Mnet’s competition reality show, Unpretty Rapstar, has come to an end, and although Cheetah, Jessi, Tymee, Jolly V, Yuk Jidam, Kisum, Jimin, Lil Cham, and Jace won’t appear on-screen to grace our ears with their rhymes and make us side eye, clap, or laugh at the drama. No more insane laughter from host San E either. Don’t get too down though! With an An Unpretty Rapstar concert coming soon, here’s a recap of each episode, complete with challenge winners, links to tracks, and a few side comments from yours truly.
We meet the competitors for this season:
- Cheetah-Show Me The Money alum
- Lil Cham- Known for sexual, risque lyrics
- Jimin- leader of idol group, AOA
- Kisum- SMTM 3 alum, tends to forget lyrics
- Jolly V- another SMTM alum, known for bad blood with Tymee
- Jessi- singer from co-ed group Lucky J
- Tymee- SMTM alum, known for bad blood with Jolly V
- Yuk Jidam- SMTM alum, youngest participant at 19 years old
(for more info on each participant check out this handy, nicely detailed list!)
Can anyone say awkward? From the first meeting of the contestants we know that one thing is clear: Jimin is out of her league. The girl is crying on day one and none of the other competitors have really sunk their claws into her yet. She’s going to have to grow a thicker skin, and quickly, before she has a mental breakdown. We also meet our host, former JYP artist, San E.
After a cypher that set the expectations for each rapper, the first challenge is set: the Unpretty Rapstars must shoot a 100 second cypher, parts of which were used for the title sequence. Difficulties arise during shooting, particularly with Lil Cham and Jessi. After the challenge, the competitors had to vote on who did the best and worst. The votes were split between Cheetah and Jimin for the best (remember this pairing). San E’s vote broke the tie, but it was left until the next episode. Jessi was voted the worst and eliminated from participating in the main challenge. The producer was revealed to be Zico of Block B.
San E chooses Jimin as the winner of the 100 second cypher (surprise, surprise). Zico then appeared in a video message, that laid down the ground rules for the main challenge. The Rapstars will be going head to head in teams, performing Zico’s “Tough Cookie” on stage with him. The winners of the best stage will then compete against each other for rights to the first track of the Unpretty Rapstar compilation album. Jimin’s advantage for winning the cypher was the ability to choose her team. Her decisions split the teams up as: Jimin, Kisum, Lil Cham vs Cheetah, Jolly V, Tymee, Yuk Jidam. Due to her being underage, Yuk Jidam was prohibited from performing at the club venue.
Jimin’s team went first. Both Jimin and Kisum performed well, however, Lil Cham was unintelligible and didn’t seem as at ease on stage as the rest of her team. Cheetah’s team then performed without Yuk Jidam. Tymee forgot her lyrics, taking away from the whole performance. The winning stage was chosen by audience vote, showcasing a major recurring flaw of the show’s system: Jimin’s popularity. People recognized Jimin and voted for her team, regardless. In this case, both teams’ stages were so-so, but the crowd became more engaged when Kisum and Lil Cham played up to Jimin being on the team.
Jimin, Lil Cham, and Kisum then had to prepare for their head to head battle. Zico gave Yuk Jidam the chance to compete in the individual battle since she hadn’t gotten to showcase her skills on the stage. Before the four finalists for the tracks could complete, Jessi had something to say…
The battle commenced. Kisum went first. Her stage was playful, showing her personality, but her flow was consistent and her punchlines clever. Jimin “impressed” the others by doing better than they expected her to (another common theme. Jimin getting praised, not for being GOOD but for EXCEEDING EXPECTATIONS). Unsurprisingly, Lil Cham failed to memorize her lyrics. Yuk Jidam went last, leaving such an impression on Zico that she became the winner of the first track.
The Unpretty Rapstars and San E join up for a meal. San E flirts horridly with Jimin and Lil Cham goes in like she’s been on a fast for a week. While talking about ideal types, two visitors stop by: Seulong of 2AM and Kangnam of M.I.B. Both are vocalists for the next two tracks, produced by Verbal Jint. The Rapstars divided themselves into teams based on which track they wanted to work on. Kangnam and Seulong fought over Jimin, and Kangnam flat out stated he didn’t want to work with Jessi (irony alert). Jimin, Jolly V, and Tymee chose Track 2, “Good Start,” with Seulong, leaving Jessi, Cheetah, Yuk Jidam, Kisum, and Lil Cham to battle over Track 3, “My Type,” with Kangnam.
