Political Correctness Be Damned: The ‘Bodied’ Trailer Takes No Prisoners

Joseph Kahn’s comedy uses battle rap as a backdrop to address some hot-button issues.
By  · Published on October 9th, 2018

No musical genre is as inherently controversial as hip-hop. Naysayers often criticize the music and the culture surrounding it for glorifying drugs and violence, not to mention the general insensitivity of some of the lyrics, which can go a bit too far sometimes. In some cases, these criticisms are justified and warranted. But to paint the entire genre with the same brush is a little unfair; hip-hop is populated by a diverse array of voices, all of whom have different viewpoints and opinions they like to broadcast through their rhymes.

I’d argue that hip-hop is the most socially conscious music out there. Take any issue that’s affecting the world today and I guarantee you that the best commentary you’ll hear about the subject is in hip-hop. In recent years, politically and socially charged rap has become very mainstream courtesy of artists like Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole. But rap has always been woke to what’s happening in society at large. This is nothing new.

When it comes to the more controversial aspects of hip-hop, though, look no further than battle rap. As the word “battle” suggests, this is a highly competitive facet of the culture that imbues a no-holds-barred approach. The rules are simple: two or more rappers go head-to-head with the sole purpose of lyrically annihilating their opponents. This tends to entail criticizing their appearance, background, sexuality, and anything else that can be used against them. If you go into any rap battle looking for things to criticize, you’ll find plenty.

In an age where political correctness is a hotly debated topic of conversation, a movie about battle rap has never been more relevant. Bodied, the latest from Detention director Joseph Kahn, uses battle rap culture as a backdrop to tell a story that addresses hot-button subjects like what type of speech is fair game and what isn’t.

The story follows a progressive graduate student (American Vandal‘s Calum Worthy) who finds success and incites outrage when his interest in battle rap as a thesis subject becomes his new way of life. Furthermore, Kahn has assembled a cast that includes notable battle rappers such as Dumbfoundead, Hollow Da Don, and Dizaster to lend their savage lyrical prowess to proceedings. And if that’s not enough hip-hop pedigree for you, you’ll be pleased to know that the movie was written by real-life battle rapper Alex “Kid Twist” Larsen and was produced by Eminem. You can rest assured knowing that the wordplay here will be top notch and entertaining.

Check out the trailer below for some witty, provocative rhymes and biting social commentary.

This movie doesn’t care about people’s feelings, and that shows in the trailer. Here we have white boys ripping on Korean men and vice versa. Cultural appropriation and “All Lives Matter” is also brought up. You can tell that Bodied isn’t fucking around, and this is just a teaser for what’s in store. As our own Victor Stiff wrote in his review, “The subject matter is raw and often offensive, so if you’re already into rap music then you know what you’re getting into. If you’re easily offended, well, the movie makes a statement concerning how it feels about you.”

That said, to say that this movie is out to offend people for the sake of shit-stirring is missing the point entirely. The brief snippets we get from the trailer clearly show that the film is nuanced and appreciative of the fact there are different perspectives to be considered. It’s all about context. As Larsen told Billboard, “ [W]e’re just trying to capture the conversation and reflect the reality of how things are right now. That’s missing from a lot of our media, at the moment. Everyone wants to jump to the answer, but no one wants to have that conversation.”

Response to Bodied since its festival run has been overwhelmingly positive, so I think it’s fair to assume that there’s a purpose to this madness. The best comedy often taps into the contemporary social consciousness and pushes some buttons few wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole. The explosion that follows can incite debate and provide perspective. Other times, the laughs come from the sheer ballsiness of it all. Either way, I’m excited for the bite Bodied will bring.

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Kieran is a Contributor to the website you're currently reading. He also loves the movie Varsity Blues.