Rhythm + Flow was billed as being an innovative, ground breaking hip-hop competition show. While the show does draw on similar storytelling elements from previous shows, it does stand out in terms of its release schedule, production value and star power. After watching the season premiere, it’s clear that Netflix has something that can keep people coming back for at least another week.
In the show’s premiere, the show’s judges, Cardi B, T.I. and Chance The Rapper, took a trip out to find the best talent in Los Angeles. Along the way, T.I. meets up with the late Nipsey Hussle to find some new artists and Chance The Rapper links up with Anderson .Paak to do the same. Meanwhile, Cardi B recruits Snoop Dogg to be a guest judge. In the end, the three pool their efforts to hold the first round of performances. After receiving our first look at the show’s crop of Los Angeles. contestants, we put together a power ranking of who we think has the potential heading into episode two.
1. D Smoke
The best moment of Rhythm + Flow‘s series premiere was definitely D Smoke standing his ground with Snoop Dogg. Beyond the stage, he presents himself as someone who is not only talented but also authentic. On the stage, he also stood out as the only bilingual act to perform. As T.I. put it, the ability to rap in Spanish also creates another revenue stream. Not to mention, he was actually spitting some real life stuff in Spanish. All in all, D Smoke is the complete package and someone who is easy to see a label being interested in win or lose.
2. Rae Khalil
D Smoke was clearly a cut above the rest of the top five, but Rae Khalil was also a cut above artists three through five as well. From the moment she appeared on screen in Anderson .Paak’s studio, she immediately represented something unique. In addition, she can really rap. As she pointed out in the season premiere, she didn’t see herself within the genre initially, but Chance represented her in a way she had not previously seen before. Then, artists like Anderson .Paak, Taylor Bennett and others came along. Now, it’s easy to see how Rae Khalil could find a substantial fan base as he bends genres and finds a home in hip-hop and beyond.
3. Old Man Saxon
As Chance The Rapper and Snoop Dogg joked before his performance, Old Man Saxon pushed himself to the next round through his on stage presence alone. He’s funny, unique and unlike much else in music today. Cardi B and T.I. pointed out throughout the first episode that they are looking for someone who is not only talented but can sell records. While Old Man Saxon did prove that he can rap, his brand is what ultimately pushes him ahead of acts like King VVibe and Inglewood IV.
4. King VVibe
King VVibe had a strong first showing. He did what he needed to do to get by, but he didn’t necessarily have anything that made him especially unique musically. In fact, his background story is what made him more endearing than his music. As previously mentioned, his music is pretty good but pretty good isn’t going to cut it. In this social media driven industry, often times people have to buy into you before they buy into the music. Hopefully, King VVibe will either have to break this trend or make sure his personality shines above in the upcoming episodes.
5. Inglewood IV
Inglewood IV is courageous to say the least. While Cardi B and Chance The Rapper played a bit into the respectability politics of Black music, Inglewood IV took a chance and performed a song that touches on the dark, grim realities of police brutality. The hook wasn’t necessarily the best, but he proved that he can rap about something bigger than himself. More importantly, he was the only artist featured that performed a song that had a message that extended beyond their grind and desire to make it. Still, Inglewood IV is on thin ice with the judges and he needs to take it a step further in round two if he wants to make it to week three.
Honorable Mention: Ali Tomineek