During the first round, Good Start’s team was criticized for not taking the challenge seriously. Jimin and Jolly V performed impromptu freestyles, much to the annoyance of Tymee, who didn’t have anything secondary prepared. On the the other team, Verbal Jint commented that he was drawn to Cheetah and Jessi. Both VJ and Seulong pointed out Lil Cham’s awkwardness. Two rappers from each team advanced to the next round, a live performance with their respective vocalist.
For “Good Start,” Jimin was chosen while the second finalist’s reveal was hidden until the performance. Cheetah and Jessi were the finalists for “My Type.” While Jessi dominated the stage performance-wise and received more audience votes, Cheetah’s deliverance made it difficult for the judges to pick a winner. In a shocking turn of events, Verbal Jint chose both rappers as the winners of Track 3.
The second finalist for “Good Start” turned out to be Tymee. The judges felt that Tymee’s lyrics were better but Jimin had the edge in stage presence. The audience vote was a tie with both rappers getting 72 votes. The decision was left up to Verbal Jint, who awarded Track 2 to Jimin.
The Rapstars gathered for what they thought would be the announcement of their next mission, when they are suddenly introduced to a newcomer: Jace of Miss $ who introduces herself with a quick freestyle. After awkward flirting with Jimin, San E explains the situation: after a series of 1:1 diss battles, one of the 9 rappers will be eliminated from the show. San E picked one rapper’s name from a box and whoever wanted to battle that person could step forward. There would be three 2 person teams and one 3 person team. The battles came down to Jace vs Tymee, Jessi vs Lil Cham, Kisum vs Jolly V, and Jimin vs Cheetah vs Yuk Jidam.
The judges and producers of the next tracks are revealed to be MC Meta and D.O. The winners of each battle would move on to the second round, whereas the loser would be nominated for elimination. Each producer would be given the choice of rappers to compete for his track. The rapper who was not chosen for either team would be permanently eliminated.
Kisum vs Jolly V
Jolly V went in on Kisum, calling her a rapper but not an MC. Basically, Jolly V is saying that Kisum can rap but she’ll never be a true master of hip hop. Jolly V was also nice enough to take to Twitter (@JollyVsup) and explain the meaning behind some of her punchlines. Kisum came out swing but let her nerves get to her, causing her to forget her lines. MC Meta went as far as to call Kisum’s rhymes stale.
Winner: Jolly V (clearly)
Jace vs Tymee
Jace was first and, well, she tried. Her flow was generic, her lyrics were basic, and she didn’t diss her opponent. The most she said was one line about Tymee’s lyrics not meaning anything (it was so forgettable I had to go back and find the line again). Tymee, however, was ready for Jace. She attacked from the gate and made sure each line had a biting comeback. Her confidence was at it’s highest so far in the competition. Jace had no chance. MC Meta said that Jace came off as intimidated. D.O said that Tymee was so good there was no need to talk about her.
Jessi vs Lil Cham
No words. I’m just gonna leave this here
Jimin vs Cheetah vs Yuk Jidam
Yuk Jidam played to her strength-her youth. She set the record straight that no matter what they have to say to or about her, she’s still got the same, if not more, popularity as them and she’s done it in half the time. Cheetah let them know she wasn’t going to play games. She called Yuk Jidam predictable and made fun of the fact that Jimin had already cried. Her confidence and swagger on stage was palpable. This battle had one of Jimin’s better flows. She rode the beat well, but while she approached her opponents (Cheetah moreso than Yuk Jidam), her eyes stayed glued to the ground for most of her rap. Most of her lines were forgettable, except the one reminding everyone that even if they think she doesn’t belong, all their friends knew who she was. Yuk Jidam was eliminated for childish lyrics (AKA random insertion of Black Eyed Peas lyrics), making the final choice between Jimin and Cheetah (I told you to remember that pairing, didn’t I?).
Jolly V, Tymee, Jessi and Cheetah got to pick the producer they wanted to work with. The producers then got their pick of the losers. Team D.O became Tymee, Jessi, Yuk Jidam, and Kisum, while Team MC Meta became Jolly V, Cheetah, Jimin, and Jace. Lil Cham was not chosen for either team and was eliminated from the show with a teary goodbye.
In their teams, the Rapstars will perform a remake of their producer’s classic song in front of an audience of 500 people. Two finalists from each team- one chosen by the producer, the other from audience votes-would move on to the final round to compete for the track. Team MC Meta performed Rank Zero with Nuck of Soul Dive while Team D.O performed King With No Crown with San E.
