How Jermaine Dupri is killing “The Rap Game”
Jermaine Dupri, Atlanta based producer famous for introducing child rappers such as Lil Bow Wow and Kris Kross to the world, has a new show on Lifetime called “The Rap Game.” The premise of the show is this:
5 kids, ages 12-16 whom have already achieved some type of Internet stardom, compete against one another each week. In lieu of the traditional challenge-elimination reality show, the young artists are ranked from one to five each week corresponding with how JD feels they did on that week’s task. The challenges, so far, have ranged from intern work to styling themselves. The ranks are to keep a kind of scorecard, according to Dupri, of how well these kids do each time. Ultimately, one of them will win a record deal with So So Def records.
Firstly, why are all of these kids in one lumped category? A 12 year old certainly hasn’t had the life or scholastic experience of a 16 year old. There are times when each rapper is tested on their lyrical flow but I see an issue in judging a 7th grader against a junior in high school. There are so many different aspects of maturity to consider, it simply doesn’t make sense.
Secondly, there were no auditions for undiscovered talent, a lazy shortcut in my opinion. Not saying that these kids haven’t worked hard on perfecting their art, but Jermaine Dupri clearly took the easiest route. He scoured the web for minors who already had millions of video views, fan bases and whom were already booking shows before he called them. Where was the work on his part? I feel like he simply wanted a ready-made act, therefore bypassing putting the necessary time it takes to develop a child artist. Too bad for the kids whose parents aren’t exploiting them online (a father of one of the younger contestants actually had an issue with children services because of the sexual inappropriateness of the child’s video).
Third, JD is stifling the creative artists that these young minds are trying to grow in to. A recent challenge was to find an outfit out of the Goodwill for $30. While this seems humbling, the kids were harshly critiqued on what they chose and then shown a “more suitable” look. Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t a large part of being an artist the freedom to express yourself. I truly think he’s dead wrong for telling an adolescent that their look is too ‘boring.’ Their look is their look. And they’re the youth, by the way; they set trends. I guess they should take advice from an old dude who was never known for dressing well.
Also, the parents don’t contribute any positivity to how these kids are going to contribute to the future of hip hop. They tend to their every want and simply feed their egos until neither parent/manager nor child can tell reality TV from actual reality. The moment a parent lets their child give them directions is the same time that they create adults with destructive habits. You’ll hear the kids say things like, “My family is counting on me so they can move to a better place.” Why are these parents placing such adult burdens on their children? No, paren-gers – YOU need to be the provider and the reason your child doesn’t have to support themselves, not the other way around.
The last thing I’ll touch on is the fact that we live in a time of independent musicians. Being signed to a record deal is no longer the determining factor of success in the music industry. These rappers are on the fast track to having all their money eaten up by So So Def and their parents. Haven’t we all seen this play out before? Shit, we’ve even heard some of JD’s past artist admit that they led lives they shouldn’t have before they were ready only to regret it later. These kids are entering into the same world of manipulation. One of the girls was already booking shows and making money on her own. I guess now she’ll be sharing those publishing royalties. For what though? She was already getting it on her own! I wish these artists could take a page out of someone like Chance the Rapper’s book and learn how to be entrepreneurs and business people. This should be a show teaching them about owning their publishing and how to collect royalties,
book shows, and stay focused. NOT! They’re about to get robbed, so to speak.
In conclusion, I do not enjoy this publicized example of children being critiqued harshly, spoken to and treated as adults, and being molded into something they weren’t naturally becoming on their own. It’s not fair to them, their art or the future of our genre. These are the voices that we’re looking to to create a new message and sound for our future. I feel like I’m watching “The Rap Game” show our youth how to play instead of how to rule.