20150903_seoulbeats_unpretty rapstar_volume 2Guess what? Unpretty Rapstar is back! Fans rejoiced over news of a second season, eagerly anticipating who would be cast. Of course, it’s not an Mnet show unless there is some controversy before the show airs, so we were bombarded with rumors of who the new rappers would be. Names were thrown around in a blender with only a few confirmations leaked out after pathetic attempts of lying denial failed. Would this be an aural feast or indigestion for the senses? Anything goes in these shows, so let’s get to know our new cast!

Like last season, we’re introduced to the rappers as they enter a room. It starts off with a clip of Heize recording her part of the Unpretty Rapstar teasers. Her intro compares her to Jessi for her tough appearance, but her raps are all about love, which some of her haters don’t consider to be hip hop.

Following her is Fiestar‘s Yezi who joined to disprove the stereotype that female idols can’t rap. She wouldn’t be the only one in that position with Yubin of Wonder Girls and Hyolyn of Sistar also in the cast. All three felt constrained by their roles in their groups and wanted this chance to prove their skills.

Kitti B entered to cement her status as queen of the underground scene, and yes, she feels vaguely similar to Cheetah. Actually, it becomes clear with a couple of other rappers what exactly Mnet is doing — trying to replicate the same chemistry as last time. If Heize is Jessi and Kitti B is Cheetah, then who is Yuk Ji-dam‘s doppleganger? It’s a soft-spoken teenager named Sua, a YG trainee. Ash-B and Kasper filled in the Jolly V and Tymee roles as apparent rivals with unresolved beef since Ash-B once dissed Kasper on a track.

20120713_seoulbeats_gilmeWhile some fans were excited for the inclusion of Gilme, she showed up with all of the enthusiasm of a worn-out bloodhound. Rather than being focused on showcasing her experience, she seemed more concerned with her age. As the oldest member, she expressed slight jealousy over her competition’s youth in the confessionals.

Ahn Soo-min gained screen time on Show Me the Money 4(SMTM4) thanks to Black Nut choosing her for a rap battle because he had a crush on her. She’s been bothered by the “pretty girl rapper” label after that incident. Truedy is another rapper who also wants to change her reputation, but it’s about her being a Yoon Mi-rae copycat. I’ll discuss more of that later.

San E returned as the host and was a lot more laid-back this time. Perhaps his scandal from SMTM4 tamed him, or maybe he watched himself from the first Unpretty Rapstar and realized how awkward he looked. Whatever the reason, it’s a refreshing change from his previous cringe-worthy antics.

As the only known vocalist among the rappers, Hyolyn faced an interrogation into her passion for hip hop. Kitti B wanted to know if she writes her own lyrics (she does), and Kasper asked her to name her favorite rapper (she choked). The mean girls theme didn’t end there as San E asked Ash-B about her diss towards Kasper. Despite the attempted provocation, nothing more than some scoffing and snobbish hair-tossing happened between those two in the room.

Since the cat fight failed, it was time for the introductory cyphers. Yubin and Hyolyn surprised everyone with their raps, earning them respect. Truedy also gained a few fans with her rap. Kasper appeared to enjoy seeing Ash-B stumble, but Kitti B also found herself flustered by the cypher. Sua showed she wasn’t to be underestimated as the youngest rapper. Gilme fired off a fierce rap but seemed fatigued afterwards.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7rhJEIdy5CE?rel=0]

Once the cypher was completed, San E told them about their first mission: a music video. It would be a one-take with the entire cast, and it was up to them to decide the order. The final part of the song would allow for double the lines, so the ladies rapped the parts they wrote to decide who should get it. They chose Truedy for the role and filming got underway.

Everyone did their parts well with the exception of Gilme and Hyolyn. Both kept forgetting their lyrics, but Gilme powered through to nail her bit. The same could not be said for Hyolyn who ended up lip-syncing her part after several failed takes. This did not sit well with the other rappers.

After the MV shooting finished, San E showed them the video. Kitti B was embarrassed by her cleavage that drew focus away from her rap. Gilme and Hyolyn disliked their own performances while Truedy gushed over herself in the confessional. Once they were done watching, San E told them they would be voting openly for the best and worst rappers of the challenge. This stressed out the rappers because it would expose their true feelings.

20130528_seoulbeats_hyorinVotes for best rapper were split between Truedy and Heize. However, Sua’s vote for Heize shocked everyone because of how much Sua and Truedy bonded up to this point. Despite the surprise, Truedy still won the challenge.

As for the worst rapper, Hyolyn’s name showed up on almost everyone’s ballot. Hyolyn even voted for herself, knowing it was against the rules, but she didn’t feel right putting anyone else’s name down. Yubin stood by her as a fellow idol, thinking Hyolyn lip-synced to spare her voice but expressed her anger once she learned that Hyolyn had a different reason for it. Only Sua chose Truedy as the worst because she felt her rap fell short of expectations.

