Monday, September 28, 2015

Guest Blogger: M. Tayo - I’m Petty Rapstar: Volume 2


I'm Petty Rapstar: Volume 2
Because TransRacial Lives Matter Ya'll~

No that’s not a typo, that’s genuinely what I think the MNET show, Unpretty Rapstar: Volume 2 should be renamed, as that’s all I’ve witnessed so far. And this time, I’m here for all of it.

After the runaway success of the first season, one thing was made very clear: pettiness sells and gets people talking. So this season, all the focus is on petty one-upmanship, poor attempts at throwing shade and of course, our favorite type of appropriation: cultural appropriation.

I initially refused to watch Unpretty Rapstar, because I loathe the Korean variety/competition show editing technique where they instant replay before the event has even happened, which kills the momentum entirely. I used to find myself shouting at the screen in frustration over wanting just to experience the complete scene uninterrupted by other people’s reactions, (Jackson of GOT7 reuniting with his parents on Roommates is a great example of this terrible editing technique). Seriously Korea, stop it. Just let the scene speak for itself.

I’m also not a fan of runner-up Jessi. As a long time BoA fan, I wasn’t too impressed with the remarks she made about BoA’s alleged sexuality (it was a while ago, but still), plus I don’t like the delusion she has about being a skilled MC, when all she does is throw in random Korean words amongst mostly mangled English. However when I was introduced to the Goddess that is Cheetah, I changed my mind about this particular show.

So when I found out that Yubin, of the newly reformed Wonder Girls was scheduled to be on the show, it was a done deal.
I decided to watch it solely for Yubin (and maybe Hyorin, even though I’m still confused as to why she’s on the show).

A majority of the girls are very talented, mostly the older heads like Yubin, Gilme and Kittib. There’s even a wildcard in Yezi, but we all know that the standout talent is Truedy.



This young cat, entered the arena, decked out in old-skool hip-hop attire and threw so many English phrases around within the first 20 seconds of everyone meeting her, that they immediately questioned her nationality. When faced with the dreaded question that most mixed-Koreans face, she looked genuinely shocked and proclaimed that, she was a person from Eunpyeong-Gu (a region in Seoul). At no point did she mention the fact that she was mixed, either on the show or in any of the TV-spots before hand.
And it’s because she’s not mixed, Un-Truedy (shoutout to Pika Pika 217 from Omona for that one) has been cosplaying as a biracial Korean the whole time. And why? Apparently, it’s because she loves black culture.

She loves black culture so much that she’s prepared to tan her skin, put some kinky yaki in her pony tail, get cornrows, (which she refers to as ‘dreads’ according to the subbed episodes) and speak with a strange affectation as if she’s a person with mixed heritage, but not just any person-specifically Tasha/Yoon Mirae, now of MFBTY and the first lady of Hip-Hop in Asia, period.



Un-Truedy set herself up as the talented underdog in the beginning. She portrayed herself as a person who had risen from the underground, 8 Mile style, but just couldn’t shake that pesky Tasha comparison, and it clearly upset her, demonstrated by her crocodile tears in episode one of the show.

I was taken in immediately as I’m rather sensitive to seeing mixed kids on Korean TV talk about their struggles, so I gathered that Truedy was mixed like Tasha and looked up to her so much, that naturally she would end up sounding like her since she probably grew up on the school of Tasha (which spans from the late 90s-present). While there’s no doubt that Truedy is aware of Tasha’s work, it seems to be a bit more calculated in the sense that it’s obvious that Truedy has studied Tasha’s hand gestures and cadence to the point where it’s leading to uncanny valley territory. She has even taken on the name Truedy (obviously her English/stage name) a name beginning with T like Tasha, who long ago was known simply as T.

We’re all allowed to be inspired, but unlike pop music, where it seems to be a rite of passage; biting someone’s style in Hip-Hop is a big no-no. It’s comparable to having a ghostwriter, which is the ultimate cardinal sin, as hip-hop is supposed to be about authenticity.

