Issa Rae‘s record label Raedio has officially released “Seduce and Scheme,” the fictional freestyle by Shawna and Mia from her new HBO Max series Rap Sh!t, as the lead single from the season 1 soundtrack, Billboard has exclusively learned Thursday (July 28).
The first two episodes of Rap Sh!t — which follows two high school friends Shawna (played by Aida Osman) and Mia (KaMillion) who reunite to form a female rap group in Miami — finds the duo serendipitously recording a track together that originated from a viral car freestyle over Khia’s “K-Wang” they filmed on Instagram Live one drunken evening. And today, “Seduce and Scheme” for real arrives on all digital and streaming platforms.
“We knew we wanted to do a song that represented Shawna and Mia’s friendship. They’ll be some things that come up as the season goes along about seducing and scheming,” Raedio president Benoni Tagoe tells Billboard.
“Girl, you really came up with that off the top of your head like that?” Mia asks Shawna in shock at the end of the pilot episode. But Tagoe breaks down the lead single’s true backstory and how “Seduce and Scheme” was actually conceived at Camp Raedio, a series of writing camps held in the series’ Miami location for up-and-coming singers, songwriters and producers to work on music specifically for Rap Sh!t. While the two main actresses will contribute a few more songs to the official soundtrack, the remainder of the project will consist of original music from the writing camps.
“We knew we wanted to sample a Southern song from a female artist, but we couldn’t clear it at the time. We got to a point where we found Khia’s ‘K-Wang,’” says Tagoe of “Seduce and Scheme.” “It was a team effort: We had a couple of writers, one of the writers being pineappleCITI, who originally started the song. And then we brought in Dreezy, because we knew that we wanted Dreezy to represent the voice of Shawna throughout the season.”
Adds Dreezy in a statement to Billboard: “Before I write, I put myself in the character’s shoes. I pictured them as if they were the City Girls! All about a bag, confident, and slick at the mouth so I made sure the lyrics came with that energy.”
While Dreezy acted as Shawna’s proxy by writing the bars Osman’s character would eventually spit on screen, the Raedio team also had writers come up with verses for KaMillion’s character — despite her being a rapper in real life — as to create “separation between her real life artistry and the character that she performs,” explains Tagoe.
Watching Shawna and Mia film an Instagram video of themselves freestyling over a Khia beat while parked in the car feels reminiscent of Saweetie’s real-life come-up in the music industry. Although the series is loosely based off the rise of its co-executive producers City Girls, who have a 2018 track called “Rap Shit,” Tagoe says Rap Sh!t also takes inspiration from Missy Elliott and Lil’ Kim — and taps real-life hitmakers.
Earl on the Beat — who’s worked on Billboard Hot 100 hits like City Girls’ “Act Up” and Lil Yachty’s “Oprah’s Bank Account,” featuring Drake and DaBaby — was later recruited to produce “Seduce and Scheme” as well as Danja, who’s won Grammys for his work with Justin Timberlake. “Danja was our local producer that we used in Miami. And most of the stuff that you see on camera, Danja was the person who brought the characters to the studio and helped them put together the songs,” Tagoe adds.
“This show is a great example of what being an ‘audio everywhere’ company is about,” he says of Raedio’s various branches, which not only includes a record label joint venture with Atlantic Records but also a music library, music supervision division, publishing and live events. “We were able to come in and say, ‘We want to cover wherever there’s audio, wherever there’s music being played, Raedio wants to be the conduit for it. And to be able to have music that plays in the background and for that music to be curated by us, but then to also be a part of helping create the music that the characters are performing on the show, is the full Raedio effect.”