‘Rap Sh!t’: Aida Osman, KaMillion and Issa Rae’s Raedio on Crafting ‘Seduce & Scheme’ and Representing Miami Hip-Hop

·6-min read

The process behind “Seduce & Scheme” was heavy on the scheming.

“We snuck in the writers room and the studio when they were having the sessions for the soundtrack. We wasn’t even supposed to be in there!” says KaMillion, who plays Mia in the Issa Rae-created comedy series “Rap Sh!t” on HBO Max. The series follows Mia and Shawna (Aida Osman), friends from high school who reunite years down the line and form a rap duo that quickly skyrockets to notoriety — at least on the internet. To create the original songs that Shawna and Mia perform, as well as the soundtrack that pays major homage to the show’s Miami setting, Rae’s music company Raedio held “camps” where different rappers and songwriters came together to collaborate.

More from Variety

This process was headed by Sarah Bromberg and Philippe Pierre, the Raedio vice presidents who served as music supervisors on “Rap Sh!t.” They had weekly meetings with showrunner Syreeta Singleton to check on how the writing of the show was progressing, and developed briefs outlining the moods and goals of each song accordingly. Then, at a “camp” in Los Angeles, a group of different rappers and songwriters came together to create the beginnings of each of Shawna and Mia’s raps.

“We brought in people that we felt really spoke to the voices of the characters in the show, and put them together based on the briefs — which were [changing], because Issa and Syreeta were writing in real time and working with them,” Pierre tells Variety. He was on set during production of “Rap Sh!t” to continue shaping the music to the characters.

“Once we got in the studio, we were allowed to play around with it,” KaMillion adds. (Along with acting, she is a rapper herself.) “But for the most part, the songs were presented to us. Raedio put great artists together to create these songs.”

“Dreezy wrote all of Shawna’s early raps, her conscious raps,” says Osman. A part of the series’ central conflict is that Shawna’s lyricism at first is intellectually over-the-top — at one point, she writes a verse from the perspective of a student loan. Bromberg sought to create exaggerated versions of rappers like Noname and Rapsody, while Osman cites Leikeli47 and Lauryn Hill as additional inspirations.

Mia’s character is more inspired by figures like Megan Thee Stallion and Trina, as well as City Girls, who executive produce “Rap Sh!t.” PineappleCiti did a lot of the writing for Mia’s verses, as did Miami rapper A Chic. Ass Shawna gets closer to Mia, she begins rapping more in that direction, as evidenced by her freestyle at the end of the pilot, which eventually becomes “Seduce and Scheme.” At this point, PineappleCiti also began to contribute to Shawna’s character.

“PineappleCiti had written a bunch of stuff, but she also asked Dreezy to write on it,” Bromberg says. “We ended up hodgepodging together what both of them wrote. Then we sent it to Issa and Syreeta to approve,” Bromberg says. “But there wasn’t room for Mia to do her hype man moments, where she jumps in and ad libs and the duo starts to develop. So we had a session with Danja, a huge Miami producer who produced all the vocals on the show, and we were going to have Aida come in to re-track and try again. But what ended up happening was Issa was in town, and she got in the booth and did both sides of the rap. She’d had this thing in her mind that she was trying to express to us over the course of two months. It was amazing and hysterical.”

Raedio held a second camp in Miami to fill out the soundtrack for the series. “It was definitely wilder,” Pierre says. “It’s Miami!”

“The music in this show is like no other show. It’s real music you would listen to,” KaMillion says. “Mia is getting to do everything that Kamillion wanted to do as an artist and I love it. I get to live vicariously through her. I take it seriously like I do my own music career.”

“I had never recorded my voice in a professional studio,” Osman says. “We were really fortunate to work with Danja, and he would sit with me in the booth for hours, just trying to figure out how to come in on the [right beat] and with good enunciation and power. All the stuff that you don’t think about when you’re just rapping along to Meg lyrics in your car. I had to learn a lot.”

Being from Jacksonville, accurately depicting Miami was key for KaMillion.

“As a Florida girl, I already knew Miami people was gonna be waiting to see something fake, then get on Twitter and go crazy,” she laughs. “But when it comes to Issa and how she writes, she’s not touching anything inauthentic.”

“Miami is a melting pot of different cultures, languages, foods and fashion — and it’s also known to be very treacherous. Just showing real shit,” she continued. “Even the strip clubs! Everything. A lot of people appreciate the visibility. I’m really proud to be from Florida and have us represented like that on a big platform.”

From an acting perspective, Osman was proud of how the show’s use of social media helped achieve a level of authenticity in regards to how the young characters relate to each other, as there are several plot points communicated through Shawna and Mia’s livestreams on Instagram.

“You have to be aware of more than just what you’re feeling and trying to tell [your scene partner],” she says. “It’s also like, what are they trying to tell all their followers at the same time? When Shawna is having a breakdown moment and threatening to quit rap music as a whole, she’s not really going to quit. She wants people to react, so she plays up the desperation.”

And as a writer, Osman enjoyed the challenge of finding ways to incorporate different recording devices into more private moments: “When we were writing it, it was like, ‘We want to see this intimate moment between Mia and Lamont [RJ Cyler]. But who’s going to record this? Oh, they have a daughter who has an iPad out constantly, and is probably recording her mom and dad who never sit at a table together. They’re in real life. Real candid shit.”

“We’re one of the first shows to innovate this kind of thing,” KaMillion adds. “So when you see it, duplicate it and replicate it, just make sure to mention ‘Rap Sh!t.’ We’re the leaders of the new school. Tell Discovery to give us that Season 2!”

Best of Variety

Sign up for Variety’s Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Click here to read the full article.