20150910_seoulbeats_unprettyrapstarWhen Unpretty Rapstar first aired, nobody predicted its exploding popularity. Barely known names became celebrities in their own right while uplifting the image of female rappers. It seemed that the barriers keeping female rappers down were being broken by these empowered MCs. That’s why fans rejoiced upon hearing about a second season.

Expectations for Unpretty Rapstar 2 were shaky in the beginning, but some held hope things would improve. Sadly, those optimistic vibes would be tarnished with malicious editing and possible manipulation behind the scenes. Unlike the previous season, the talent pool felt a bit shallow with idols and trainees diving into a competition some viewers didn’t think they should join. While a few rappers improved their status, others suffered by exposing their weaknesses even more.

If you’re wondering how this could be, look no further than what happened when the ladies were pitted against the male rappers from Show Me the Money. San E warned the female rappers that anyone who ranked below 20 out of the 22 rappers would be eliminated. This put the ladies on edge, especially after sizing up their competition.

20151122_seoulbeats_kittibEven though things appeared bleak, the female MCs pulled some respectable numbers with Yezi and Truedy coming in 3rd and 4th place respectfully. KittiB came close to being cut at rank 19, but Kim of Rubber Soul fell below that and was dropped.

The challenge wasn’t over as the rappers had to perform another team mission for the next track, produced by YDG. Each team would do a cover of his hit songs before a final round to select a winner. Yezi got to pick her teammates first since she ranked highest in the last battle, so she chose KittiB, Wonder Girls‘ Yubin, and Sistar‘s Hyolyn. Truedy went with Heize and Sua, leaving EXY, Kasper and 4 Minute‘s Jiyoon as the last team. Yezi’s team won and moved onto solo battles. KittiB beat out her teammates for the track.

Afterwards, San E told the rappers it was time to compete for the final track. All ten rappers would pair up, and the lowest scoring team would be dropped. The fourth ranking team would battle each other for the last spot for the semi-finals.

In the team selection, San E called up rappers individually and then invited the rest to approach her if they wanted to work together. Most of the rappers wanted to avoid Jiyoon and Kasper. Jiyoon knew she didn’t have a great reputation, so she promised sushi for anyone who joined her. Apparently, not even a free meal was enough to provoke the rappers to pick her. The tables got turned when Yubin went up next, and Jiyoon was the only one who approached her. Despite the disappointment, Yubin made the best of their partnership by utilizing Jiyoon’s embarrassing catchphrase for their song. As a result, they put out a winning performance.

Everyone predicted Kasper and EXY to fail because of Kasper’s lacking stage presence, so it was no surprise when they ranked last. The bigger shock came from Yezi and Sua’s performance. Contrary to the rappers’ expectations, Sua outshined Yezi because the latter forgot her lyrics. This meant both would battle for a spot in the semi-finals, but Yezi felt too guilty to continue. The producers tried talking her out of quitting, saying it would inconvenience Sua to advance by default. After careful thought, Yezi chose to compete, but her heart wasn’t fully in her performance. On the other hand, Sua reached deep into her feelings for an emotional rap.

20151122_seoulbeats_fiestar_yeziSan E dropped another bomb on the remaining rappers by telling them they had to vote who to save. Sua’s autobiographical rap touched enough of them to earn her a spot in the semi-finals. It appeared this was the last of Yezi, but of course, Mnet had one more ace up their sleeve.

All of the eliminated rappers were brought back for a rematch that would grant one of them a spot in the semi-finals. There was something suspicious about the skewed editing that seemed to portray Yezi as the lone favorite among the audience that would vote for the winner. I love Yezi, but I hate Mnet’s method of storytelling. It’s unfair to the other rappers, and it’s pointless to kill the suspense by making it obvious who won. For any of you who haven’t figured it out, Yezi won the spot.