Since she was voted as the worst rapper, Hyolyn couldn’t participate in the next challenge. She left humbly but wouldn’t be the only one. San E informed Truedy that she gained another advantage with her win: she could eliminate another rapper from the next round. Everyone figured she would take out Heize since she came in second place, but much to their surprise, she chose Sua. Truedy took Sua’s voting choice as a sign of a potential rivalry, so she picked her.

The next mission was a team challenge that opened an opportunity to be on one of the next two tracks of the compilation album. They would be judged by the audience and Verbal Jint, and the top two from each team would battle for the songs. As the rappers listened to snippets of the tracks, Jessi and Cheetah appeared. They were the featuring artists for the tracks. This made the rappers more motivated, especially Heize who is a huge fan of Jessi. Her fangirling amused San E as he seemed to call every name but hers to pick teams. Luckily, she caught a break and gained the last spot on Jessi’s team.

20151006_seoulbeats_unprettyrapstar_jessiAs the teams prepared for their performance, Jessi and Cheetah checked their progress during rehearsals. They also dropped the news that one of them would be eliminated from the mission before going on stage. Earlier, during the team picking process, Kitti B criticized Jessi’s lack of Korean lyrics in her raps. Jessi responded that Kitti B should focus on her rapping instead. Regardless of their personal feelings, Jessi recognized Kitti B’s skills, but she wasn’t impressed by Kasper or Yezi. Yezi’s performance didn’t wow Jessi, so she was booted from the mission.

On Cheetah’s team, Gilme and Ash-B flubbed their lyrics during rehearsals. Both were prime targets for elimination, but Ash-B got the ax. Despite messing up earlier, Gilme pulled out a great performance and earned herself a shot of being on the third track. Truedy won a majority of the audience votes and Verbal Jint’s personal vote, so she became a contender as well. Yubin won the audience vote for Jessi’s team, and Verbal Jint chose Heize for his vote, rounding out the top four.

Once again, pressure claimed Gilme as she messed up her rap during the battle with Truedy. Even though she lost the track, she wanted to perform a rap to the second song. The judges (San E, Verbal Jint, Cheetah, and Jessi) allowed her a shot, but she failed again. The track went to Truedy.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PumKqkNM_Gk?rel=0]

Moving onto the other battle for the second track, Yubin and Heize gave strong performances, making it tough for the judges to pick a winner. Heize won, but Yubin felt disappointed in herself for not doing better.

Wasting no time, it was time for the next challenge. The stakes were at their highest for this particular mission because two rappers would face permanent elimination from the competition. There would be two battles to decide the losers. The first battles would be one on one and allow for live online voting. This stirred up contention from some rappers because Hyolyn and Yubin held an advantage as well-known idols. Hyolyn didn’t think she had a large fan base, so she felt it was fine; whereas, Yubin disliked the idea that her skills would be overlooked for popularity.

San E called up rappers randomly to choose their opponents. Hyolyn picked Kasper, Ash-B chose Gilme, Kitty B went for Heize, and Truedy took on Soo-min. That left Yubin, Yezi, and Sua as the only triple battle. After the battles completed, the bottom rappers were Kasper, Heize, Yezi, Soo-min, and Ash-B.

20130927_seoulbeats_madclownIt should be noted here that Zico and Mad Clown came in as special guest judges for this part of the competition. They watched the earlier battles and gave their impressions of each rapper in their confessionals. They would also be saving two rappers from elimination. Zico chose Kasper because he saw she had potential, but it sounded like a pity vote in his explanation. Mad Clown picked Heize, who was humbly grateful for the save and promised to improve.

After the saves, the final battle to stay went underway. Ash-B slurred through her lyrics while Soo-min and Yezi spat hard, solid rhymes. The victor was Yezi, sending Ash-B and Soo-min home disheartened but thankful for the experience.

In order to brighten their spirits, a barbecue was held in the remaining rappers’ honor. All was going well until a mysterious guest showed up. It was 4 Minute‘s Jiyoon, but why was she there? The previews suggest she would be entering as a contestant, similar to what went down when Jace replaced Lil Cham last season.

Now, what I appreciate about this season is we did get more female participation on both sides of the spectrum. Not only are there more rappers, but seeing Jessi and Cheetah return as judges allowed for insight that didn’t feel geared towards a male point of view. The men are still primarily in charge of the album production, but that issue is something which will take a while to overcome with current sexist attitudes in entertainment. Having Jessi and Cheetah included as more than featured artists is still far better than what we got in the first season.

Gilme probably surprised fans the most because a lot of people expected more from her. As someone with years of experience, the pressure may be too much for her. I can’t put my finger on it, but I also suspect something else happening with Gilme behind the scenes. I won’t play online psychiatrist and claim depression, but her drained performances point to a problem beyond simple forgetfulness. I wish I knew what was going on with her, but the good news is people are rooting for her to make a successful comeback.