Cheetah and Jolly V expressed concerns that Jimin’s popularity might affect the voting later. Jace was criticized for not being able to blend into the performance and seeming awkward on stage. Cheetah, as usual, was a top performer in the group. Jolly V was okay. Not one of her stronger performances at all.
Kisum and Jessi’s “rivalry” begins with this stage. So far, Kisum has been terrified of Jessi, but today she had no problems backhandedly talking about how Jessi uses too much English (which she does have a point. However, Jolly V uses a lot of English as well and no one spoke up about that). On stage, Jessi’s flow was too aggressive, but Kisum’s part was, in her own words, flawless. D.O. called Yuk Jidam’s tone and flow the most suitable for the track, however he criticized Tymee for having no strength in her stage.
D.O picked Jessi as the best performer on his team. MC Meta chose Cheetah as his number one. Cheetah also got first in the audience votes, so the second best on the team became the other finalist. Surprise! 2nd place went to Jimin. Likewise, Jessi got number one in the votes for her team, so Kisum became the second finalist. A 1:1 battle would determine the winner of the tracks. MC Meta called out Jolly V and Tymee, suggesting they have a battle for the honor of their rivalry, causing Tymee to burst into a rage and refuse.
Kisum vs Jessi
The next meeting opened with Tymee changing her mind and agreeing to a battle with Jolly V.
Afterwards, the track battles began. Jessi severely underestimated her opponent, even messed up and had to start again, leaving the field wide open for Kisum to come in and wreck her. Kisum did what Lil Cham had intentions of doing in the previous round. All fear of Jessi disappeared. D.O called Jessi too relaxed and praised Kisum for showing her skills unlike the last battle round.Winner: Kisum
Cheetah vs Jimin
The second battle of the titans. Cheetah and Jimin both had one track under their belts, making the winner of this battle the first to have multiple tracks. Jimin was at her most aggressive, matching Cheetah with no problem. She even swore and had to have her hand censored (ha!). One of the strongest matches so far. Though I admit to being Cheetah biased, based on this battle, the track could have gone to either woman.
Teamwork Battle is the name of the game in the next challenge for our Unpretty Rapstars, with total elimination in store for the losers. Teams were picked the same as they were previously (see ep. 4): Jimin & Kisum, Yuk Jidam & Jessi, Jolly V & Cheetah, Jace & Tymee. A panel of 15 rappers would be the judges for each stage: MC Meta, D.O, Rhymer, Verbal Jint, Joosuc, Vasco, Iron, Yankie, P-Type, Deep Flow, Wutan, Soul Dive, and San E
Cheetah and Jolly V
Jolly V was too busy with her “personal schedule” to practice with Cheetah. On stage, the lack of teamwork was evident. While Cheetah was relaxed and collected with her verses, Jolly V was jumping up and down and yelling like a kid hyped up on candy. The two energy levels were way off. The judges’ faces turned sour whenever it was Jolly V’s turn, however, they all enjoyed Cheetah.
Jessi and Yuk Jidam
This challenge turned Yuk Jidam into Jessi’s mini me. More than usual, anyway. There’s no denying that the two have very similar, aggressive styles. However, Yuk Jidam was quick to say yes to all of Jessi’s suggestions for their stage. It’s clear that Jessi had control over everything, but the same similarities are what made their stage seem so cohesive. The judges enjoyed the stage.
Jace and Tymee
Embarrassment. Embarrassment and a half. Jace had double the pressure on her as the head of her company was also one of the judges, and the stress definitely got to her. The judges said she seemed like she didn’t know how to rap, and that she was more like she’d been trained to do the performance instead of having skill. Tymee impressed everyone, leaving all the judges slack jawed and awed. If not for Tymee, the whole stage would have been horrible.
Jimin and Kisum
These two did the exact opposite of the other teams. Where everyone else was hardcore, these two were playful. Vasco said it the best:
After the judges deliberated, Jessi and Yuk Jidam were declared the winners. Jimin and Kisum came in second (which really pissed off Jessi). Cheetah and Jolly were up for elimination versus Jace and Tymee. However, Jace and Tymee were ultimately the losers of the challenge and were eliminated from the show.