Perhaps that’s what made Truedy’s seemingly bold decision to pick the mystery rapper as her semi-final opponent an unbelievable moment. Whether it’s because she really felt Yezi was the best out of the eliminated, or Mnet’s producers gave her a heads up, the balloon of excitement deflated because Truedy was absolutely sure it was her. It’s at this point when Mnet revealed past scenes of conflict to create a beef that would intensify their showdown. After all, the viewers won’t care if the rappers don’t have a personal reason to win, which is why we’re bombarded with tear-jerking backstories of all the semi-finalists before their battles.

Out of all the rappers, only KittiB performed without a featuring artist. That’s not to downplay the stages of the rest, but there’s something about being confident enough to put on a solo performance. Her rousing rap defeated Jiyoon’s duet with BtoB‘s Ilhoon.

The collaborations had the rappers sizing up their featured guests more than their actual opponents. Heize brought in Chanyeol of EXO, stirring up some feelings of unfairness. People assumed she’d win through his celebrity. It didn’t matter because Hyolyn created her own controversy by singing a majority of her song with support from Basick. I don’t see anything wrong with utilizing all of your talents, but this is a rap competition, so the criticism is understandable. Either way, Hyolyn’s tactic won.

Speaking of tactics that deserve side eye, I couldn’t help but question the sincerity of Sua’s rap. She made it to the semi-finals with an emotional rap, so she used the same method again. Sua clearly understood the impact of sharing her pain, but it felt a bit manipulative. It’s hard to say if she won against Yubin because of her personal story, or if it was due to Yubin messing up her own performance.

The main event of Truedy versus Yezi arrived to great anticipation by everyone except the ladies themselves. Neither of them felt threatened by the other, so they put on confident stages. Still, something peculiar stood out — Truedy recycled old rap lyrics again. She didn’t even write new material; it was the exact same one she used in a previous mission. The audience either didn’t follow the show very well or forgot about it because they gave her the win anyway.

With KittiB, Hyolyn, Sua, and Truedy in the finals, it was time for the very last stage to determine the winner of Unpretty Rapstar 2. Brave Brothers produced the track featuring Gummy. I never thought anything could be worse than the theme song the rappers filmed for their first challenge, but I was so wrong. This was a mess. The rappers sounded horrible together, and Gummy’s wobbly vocals didn’t work well with the updated G-funk sound. By the way, Brave Brothers called it “G-funk,” so I’m only repeating his description. My description contains profanity.

San E dragged on far too long before revealing the results. After Sua and Hyolyn lost, he asked the rappers who they thought would win, and most picked KittiB. Truedy seemed a little taken aback, but largely unaffected by their responses. Makes perfect sense because she ended up winning. Yeah, Truedy won.

150131_seoulbeats_jiyoonRegardless, the true winners are the rappers who boosted their popularity by appearing on the show. Yezi is probably the most successful since she started off being vilified through evil editing. Through increasingly strong performances, she became a respected rapper who brought positive attention towards her group Fiestar. KittiB recently signed with Brand New, so it appears her career could take off as well. Jiyoon cemented herself with the quintessential catchphrase of the season, opening the door for potential variety show appearances.

Truedy may have won the competition, but her controversies could hinder any chance of her capitalizing on her victory. A lot of fans criticized her for doing blackface, copying Yoon Mi-rae‘s style, and recycling her rap lyrics. There’s also the issue of Mnet arranging collaborative projects for her, Heize, Kasper, and Ash-B. It’s unknown when this arrangement took place, but if it was before or during the competition, then that’s extra shady behavior. It definitely shines a greater light of suspicion regarding some of the battle results, including Kasper being magically rescued until almost the end.

Unpretty Rapstar 2 disappointed me in many ways. I didn’t like the manipulative editing. I hated their attempts to start up cat fights. There were far too many cliffhangers rotating rappers in and out to even care who stayed or left. Mnet focused on creating drama more than showcasing talent, which defeated the point of watching this show. Even the battle stages shortened as the challenges grew crazier. Most of all, there were just too many mission rounds for me to take a genuine interest in the results, especially when they were predictable.

Readers, what are your thoughts on Unpretty Rapstar 2? Was it a success or a mess?

(YouTube, Naver, Sports Chosun, Images via Mnet, Star1, Star News, Cube Entertainment)