Though it premiered less than a month ago, Netflix’s first music reality show Rhythm + Flow, is already one of the best things on television. As the first show of its kind on a streaming service, the program delivered a unique mix of A-list celebrity judges, real emcee challenges, and the highest-caliber rap talent in America.
Presided over by trap godfather T.I, indie rapper Chance, and New York rapper and actor, Cardi B, the series has already been lauded as "hip-hop’s answer to American Idol." And for good reason. The show’s compelling storylines were driven by equally compelling contestants, each with a claim to being the best undiscovered talent America had to offer.
Every competition has its best and its worst. While none of Rhythm + Flow’s contestants should be considered mediocre, some inevitably made more of a mark than others. These are the top five fan favorite competitors from the first season, and five contestants fans were divided on.
10 FAN FAVORITE: Old Man Saxon
Old Man Saxon came into the competition quite literally dressed to impress. Armed with an arsenal of sharp suits and even sharper lyrics, the Denver native wowed the judges at his L.A audition, where Snoop Dogg commended his entertaining performance. Audiences quickly had Saxon pegged as a strong contender for first place due to his fresh and witty comedic take on rap — and his penchant for fine tailoring.
When he was eliminated in the battle round against D Smoke, fellow contestants, fans and judges alike lamented his abrupt departure. According to Saxon, after the battle, the judges were so reluctant to send him home that they called in a legal team in an attempt to keep both rappers in the competition. Sadly it was not to be, and Saxon left the competition much earlier than many viewers felt he should. Fans of Old Man Saxon can still check out his new album on Spotify.
9 DIVIDED: Sasha Go Hard
Sasha Go Hard was a living Chicago legend well before she stepped on the Rhythm + Flow stage. The drill rapper has been making waves in the local scene for over nearly a decade and is often credited alongside Chief Keef as the sound’s founder. She’s partnered with the Grammy award-winning producer Diplo, and has music featured on HBO’s Insecure.
It was no surprise that the judging panel seemed starstruck when Sasha arrived for her audition. Fans too were excited to see Sasha Go Hard, and while many felt she was too advanced for the show, viewers still looked forward to her participation. As such, her first-round elimination came as a shock. Nonetheless, in her exit interview, the rapper said she was looking forward to seeing her daughter again, and felt like she’d gained a lot during her short time in the competition.
8 FAN FAVORITE: D Smoke
When D Smoke first stepped onto the Rhythm + Flow stage, Cardi B suggested that he “looked like a janitor.” And then he opened his mouth. Thirty seconds into Smoke’s audition performance, it was clear the rapper was far from trash. And fans (and judges) quickly recognized his exceptional talent and great humility.
In each round of the competition, Smoke set his own bar and continued to raise it as the series unfolded. His narrative, vision, lyricism, and bilingual flow reached new levels every episode, culminating in his unforgettable finale performance of his original song, “Last Supper.” Competition aside, D Smoke has emerged from the series as a true voice of his generation. And many are looking forward to seeing him rise to new heights.
7 DIVIDED: Caleb Colossus
With his deep, soulful, and thought-provoking bars, Caleb Colossus was clearly one of the most adept rappers in the competition. Although fans agreed he was talented, some noted that Caleb’s smooth flow wasn’t suited to the same kind of competition as trap rappers like Nikee Turbo. Caleb's lyrical prowess saw him sail through the early rounds, but he was eliminated in the penultimate, collaborative performance episode when the judges felt his performance lacked energy.
6 FAN FAVORITE: Londynn B
Teyana Taylor look-alike Londynn B was the one competitor judges agreed had instant star quality, and the basis for their enamor was evident from the first episode. Representing Atlanta trap, Londynn lived up to her hype with high energy sets, catchy hooks, and dark lyrics that quickly had viewers on the Londynn train.
Throughout the competition, it was clear that the rapper was one of Cardi B’s favorite to win, and many fans at home shared her sentiments. Londynn's close onscreen friendship with fellow contestant Troyman was a charming development. It was made all the more heart-wrenching when they comforted each other after finishing both third and fourth, respectively.
5 DIVIDED: Cakes Da Killa
Cakes Da Killa was another contestant whose presence on the show was questioned. Though he may not be a household name, the New Jersey rapper is already a big deal in his own right. A progenitor of the new New York rap scene, Cakes has toured internationally in Europe, been interviewed for Billboard and luxury beauty brand MAC, and performed at cult shows like AFROPUNK.
As such, many viewers were surprised when Cakes showed up at the New York auditions, and their shock only grew when it seemed none of the judges knew who he was. Though he was eliminated in the first competition round, Rhythm + Flow was neither the beginning nor the end for Cakes Da Rapper, who has a debut LP dropping this month.
4 FAN FAVORITE: Flawless Real Talk
A lot of fans had issues with Rhode Island father of three, Flawless Real Talk, but that didn’t stop him from being one of the clear standouts of the series. Though there was much debate about his character, which some felt came across as arrogant, viewers stayed glued to their screens waiting for Flawless’ next hot 16.
It was no coincidence that his spar against Bronx based-rapper Beanz closed the battle round episode. Both rappers were among the best on the show, and their mid-season showdown made for a spectacular end to the episode. Flawless undoubtedly had some of the best bars in the entire competition. It was this, as well his clear drive, ambition and heart, that had fans rooting for him to take home the bacon.
3 DIVIDED: Big Mouf’Bo
Every good story needs a villain, and for Rhythm + Flow, Big Mouf'Bo was it. As the only contestant to enter the competition without auditioning, the judges had high hopes for Big Mouf’Bo. While her slick bars didn't disappoint, Bo’s highly competitive and confrontation attitude rubbed both fans and her fellow contestants the wrong way.
When she eliminated Rae Khalil in the cypher challenge by sabotaging her opponent’s performance, fans and judges cried foul. For the second time in the competition, a legal team was called in, this time to verify the legality of her actions. Bo came out victorious, but her performance on the show never recovered, and she was eliminated one episode later.
2 FAN FAVORITE: Ariyon
As the youngest person in the competition, Ariyon came in with a lot to prove. Sporting talent beyond his years, the 18-year-old may not have been a fan favorite to win, but Ariyon captured viewers' attention — and hearts — with his passion, hard work, and fast, cocky flows.
Ariyon’s was an underdog story. Though the young rapper faltered slightly in his audition, the judges were confident enough in his abilities to progress him to the competition round. In the words of Cardi B, “that little boy could rap,” and fans celebrated with the young rapper when he flew through the first cypher challenge without a hitch. T.I. advised Ariyon to have more confidence in his own abilities. Still, eventually, the rapper fell victim to his insecurities and was eliminated in the third challenge.
1 DIVIDED: Troyman
Compared to many of the contestants who made it to the competition rounds, Troyman’s audition could be accused of lacking a little luster. That said, through the competition, he showed great wordplay and wit, and some fans loved him for his epic one-liners and his affable nature. But others found his performances and presence forgettable, and there was much debate about his continued success on the show.
Chatter notwithstanding, Troyman made it to the later rounds where his live performances won skeptics over. By the finale, many were rooting for Troyman to win. Though he placed third runner up, he left the competition with an offer to record with Grammy-nominated producer Tay Keith, proving the phrase, “It’s not winning that counts.”