Regardless of how a lot some individuals hate it, actuality TV continues to dominate our screens. From the performative grandeur of The Actual Housewives franchise to Love island’s cynical romantics, you may’t flick on the telly lately with out splashing down in some soapy drama. Subsequent on our watchlist is The Rap Sport UK: a BBC remake of the Jermaine Dupri and Queen Latifah-produced expertise contest during which veteran duo Krept and Konan plus 1Xtra’s DJ Goal hunt for the subsequent large British MC.
Shifting from Birmingham to Manchester for collection three final 12 months, The Rap Sport UK kicks off its fourth season tonight (August 11). Six new aspiring artists will likely be intro’d earlier than finishing challenges such because the beloved ‘cypher’ efficiency spherical. The final word prize? At first it was a uncommon recording contract with Krept and Konan’s Play Soiled label, however they scrapped that and now award the winner £20k to kickstart a profession. However that’s the place its similarities to different expertise reveals finish. As a substitute of pitting hungry teenager in opposition to hungry teenager and crushing their spirits by sending one house every ep, this present nurtures its artists, protecting them in a home collectively for the entire six weeks till the champion is topped.
British hip-hop duo Krept and Konan. CREDIT: BBC
One other distinctive factor about The Rap Sport is its rankings system – the present’s manner of charting its stars’ progress all through the collection. When NME meets them, judges Goal, Krept and Konan all admit to having “heated debates”, taking “hours or typically even days” to resolve who will prime the checklist. As nobody is eradicated from the present till the finale, the mentors’ precedence is to not bestow bragging rights however – within the phrases of Konan – “to present them the gems, realizing that this journey is just not straightforward and can by no means begin being straightforward.”
This 12 months, these hoping to obtain Konan’s gems are 22-year-old Leeds “actual rap” star Mwangi; youngest of the bunch P3Lz, an 18-year-old Liverpudlian; 20-year-old rapper-producer hybrid from south London, J Clarke; 27-year-old Croydon lad Massive Jest; and two 21-year-olds: Edinburgh-based Mayo (pronounced my-oh) and Brum rap beginner Zoellz, who solely began her profession throughout 2020’s lockdown.
For Mwangi, that is “the Olympics” of UK rap. “It was a loopy eye opener [coming into the competition] as a result of I’m pondering I’m doing my factor and I’m killing it,” he says by way of Zoom. “After which I’m leaping right into a scene the place I’m realising I can’t mess about anymore… There’s critical expertise on the market and also you’ve obtained to beat the perfect to be the perfect – and the perfect are these individuals.”
22-year-old Leeds “actual rap” star Mwangi. CREDIT: BBC
Because the youngest in the home, P3Lz begins the race to the highest with an expertise deficit. “When [the producers] first obtained in touch,” she tells us, “I used to be bit iffy about it as a result of I’ve watched the present earlier than and I’m not the kind of one that would go into one thing after which stop as a result of it will get too onerous.” Rely her out at your peril although: “The experiences I’ve obtained [from The Rap Game UK] I cannot discover wherever else, and getting the suggestions and every little thing’s simply been actually surreal.”
These experiences embody business heavyweights coming to see the budding stars flex their abilities and supply some recommendation, and season 4’s lot are a number of the coolest the present has ever seen; melodic entice stars D-Block Europe, grime pioneer Deadly Bizzle, and extra. One piece of recommendation that’s caught with P3LZ got here from fashionable visitor mentor and drill celebrity, Unknown T: “Confidence was a large factor as effectively. Unknown T stated that if I put extra behind [my raps], then it might come throughout higher. So I’ve taken that into each efficiency. The whole lot needs to be 100 per cent so I could be on that completely different stage.”
18-year-old Liverpudlian P3Lz. CREDIT: BBC
Massive Jest, one other of our faves from this season, highlights the significance of the present: “So far as Black[-fronted] rap competitions go on this nation, it’s the most important one. Nicely, it’s actually the one one. So it’s an enormous platform for UK rap… Many individuals need to be concerned, however not many individuals are.”
Throughout every rapper’s keep, the Rap Sport home is their inventive hub. We watch as they put together for that week’s problem in a swanky penthouse flat They write rhymes, observe their stream and file below strict time stress. It’s a bit like The X Issue, however they’re not remoted from the celebrity world they’ll quickly be a part of. They get to rub shoulders with a number of the business’s most coveted spitters, and work with established names in music to raised their abilities. As a proving floor for brand new expertise, there’s no place prefer it.
BBC Radio 1Xtra’s DJ Goal. CREDIT: BBC
Simply ask DJ Goal. Whereas a part of seminal grime collective Roll Deep, and as a BBC Radio 1Xtra presenter since 2013, he’s been on the scene’s forefront for many years. “We love to observe the contestants’ growth and progress,” he explains to NME. “And after they tackle suggestions, from not simply ourselves however all of the visitor mentors, you may see their progress.
“I’ve actually loved doing this present – and attending to see these contestants are available in with a difficulty and, by the point they go away, being remodeled in confidence, stage presence or capability.”
In the same manner, The Rap Sport UK has additionally developed over its 4 seasons. Beginning out as a hidden gem amid the bustling feed of then online-only BBC Three, it’s set to achieve a a lot greater viewers due to the channel’s return to linear telly earlier this 12 months. These new episodes ought to be the most-watched but.
‘The Rap Sport UK’ season 4 contestants. CREDIT: BBC
“I do really feel very blessed [that I was in the] first conversations concerning the present and [discussing] the place we [wanted to] attempt to take it,” says Goal, reflecting on The Rap Sport UK’s legacy. “We couldn’t have imagined how effectively it’s accomplished. Individuals are watching the present to the purpose it’s large enough to win some awards” — an Edinburgh TV Award for Finest Leisure Collection in 2020, to be exact — “and hopefully we will likely be nominated for some extra.”
In simply 4 years, The Rap Sport UK has turn into a beloved staple for the UK rap fan – and offers these aspiring to be large stars an added confidence enhance as they watch others of their place prosper within the presence of UK rap’s hunchos. Krept – talking for all of the mentors – now needs only one factor to occur: “We nonetheless have a good bit to go the place somebody’s gone and accomplished the present, after which been mad profitable. I really feel like we’ve nonetheless obtained that to realize. However there’s so many stars on this season – this is perhaps the one.” Don’t guess in opposition to it.
‘The Rap Sport’ collection 4 premieres tonight (August 11) at 9pm on BBC Three