4 out of 5 star rating
Average show length – 58 mins
For context, I like UK Rap and Grime music but I do not live and breathe it. I can go many days without hearing bars and would rather listen to soul or RnB if I’m honest. So when I heard there was a new rap talent contest judged by legendary DJ and radio host DJ Target and fabled south London rap duo Krept & Konan coming to the BBC I wasn’t that excited by the prospect.
The winner of the show was slated to win a recording contract with Krept and Konan’s new recording label Play Dirty. The cast had to live together in a luxury apartment in Birmingham and at the offset of the show there were 7 original cast members; F.O.S hailing from Scunthorpe, Ransom FA born and raised in Aberdeen, Lady Ice from Manchester, Kiico from North London, Chade Paine from Harrow in North West London, Unknown Smooth from Milton Keynes and J Lucia a resident of St Lucia until his family moved to Essex in his late teens.
It seems the production team made a concerted effort to ensure they had contestants from different pockets of the country and it made for some really interesting content throughout the series. For example F.O.S (Scunthorpe), Ransom FA (Aberdeen) and Lady Ice (Manchester) had a chat about the difficulties of trying to make it as a rapper based far from London when the industry is mainly based in the capital. The trio came across as optimistic about being able to make it with the use of social media, but the final episode of the series saw Ransom FA make the decision to move to London because there weren’t as many opportunities in Aberdeen.
The first episode starts with the contestants arriving one by one at the venue for the first challenge. The initial meetings were hilarious as the contestants were naturally sizing each other up and making comments about each other. The contestants then go on to meet DJ Target, Krept and Konan for the first time and are set the challenge of rapping acapella on the spot. Some of the rappers excelled and some of the rappers failed miserably. Krept and Konan have been doing extremely well as artists for nearly 10 years and it was really interesting to see them judging rather than being judged as talent. Their raw and honest responses really intrigued me and made for great viewing.
Every episode consisted of two challenges set by the judges DJ Target, Krept and Konan followed by them being ranked by the judges. The challenges went from the chance to perform in front of an audience in Birmingham to getting the chance to make a song with star producer Jae5. My favourite challenge being when they were asked to embrace Grime culture and ‘clash’ each other. When J Lucia and Lady Ice clashed it ended in J Lucia bringing up Lady Ice’s dead aunt and Lady Ice accusing J Lucia of claiming to have slept with Konan’s ex-girlfriend. It was scintillating.
From the first frame of the show I could tell The Rap Game UK was unlike any other talent contest on TV. First of all we didn’t see the contestants audition for the show, the selection and vetting process had been done already off camera. This may not seem like a massive deal but it is a big gamble. Contestants on shows like the X Factor or the Voice gain popularity at times because we witness their vulnerability in wanting the opportunity to showcase their talent. Understanding their background makes us more likely to connect straight away. If you watch through to the end of Rap Game UK you will never learn the age or real names of the contestants. A very bold choice but i think it really worked. Instead of creating a 45 second video about each contestant and why they are there, the production team behind the Rap Game instead chose to explore different parts of each contestants journey throughout the 6 episodes of the programme in relations to the challenges set. The storytelling about the contestants felt more like a documentary than the more polished infomercial style other talent shows lean towards.
On a really film nerdy note, the art direction of the show was amazing and the aesthetic perfectly reflected the musical genre and the subjects matters being covered. A lot of the interviews were shot handheld at a slightly below eye level angle in stairwells, on street corners and in parks giving a really down to earth urban feel. The interviews that were shot in a more conventional manner were beautiful as the production team built a coloured set to shoot them in. No expense was spared on production.
In terms of criticisms one thing about the show that grated my gears was that on a few of the episodes there were people tied in the rankings. With the worst case of it being a three-way 2nd place tie. As a talent show you HAVE to separate the contestants properly if you are going to rank people as part of the show in my opinion. I was also underwhelmed by some of the talent on show, specifically with Unknown Smooth, she ended up getting kicked off the show 3 weeks in but nonetheless I was quite disappointed.
I highly recommend the show as it surpassed my expectations and provided real insight into the industry (see full episodes here). With cameos from Mist, Ghetts, AJ Tracey, Devilman, Daps on the Map, Lady Leshur and many more it was a great representation of the UK Rap scene. I am a lot better at talking about film and TV than I am at writing about it, you can hear my views every fortnight on my podcast ‘The Creative Juice Podcast’.