20150903_seoulbeats_unpretty rapstar_volume 2There’s an old saying in show business that goes, “The show MUST go on!” Whether half of the cast gets sick or a tornado hits, in entertainment, there is never a break. It’s a bloody, tough business. Most will tell you the general attitude behind the scenes is, “If you don’t put on a show, someone else will steal your audience.” Networks can’t afford to lose revenue, even when it’s clear they’re headed towards a train wreck. So much money and time is invested that most would rather watch everything burn to ashes instead of scrapping their losses and calling it quits.

Unpretty Rapstar 2 started off with the potential to capitalize upon its popularity from last season. We had a new crop of rappers, but Mnet was doing a little too much to replicate the magical dynamic of the first cast. Can’t we just watch them rap without there being unnecessary drama?

Clearly, we cannot because episode 4 opens with a deceptively peaceful barbecue for the rappers. The ladies enjoyed their food and drinks, which was needed after the previous elimination round. The atmosphere was light, but it didn’t take long for the rappers to suspect something was up. Their foresight proved truthful when 4 Minute‘s Jiyoon arrived. She was there to join the cast.

20140903_seoulbeats_jay parkAfter her awkward rap introduction, San E played snippets of the next two tracks. The producers for these tracks were Jay Park and Cha Cha Malone of AOMG. The rappers chose which tracks they wanted through a room selection. However, the rappers would be split into teams within those rooms and battle each other before facing a final round that would determine the track artists. Hyolyn, Jiyoon, Heize, and KittiB were in one room while the rest wanted the other track.

Tensions were building between Heize and KittiB, forming a small rivalry. As a result, Hyolyn partnered with Heize while KittiB got stuck with Jiyoon. In the other room, a similar situation arose between Truedy and Sua. Despite her plea to join her, Truedy turned Sua down, choosing to work with Yubin and Kasper instead.

Later on, the teams performed the tracks inside a club with Jay Park and Cha Cha judging them. During her rap, Truedy forgot her lyrics and apologized on stage. Her mistake sent her into a meltdown that Mnet milked to death, even showing a clip of Truedy crying in a corner while Yezi was killing her rap for her team’s stage. I found this edit to be quite pandering and rude because Yezi, Gilme, and Sua didn’t deserve to have their performance interrupted by Truedy’s tears. Yes, she’s upset that she messed up, but what does that have to do with the other team? Don’t destroy their moment for this contrived moment of sympathy for Truedy.

The remaining teams’ performances were a lot less tearful but not without mistakes. KittiB flubbed her lyrics yet remained composed. Regardless of her good recovery, Heize and Hyolyn put on an error-free show, so Jay Park chose them. Obviously, Truedy’s mistake cost her team, so Sua, Yezi and Gilme moved onto the next round. After the final rounds concluded, the tracks went to Hyolyn and Yezi.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Ykl3XTaq9Y?rel=0]

With melodramatic meltdowns no longer an issue, it was time for another elimination battle. Again, the rappers would face each other one on one. The battle lineup was Sua vs. Yezi, Heize vs. KittiB, Kasper vs. Jiyoon, Truedy vs. Gilme, and Yubin vs. Hyolyn. San E introduced the next two tracks’ producers, Dok2 and The Quiett. The winners could choose which track they wanted, but the losers’ fates would be in the hands of the producers because they had to choose them. The one not chosen would be eliminated permanently.

20120713_seoulbeats_gilmePersonally, I found two of the battles to be the most intriguing because they exposed weaknesses of some of the rappers. KittiB caught Heize off-guard by rapping to her ex-boyfriend Crucial Star‘s track. Heize couldn’t recover from the shock and messed up her lyrics. Gilme called out Truedy for doing blackface and copying Yoon Mi-rae. Truedy teared up near the end but finished off her rap by letting Gilme know she wasn’t ashamed of being inspired by Yoon Mi-rae.

When the dust settled, KittiB, Truedy, Hyolyn, Yezi, and Kasper sat pretty in the winners’ seats while the rest waited to learn their fate. Gilme wasn’t chosen by either of the producers for their tracks, so she was off the show. With little time for tears, the rappers prepared for their next track mission.