The reason why I’m so perturbed by this black cosplay thing that people like Truedy, Rachel Dolezal, the entire Kardashian family, and Rita Ora are doing is that they are using their privilege to cherry pick things they like about black/mixed women and have chosen to use those features, that cannot be erased on a black or mixed woman, and used them to their advantage. Suddenly, having cornrows are, ‘bold braids’ and having a set of full lips are now seen as beautiful. Let’s not get into the whole big ass trend (fetish). That’s another think-piece for another day.


When Tasha, debuted in Korea at age 16 in Uptown, she was a cute, visibly mixed kid with box braids and had a flow like Da Brat, but the point is, above all, she was the most talented in a group that was doomed to fail. The group’s demise came about in 2000, because of some trumped up drug charges, which involved Tiger JK, which ended up being very false. At the center of it all was Tasha who was being threatened with deportation or potential jail time. Because as we know, all Black folk do is encourage innocent people to take drugs~

If any of this surprises you, welcome to the real world. We’ve always lived in an age where dark skin is seen as a curse and a weapon, and in Korea, especially in 2000, Tasha’s skin tone was seen as something to be ashamed of. So much so that record executives told her to lie about it as they felt it would ruin Uptown’s image.

So, it’s pretty ironic that Truedy would go out of her way to wear all these black signifiers, when for the first half of her career, Tasha did nothing but try to tame her blackness. If you do a quick Google search you’ll see Tasha in braids, Tasha with relaxed hair, Tasha with wigs and various weaves, but rarely do you see Tasha with her natural hair. There are recent magazine publications that saturate her images with so much light that she’s barely recognizable and yet the Truedys of this world think it’s okay to cosplay as a black person (but not too dark, they gotta keep that privilege!) in order to seem more ‘authentic’ to whatever culture they are trying to appropriate.

To add insult to injury, Truedy spits predictable rhymes about things she’s probably only experienced vicariously from watching episodes of ‘Yo! MTV Raps’ on YouTube.
She has a thing about throwing the word black around whenever she gets the chance; the first being in the song, "Don't Stop" from the first challenge. Truedy raps about ‘Korea’s first black people’, which, in reality bears no meaning. But it immediately had people (like myself), saying, “See she has to be mixed, otherwise why would she say that?”

But nope, it turns out that Truedy just has a penchant for that word itself. In a freestyle she says; ‘Black feel like Teddy's jam’, referring to Teddy Riley. Then in the song, ‘If it wasn’t for music’ Featuring Cheetah and Verbal Jint, she says, ‘ma black queen Q’, who I’m still trying to figure out who she was referring to (Queen Latifah maybe? But then why not say my black Queen L?)

There has been ample time to shoutout Tasha for paving the way for herself, but it hasn’t happened yet, because what we’re witnessing is the Korean edition of, ‘Single White Female’, without the murder. One can only hope.

Aside from Truedy being a culture vulture, she’s also very arrogant and finds the need to drone on about how talented she is. However, she knows who to kiss up to, hence why Jessi of all people, seems to be enamoured by her. Truedy’s pettiness first became apparent when she eliminated Su-Ah simply for not voting for her, when before they were chatting it up and became very close. Another moment of petty was when she decided to perform right in Gilme’s face and told her to pay attention (as Gilme tends to get nervous and forget her own lyrics). I think it’s safe to say that Truedy will emerge as the villain of this season.

I’m not saying Truedy won’t win, in fact it makes sense if it’s already fixed for her to win, because then the Korean music industry will have a Tasha-Lite that they can actually control.

There’s no doubt that the girl is talented, but after witnessing her shady activities amongst all the cultural appropriation, it’s hard to root for her. However I wish, Yubin, Gilme, Kittib and Yezi the best. I think I’ll be watching this show to see how long it takes for the rest of the cast to coin onto what Truedy is really like. It’s like watching Gone Girl all over again. But as the saying goes, what is done in the dark shall be revealed in the light. And I shall revel in every moment. Because petty is as petty does. 

Written by M. Tayo, children's author and London Native. 

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