequeath the family business to.
Meanwhile, Lucious’ fame-obsessed son and fast-rising rapper Hakeem (Bryshere Y. Gray) navigates the ups and downs of the industry while using his ties to climb the ladder of fame and celebrity, using his popularity to enjoy the perks of the fast lane. As such, Hakeem could certainly teach Mia and Shawna a thing or two in Rap Sh!t.
6 Champaign ILL (2018)
Stream ON Hulu
If one took Entourage and blended it up with Rap Sh!t, the result would resemble the YouTube Premium original series Champaign ILL. The story tracks Ronnie (Adam Pally), a fledgling rap star, and his crew led by Alf (Sam Richardson) as they face one hilarious and humiliating hurdle after another that makes them question whether or not fame and celebrity are worth the years of painful rejection.
Aside from the unpredictable plotting and volcanic chemistry between Pally and Richardson, it’s the brazen sense of entitlement and shallow materialism that Ronnie and Alf must overcome on the show that aligns with Mia and Shawna on Rap Sh!t, forcing them to remember to be careful of what they wish for in life.
5 Wu-Tang: An American Saga (2019-)
Stream On Hulu
Wu-Tang: An American Saga recounts with vivid nostalgia the origin and meteoric rise of the trailblazing New York hip-hop group whose influence is still felt today. Rap Sh!t fans can learn a lot about the dedication, hard work, and years of blood, sweat, and tears to form a craft rather than trying to become a viral instant hit overnight in today’s social media climate.
The biographical drama has been lauded for its unflinching examination of Wu-Tang’s rise out of poverty amid the crack-cocaine epidemic, finding strength in numbers through their collective artistic expressions, and how the American dream is achievable for even the biggest underdogs.
4 The Hustle (2013)
Stream On Prime Video
Sharing a very similar premise with Rap Sh!t, The Hustle follows a rap duo called Brooklyn’s Finest and traces the triumphs and tragedies of its two talented members Kutta (Insecure’s Y’Lan Noel) and D (London Brown) as they balance personal and professional conflicts as they strive to be signed to a major record label.
With Kutta’s time torn between the studio and his son and D left to his own self-indulgences, it’s the go-getting A&R Ya-Ya (Erica Dickerson) that really motivates the two rappers to get their stuff together and achieve their dreams. That Issa Rae cast Noel in Insecure suggests she was inspired by The Hustle to create Rap Sh!t.
3 The Get Down (2016)
Stream On Netflix
Every Rap Sh!t fan needs to understand the origin of hip-hop in the South Bronx in the 1970s to fully grasp what Mia and Shawna are trying to express. Although canceled after one season on Netflix, The Get Down follows a motley crew of teenagers exploring the newfound musical genre through rap, breaking dance, graffiti, and the like.
Aside from the riotous celebration of hip-hop’s creation in South Bronx, the show is a lively confluence of cultural expressions that liberate the human spirit. The evolution of hip-hip from the nascent days to where it is in modern-day Miami in Rap Sh!t offers an eye-opening glimpse of how far the popular music genre has come for better and worse.
2 Blindspotting (2021-)
Stream On Starz
Adapted from the terrific movie of the same name, Blindspotting often uses rap lyrics in place of character monologues to create unforgettable powerful television. Set six months after the movie, the story finds rapper and furniture mover Miles (Rafael Casal) in jail, leaving his partner and baby mother Ashley (Jasmine Cephas Jones) to provide for their son while living with Miles’ family.
Beyond the specific brand of rap music steeped in Oakland, California, it’s the overarching culture, community, and deeply likable characters that make Blindspotting such a richly unique experience, even if the profundity of Ashley’s conflict is much deeper than Mia and Shawna’s lighthearted exploits.
1 Girls5Eva (2021-)
Stream On Apple TV
Peacock’s acclaimed original series Girls5Eva follows the revival of a forgotten one-hit wonder R&B girl’s group in the 1990s who find newfound success when a famous rapper samples their song. A story of female empowerment, second chances, finding one’s voice in a shifting industry landscape, and reaffirming who they’ve always been, Mia and Shawna can learn a lot from the talented female quartet.
Hailed for its catchy tunes, electric chemistry among its four leads, and hilarious insights into how aging informs the creative process, Girls5Eva is a pitch-perfect female-centric sitcom that celebrates teamwork, musical expression, and how far the music industry has come in the past 30 years.
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About The Author
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A Senior List Writer covering a wide array of topics who has been with Screen Rant since September of 2019, Jake Dee has written movie news and reviews since 2008, working primarily with OMG Horror (IGN), JoBlo.com, and Arrow in the Head as a freelance reporter based in Los Angeles. A hopeless cinephile, social media Luddite, certified Nic Cage doppelganger, and a big Weekend At Bernie’s fan, Jake can often be found tucked away in a dark corner watching an old horror movie.
Born and raised in California, Jake has a Bachelor’s Degree in Film & Digital Media from the University of California Santa Cruz with an emphasis on theory and criticism, is the author of several “WTF Happened To This Movie” and “WTF Really Happened To This Movie” videos on YouTube, and has covered everything in the entertainment industry from set visits, studio luncheons, and red carpet interviews to wrap parties, movie premieres, private screenings, talent interviews, and more.
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