The two-part mission would have each team re-interpret one of the producers’ hit songs. Two rappers from each team would be chosen by the audience and producers’ votes. A diss battle would determine the winners. After the teams performed, the rappers picked to battle were Truedy vs. Yezi and Yubin vs. KittiB.

Yubin and KittiB went first, and KittiB was feeling confident because Yubin tends to mess up during battles. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case this time as Yubin kept her composure throughout her diss. Yubin seems to love body-shaming disses because she targeted KittiB’s weight. Not sure how KittiB is “piggy,” but KittiB showed no signs of being fazed. In the end, The Quiett selected Yubin as the winner.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mWO4ZSQc9rM?rel=0]

Next battle was Truedy and Yezi. Truedy made a remark towards Yezi about how she never won anything, but Yezi quickly got in her face to remind her how wrong she was. Before their battle, San E mentioned that both of them had won a track, so Truedy’s comment came off ignorant. Was this evil editing again, or was she not paying attention when San E said that? Either way, Yezi didn’t back down in her disses, even noting that Truedy was recycling old verses from previous battles. Dok2 chose Truedy for his track, but if I’m being honest, I saw her winning it before a beat even dropped. I could tell Dok2 just wanted Truedy no matter how she did. I get there is favoritism at play here, but now it’s growing tiresome. Whatever — the show must go on.

20150301_seoulbeats_rubber soulThe rappers entered a room for their next challenge and saw two young ladies sitting already. That’s right, more rappers! This time it was Starship trainee EXY and Kim of Rubber Soul. The rappers made it known they were irritated by this in their confessionals. EXY and Kim rapped their introductions, which went smoother than Jiyoon’s clumsy rap from episode 4. The newcomers show potential, but anything can change.

It’s at this moment that San E revealed their next mission: Show Me the Money 4 versus Unpretty Rapstar 2 rappers. The female rappers were excited for this epic battle until San E informed them there could be more eliminations. During rehearsals, some female rappers recognized the difference in skill level immediately, expressing anxiety over their own stages. The male rappers came off mostly unfazed by their opponents, saying that most of them sounded alike. Mnet didn’t have to work hard to paint the female rappers as the weaker team, but it’s still a disheartening narrative. At least, the performances came off more energized than in previous challenges. As much as I’d love to give the results, the episode ended before anything could be revealed.

This show is simply exhausting on so many levels. The stench of desperation is pungent as Mnet sabotages another popular show. The revolving door of rappers is aggravating because there is no rationality behind it. It feels like Mnet is trying to create the perfect cast of rappers who will pull in high ratings, but they can’t settle on a final group.

20151105_seoulbeats_unprettyrapstar2Another issue is they are really set on creating drama where there is none. Perhaps the reason why the show fails is because of Mnet’s determination to turn the contestants against each other. They lucked out with Heize, KittiB, Sua, and Truedy, but it’s basic rapper beef. Absolutely nobody hates anyone enough to plot their destruction like a maniacal Bond villain, so they need to stop trying to instigate cat fights.

Also, there’s something about Truedy that has Mnet working overtime for her screen time. So much focus is placed on Truedy that I feel bad for the rest trying to get their names known better. During most of the battles, they kept cutting to her dancing in her seat like she’s Taylor Swift at an awards show. Some may argue that she’s really into the performances, but I sense that she and the other rappers are coached to exaggerate their reactions. The only real moment we ever got from her was when Gilme shut her down in their diss battle. The fact that Truedy showed how bothered she was by her words means she knows some of it is true.

Mnet does less malicious editing of Yezi now that people recognize her skills. She is my new favorite with her sharp delivery and take-no-prisoners attitude. Like Gilme, she seems to be the only other rapper not intimidated by Truedy. With the exception of Jiyoon, the idol rappers are proving themselves to be better than I anticipated.

Between the eliminations and questionable winners, it’s getting harder to remain interested in a show set on creating a false narrative under the guise of a real competition. The main reason the first season worked is because more focus was put on the rappers’ skills over cheap plot twists. This allowed the audience to discover who they were as artists without heavy manipulation involved. Sadly, Mnet keeps promoting the wrong things, but regardless, the show must go on.

(YouTube, Images via Mnet, AOMG)