RapCaviar, a rap-dedicated Spotify playlist and podcast, recently partnered with Hulu to create a documentary series called “RapCaviar Presents.” The six-part docuseries targets issues that society faces, with each episode focusing on a specific rapper and topic. It explores mental health, women’s expression of their sexuality, criticism on social media, and rap lyrics being criminalized in court.
Two of the episodes focus on women rappers and their tribulations as celebrities. Rapper Coi Leray’s episode portrays themes of body image and being criticized. The other episode focused on Miami natives JT and Yung Miami, a rap duo called City Girls. It calls attention to the many female rappers that are placed in boxes and condemned for expressing their sexuality or authentic life issues.
Headlines and even other musical figures have targeted women rappers such as Cardi B, Megan thee Stallion, and Lil Kim for their vulgar content and reclamation of sexuality and femininity. Jermaine Dupri once used the statement “it’s like strippers rapping” to express his disinterest in female rappers “all rapping about the same thing.”
The final episode, “Rhyme and Punishment,” discusses the involvement of law enforcement surveilling rappers and anticipating crime. It also provides information on the issue of using rap lyrics as evidence for cases against artists, recently popularized again by a RICO case against rappers Young Thug and Gunna.
FAMU Adjunct Professor Maurice Johnson is an avid Hip Hop fan and has used music as a tool to teach students about Black life and culture. His thesis for his graduate studies was titled, “A Historical Analysis: The Evolution of Commercial Rap Music.”
“I do not agree with rap lyrics being used as evidence against Hip Hop artists in court,” Johnson said. “To villainize artistry which has typically always been hyperbolic in nature is counterproductive to free artistic expression and sets a dangerous precedent as far as censorship and societal critique.”
The documentary pointed out that artists of other genres, typically not as minority dominated as Hip Hop is, do not have their lyrics held against them in the same fashion even when they are violent or more vulgar.
“I think it’s just another case within the historical villainization of Black artistry. It’s no different than the great jazz artists of the past being criminalized for their music and their influence on the dominant population,” Johnson said.
“Ultimately, Black culture in general and Black music specifically, is both fetishized and feared. It’s loved by the dominant population for its entertainment value and feared because of its social and political value.”
Documentaries like RapCaviar Presents provide Black musical artists the opportunity to tell their stories while connecting to viewers at home through the issues they may share. Growing representation in documentaries and film immortalizes Black culture and history.
Ismara Cajuste, a public relations senior at FAMU, believes it is important to have more documentaries highlighting the struggles Black artists are facing as a result of being in the spotlight.
“I think it’s a great way to show their personal life. It shows that with the success they have, there’s a lot that comes with it,” Cajuste said. “It also highlights perseverance and not being able to give up even when the media is against you.”
Black culture and life has always been under a microscope and sometimes it seems like there are new ways that it can be nitpicked. RapCaviar Presents and other documentaries are continuing to push the narrative and call out the issues Black artists deal with, whether it may relate to society or Black people specifically.