‘Rap Sh!t’ Season 2 Review: Issa Rae's Unfiltered Comedy Is Gold

‘Rap Sh!t’ Season 2 Review: Issa Rae’s Unfiltered Comedy Is Gold

When dreams come to fruition, they often look much different than initially imagined. As the Issa Rae-created Max dramedy “Rap Sh!t” opens its second season, we find rap duo Shawna (Aida Osman) and Mia (KaMillion) at a crossroads. While they’ve gained some traction online, stardom and a substantial career still feel inaccessible. Their first tour is on the horizon, but the women are stuck swaying their hips to the latest track from Reina Reign (Kat Cunning) on the set of her music video. Though Caresha “Yung Miami” Brownlee and Jatavia “JT” Johnson, aka rap group City Girls, serve as executive producers on the show, this sequence would not be bad bitch approved. Mia leans into the performance as the Iggy Azalea-esque Reina throws her blaccent across the beat. Meanwhile, Shawna can barely swallow her contempt for the talentless emcee.

With Shawna and Mia playing the background instead of stepping into the spotlight, an ego-driven war is brewing between Reina’s producer, Francois Boom (Jaboukie Young-White )and Shawna and Mia’s ill-equipped manager Chastity (Jonica Booth). The path to success clearly won’t be engraved in crystal.

Picking up shortly after the events of last season’s finale, Shawna is officially a person of interest in the fraud inquiry at her former place of employment, South Beach’s posh Plymouth Hotel. Though she and her lover/co-worker Maurice (Daniel Augustin) are still hanging out, their mutual distrust and a quickly intensifying investigation dampen Shawna’s excitement for the tour. And Mia can’t even celebrate this new chapter in her life without awkward conversations with her daughter’s father, Lamont (RJ Cyler), or dealing with the drunken outbursts of her mother (Bobbi Baker).

Stripping back the social media-heavy visuals that drove the narrative in the first season, “Rap Sh!t” moves beyond the frame of an iPhone as Mia and Shawna explore the music world outside Miami. As the backups to the opening act, the ladies learn firsthand how predatory and cruel the music industry can be — even when they’re working with people who claim to have their backs. Despite their differences, the two lean on each other while contending with filthy motel rooms, colorism, rampant misogyny, dwindling finances and their own evolving public images.

Bangers like the duo’s “Seduce & Scheme” rang out across Season 1, but “Rap Sh!t’s” sophomore season, despite its fantastic score, looks beyond catchy lyrics and past the smoke and mirrors that give the music business its Oz-like quality. While unveiling more of the ladies’ personal histories, this season narrows in on how autonomy, image and the pressure to succeed are ever more complicated for women in entertainment. Mia, Shawna and even Chastity must combat aspects of these issues in a system that wants to take ownership not just of their artistry but of their personhood. The show also doesn’t back away from problems that have long plagued performers, from substance dependency to suicidal ideation to an overall loss of control, while addressing how fame can bring them forth.

Despite its more serious tone, this season of “Rap Sh!t” is still fun. Mia’s besties Nelly (Dominque A. Perry) and Aleeshia (Brittney Jefferson), with their one-liners and chaotic points of view, are as hilarious as ever. A sequence featuring Lamont experiencing a true taste of solo parenting will undoubtedly elicit laughs and perhaps an urge for chicken nuggets. Moreover, sensual and seductive moments, specifically one with Summer Walker crooning “Tonight” in the background, showcase how refreshing intimate scenes can be when shot from the female gaze.

Season 2 is textured and raw in the same way that Starz’s “P-Valley” is such a thrilling watch. As Mia, Shawna and Chastity navigate new stages and audiences, they learn that fame and notoriety don’t change origin stories or past traumas. Dreams can come true, but they can also unearth nightmares.

The first two episodes of “Rap Sh!t” Season 2 will premiere Nov. 9 on Max, with new episodes airing weekly on Thursdays. The series was originally set to debut on Aug. 10 but was delayed due to the 2023 SAG-AFTRA strike.