That said, it has been recently discovered that Mnet hid a potential problem with Yezi. While there has been no official statement on the matter, videos of Yezi having hearing difficulties suggested that her appearance on the show may have been maliciously manipulated. In some scenes, she asks others to repeat themselves or looks disinterested from the situation, which looks quite rude. However, if she does have a hearing disability, then this points to a larger offense by Mnet for painting her in such a negative way. It shows insensitivity on the producers’ part for not disclosing this information and making proper accommodations to help her. It’s also unfair to the other rappers who now look equally dismissive for an issue that was never brought to their attention. They would’ve likely treated Yezi better if they were aware of her hearing problems.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7DRSYZ_QTNA?rel=0]

In regards to Truedy, I have more questions than answers, and I’m not the only one, judging from various online commentary about her. “Is she black? Is she mixed? What’s up with her lyrics? If she hates the Yoon Mi-rae comparison, then why does she cosplay like her?” Personally, I’m not about to jump the gun and call her an impostor without hard evidence beyond some tweets on social media. The last time fans flamed an unnecessary online war over Unpretty Rapstar rumors, it turned out several people got their facts wrong and leaped to conclusions without an official statement.

Aside from that, here is my issue if she is simply a Korean girl: what does that say about the state of hip hop in South Korea? I’m not really blown away by her rapping, especially the lyrics. She says she wants to bring back old school; and she is, if she means the lazy, elementary raps that I heard in ’90s American cartoons. Honestly, that part of the decade can stay there because those kid-pandering raps were so horrendously bad. What drives me craziest is everyone praising her but swearing they can’t explain it. They like her because she sounds exactly like Yoon Mi-rae! That’s all it is!

Mnet couldn’t get the real deal, so she was the closest ticket. Call me a hater if you wish, but for a rapper who says she’s annoyed by the comparison, she isn’t doing herself any favors by mimicking the style of an established rapper instead of developing her own. She’ll need to do a lot more than utter the names of famous rappers and using English catchphrases in her lyrics to impress me. It’s a cheap tactic and I’m judging the hell out of everyone on the show who falls for it.

20150427_seoulbeats_yoonmirae_tashaNetizens seem more annoyed by her apparent arrogance than her possible exploitation of an identity of someone who went through so much crap to gain acceptance in the industry. And it’s not only Yoon Mi-rae — it’s Insooni, it’s Lee Michelle, and anyone else of mixed race who can’t simply discard their identities whenever it conveniences them. They had to deal with those prejudices from birth, so if Truedy is impersonating a biracial identity, then it’s a disgusting disregard for the plight of those living in South Korea who have to deal with that discrimination daily while she gets to put on a race like a costume and reap the benefits of it. Acceptance of this means it’s okay for people to continue placing black biracial Koreans in a box labeled “hip hop” and ignoring the fact that they are people who deserve respect instead of being viewed as human props for cool imagery.

I could blow up an entire article on that issue but back to the show. Mnet is lazy and did a simple copy, cut, and paste from last season. They purposely tried to recreate the same chemistry from the first cast, but the problem is they’re forcing it. Did anyone really buy that so-called rivalry between Ash-B and Kasper? Or the numerous other attempts to stir a cat fight between cast members? After the Yezi business, I feel a little bad for Kasper because they’re clearly editing her as a mean girl. In fairness, she did say some harsh things in her confessionals, but why exaggerate that part of her personality? The shots of side eye and eye-rolling are aggravating because it suggests these rappers have little respect for each other when a lot of them stated in their confessionals that they don’t actually have beef with anyone.

20151006_seoulbeats_wondergirls_yubinI’m very proud of my bias Yubin killing the game. She’s shocking a lot of people in a good way, and I love her humble approach to the competition. Rather than see it as an opportunity to show off, she comes off as someone who truly wants to learn and grow from this experience. In fact, all of the idol rappers are holding their own quite well, which is a refreshing change from AOA‘s Jimin playing victim last season. Hyolyn took responsibility for her bad performances, and Yezi isn’t going to allow some mean girl politics to deter her from showing her rap skills.

As for the rest, I love Heize and Kitti B, but it saddens me that Soo-min got the shaft again on an Mnet show. I want to see a diss battle between Sua and Truedy because that elimination mess by Truedy was petty. In fact, I’d love for anyone to shut down Truedy since she is slowly aggravating my nerves with her increasing arrogance. More than anything though, I want someone to call her out for those childish lyrics before she comes in rapping the theme from Scooby Doo and passing it off as creative gold.

Well, those are my thoughts, but what did you think about the first few episodes of season two? Are you looking forward to seeing Jiyoon join the cast? Who’s your fave so far? Comment down below!

(YouTube, Images via Mnet, InStyle, FeelGhood Music, Starship Entertainment)