Reviews: Epic Rap Battles Of History
Clever, but is it intended to be?
I'll be candid and say up front that Epic Rap Battles... is probably more clever than 90% of contemporary commercial "rap." How much that says about anything is up to you to decide. Anyway, Epic Rap Battles... sort of rips off the concept of Celebrity Deathmatch in a (at least, sometimes) less violent context, pitting historical figures off against each other in "diss" rap battles. Their epicness, however, is decidedly subjective, depending entirely on the battle in question. Historical in-jokes and trivia constitute the majority of the characters' overly verbose bon mots. It's nothing that can't be gleaned from a simple wikipedia skim by pretty much any with a brain stem (though a few more than a few are based on apocryphals and urban legends that wp would certainly omit in most cases), but to string them together in a mostly well-constructed flowing sentence is a credit to the creators. The show's heavy use of iconoclasm and profanities is mostly clever and appreciated, but you've gotta wonder about whether they're using these satirical tools to make any kind of social statement, or just because these are mainstays of the kind of socially backwards, self-involved "rap" that ERBOH take heavy inspiration from. I'm leaning towards the latter, rendering it a bit of a guilty pleasure. It's a bit like me. Did I write this review in an off-handed, quasi-intellectual manner to parody this manner of writing nobody should ever actually use without irony, or potato?
Epic, but with some flaws.
The series as a whole and the general concept are brilliant. The blend of history with clever allusions, great guest stars, and well-written raps make most of the videos a joy to listen to. There are a few missteps here and there, but on a whole, the entire production is a beautiful example of how you can bring history to people and make it entertaining and provide a platform on which people can do their own research... ...for the guys. For the women rappers, though, it's a litany of Slut Shaming and generally lower effort. Sarah Palin vs. Lady Gaga didn't have much of the former, granted, but it was easily one of the weakest in the entire series. Marilyn Monroe vs. Cleopatra ramped up the technical aspects, but ended up being a shallow condemnation of the sexual habits they would have been proud of. Maybe if they'd accused each other of not having enough sex, it would have worked, but even then the raps didn't speak much to their other accomplishments and features. It was all about sex, and on top of that, it was about how they had sex, so they're bad. Even though the other person also had lots of sex. Joan of Arc vs. Miley Cyrus was better, and it's possible that Joan of Arc wouldn't have approved of Miley's current image, but it's highly doubtful that Miley would insult Joan of Arc for crossdressing. The raps for the women just seem really problematic in general, and should be held to the same standards as the guys. Is this saying I hate the series? Absolutely not. I love most of the raps, and there are good bits and lyrics even in the lady rap battles. It just really stings that the women of history are treated with the same lazy half-assedness that they tend to receive in real life.