The Unpretty Rapstars have an unexpected task: they must self-rank each other in order to determine their opponents for the semi-final battle (throw back to the first episode, much?). Jolly V came in dead last, 5th was Yuk Jidam, Jimin was 4th, Kisum was 3rd, and Jessi 2nd. First place went to Cheetah who chose to go up against Jimin. The other rappers became teams, Jessi with Jolly V, and Yuk Jidam with Kisum, with the theme for the battle as “Real Me”.
Cheetah vs Jimin
Cheetah’s track, “Coma 07,” was an emotional, hard hitting track about her experiences before, during, and after being put into a medically induced coma following getting hit by a bus at 17. Her performance was eerie but strong. I got goosebumps watching, and her mother, who was in the audience, was brought to tears. The audience was moved as well, rocking to the beat and cheering.
“Puss,” Jimin’s track, would be more at home at a music show than the semi-final battle of Unpretty Rapstar. Dancers, featuring, and a pop beat turned Jimin’s stage into the very opposite of what it was supposed to be. The songs were meant to focus on the rapper and their unique story. Then again, Jimin *is* an idol, so she did what she’s known for–an idol stage. She wrote better lyrics in previous rounds, was outshined by Iron, and the cursing was childish and unnecessary. She came off as an idol, the image she’d been trying to shed the whole show.
Winner: withheld until Episode 8
Jessi vs Jolly V
Jolly V gave Jessi goosebumps in rehearsals with her track, “It’s All Good.” The song was dedicated to young people in their 20s, especially ’89 liners. This was arguably Jolly V’s strongest performances. She’s been one of the better lyricists throughout the competition, but instead of relying on that, she told a real story and created an anthem from her life. Even Tymee was in the stands rocking to the beat.
“Unpretty Dreams,” by Jessi was unique in the sense that Jessi isn’t a rapper. She even said that her job was to sing, a skill that she showcases. While Jessi has had better performances, what stood out here was that she was true to herself. She sang, she rapped, she told her story, she spoke English. She was Jessi, through and through, which was the mission.
The remaining battle was held during the next episode.
Yuk Jidam vs Kisum
Yuk Jidam was very clever with her track, “On & On.” First of all, while her story was not necessarily unique, it was personal. Secondly, because of her aggressive tone and style, picking 15&’s Yerin to feature gave a necessary lightness to the track. The fact that Jidam’s misery played out so publicly gave a credibility to her story that the other rappers had simply from having lived longer. “On & On” also had the distinction of saying look at where I’m going from here, versus look at how far I’ve come.
Kisum really went a different route with her song “To. MOM.” Instead of her telling her own story like her competitors, Kisum showed her real self by expressing her feelings towards her mom. A hip hop love song, suitable for Mother’s Day. While touching, it didn’t do much to showcase Kisum’s flow or writing skills. For a potential final stage, it seems as though Kisum went into it with the intention of saying what she wanted to say, regardless of the outcome. Admirable, but it’s not how you win a competition.
Winner: Yuk Jidam
The results from last episode’s battle revealed that Cheetah won over Jimin by more than 100 votes. This made the final round a three way battle between Cheetah, Yuk Jidam, and Jessi, arguably, three of the most consistent performers of the show. The final producer was revealed to be MC Mong.
The final vote came down to Jessi and Cheetah. Yuk Jidam has an impressive flow and a distinct style, but she’s young and still learning. She’s shown that she can lose big and come back swinging harder than ever. She’s good but more experience would bring her to the next level as an artist.
Cheetah became the winner of the final track after placing first in both audience polls.
In their final interviews, the contestants confirmed Unpretty Rapstar season 2. was announced for the end of April. Show Me The Money 4, the mother program of Unpretty Rapstar, was also recently announced.
Unpretty Rapstar was a good concept. It’s not often that you see female rappers in popular media. Personally, I found some new artists to listen to and watch for. Like others, however, I see the many faults the show had, the lack of female mentors being a major flaw. A show that focuses on female talent shouldn’t have females fighting each other for the approval of their male counterparts. Also, Jimin’s appearance irked me. My annoyance is not with Jimin herself, but with her purpose. She had the biggest name on the show for main stream viewers, thus more broadcast appeal. Any idol rapper would have gotten the same treatment. Any idol rapper would have had to work that much harder. However, the expectations were on different levels. Jimin was expected to know how to perform on stage and film videos, but not to rap well. All the other rappers were expected to do the same, plus excel at rapping. Whenever Jimin even slightly exceeded expectations, she automatically moved up. Execution flaws took away from some of the show, but with season two already in conception, I look forward to 1) more female rappers to learn about and 2) a greater variety of challenges to showcase each rapper’s skills.