Do you want to know what it’s like to be tough? You’ll learn all you need from “Point Blank Period,” a documentary about the lives of a Miami rap duo, City Girls, and the misfortune that struck during the musicians’ rise to fame.
The name for the YouTube documentary, directed by Marcus A. Clarke, comes from the women’s debut album, Period. The film follows J.T. (Jatavia Johnson) and Yung Miami (Caresha Brownlee), the two members of City Girls and the first female artists to be signed to Quality Control Music.
A theme of empowerment runs throughout the film, especially at times when the female artists on camera give their takes on what it means to be a “bad bitch.” Each artist throws out words such as determination, focus, fearlessness and confidence when describing her idea of a strong woman, but it’s the passion in their voices that brings these sentiments to life.
City Girls talks often about how male-dominated the music industry is and how much it would like to see more female rappers making a name for themselves. Caprie Poe, the booking manager for City Girls, noted how J.T. and Yung Miami are the first female rap duo since Salt-N-Pepa in the early 2000s. “I feel like a lot of people don’t take female rappers seriously,” Poe said in an interview in the film.
After only 11 months since the duo’s first single release as City Girls in 2017, the two signed with Quality Control Music and Capitol Records. But as of now, things may not be going as planned, as J.T. is currently in federal prison on charges of fraud.
A short 18 hours after Drake released “In My Feelings,” on which he collaborated with City Girls, J.T. was already on her way to jail. Yet even in a place of negativity, the women remained hyped and hopeful over the opportunities this new exposure could bring them.
The documentary takes a turn when detailing J.T.’s feelings about her incarceration. She talks about her issues with the government and how she wasn’t able able to get what she wanted without committing a crime. This entire section of the film feels more like a complaint than a way to address a serious issue.
At another point in the film, J.T. brings up her grievances with wages in the United States, but again, the issue was not fleshed out enough. If the film had taken a more mature stand on J.T.’s punishment and intelligently supported her views, the audience might have been able to feel more sympathy for the rapper rather than seeing her in a childish light.
What saves the documentary in the end is its coverage of more than the women’s controversy. Since the group hails from Miami, Florida, the camera takes to the streets to highlight the city culture J.T. and Yung Miami come from. Viewers see Miami from every angle — whether it be looks out a car window or artsily edited beach footage.
This footage was appealing to watch, even though it mostly just followed the uneventful parts of the lives of the two women. Cinematographers Christopher Frierson, Sean Gordon Loebl and Marcus A. Clarke captured these mundane samples of J.T. and Yung Miami in a flurry of softly lit, well-framed moments that celebrated the closeness of the women’s bond.
If there’s any message that sticks out in the documentary, it’s that women should stick together when facing challenges or when not being taken seriously. “Be strong, be confident, and tell these n—as what you want instead of getting taken advantage of,” Poe said in the film. “Put yourself first as a woman.”