Rhythm + Flow Crowns Its First Champion! Find Out Which Rapper Took Home the $250K Grand Prize
Netflix's hip-hop competition show Rhythm + Flow revealed their winner of a $250K grand prize and chance to perform live on Spotify's "Rap Caviar" playlist
Congratulations, D Smoke!
The 33-year-old Inglewood, California rapper was crowned the winner of the first season of Netflix’s new hip-hop competition series Rhythm + Flow, which made its finale episode available for streaming on Wednesday.
During the finale, Tip “T.I.” Harris — who served as a judge on the series alongside Cardi B and Chance the Rapper — announced D Smoke had won after he and his fellow judges sent home hopefuls Troyman in fourth place, Londynn B in third place and Flawless Real Talk in second place.
In reaction to his win, D Smoke said, “I’m overwhelmed, man. I got my family over there, my loved ones are here. I shared this stage with some incredible contestants. I appreciate y’all. I appreciate everybody, man. I’m overwhelmed.”
Chance, 26, then took a moment to give D Smoke advice about how to spend his $250,000 grand prize money.
“This isn’t like a lot of the other contest shows,” he said. “It’s a non-contractual $250,000 that is going to you to be spent however you want it. I just want to tell you that the best thing you could do is invest in yourself.”
T.I., 39, also shared some words of wisdom, telling D Smoke to “take a second to enjoy the moment because there will never be another like it.”
“You’re going to be chasing this high right here for the rest of your career,” he continued. “Enjoy this moment ’cause it’s short-lived. Now you gotta focus on the next one. But congratulations, though.”
Cardi, 27, congratulated D Smoke by calling him a “true artist.”
“You’re smart, you could be a leader, you’re good looking — you know what I’m saying?” she said. “You got it all.”
Along with the $250,000, D Smoke also won the opportunity to perform live on Spotify’s “Rap Caviar” playlist.
“I honestly don’t know what just happened,” D Smoke said. “I won! It’s a win for everything that I stand for. It’s a win for my family. It’s a win for Inglewood. It’s a win for the West. It’s a win in so many ways. We won!”
Earlier in the episode, D Smoke performed his original song, “Last Supper,” in front of the judges. The song was created during the last phase of the competition in collaboration with Black Panther soundtrack producer Sounwave.
“I worked in the studio with a lot of people, and I don’t think I ever worked with anybody as hands on as this guy right here,” Sounwave said of D Smoke. “Dead serious — he should get production credits. You see him picking up a guitar, he’s on piano. I’m proud to be a part of it, I’m proud of what you did up there, man. No matter what happens today, you know you got me.”
Before his performance, D Smoke said that his motivation to keep going is his family: his mom, dad and two brothers.
“My mom, she sacrificed a lot,” he said. “At the time when we were kids, my mom was touring. She sang background with Michael Jackson, Tina Turner. She got invited to tour with Stevie Wonder — who was her idol — and because she had three little guys at home, she turned it down and it broke her heart.”
D Smoke added that even when his dad served time in prison, his mom “held it down.”
“When he came home, he had a home to come to,” he said. “Rap music didn’t keep me out of the streets. What kept me out of the streets was having my dad at home. I didn’t have to gang-bang cause pops was there. So to put myself in a position to pay them back for their sacrifices is major. This experience is changing my life. I worked too hard to quit. It’s time for me to knock this s— out the park and win.”
Throughout the series, D Smoke — who is a Spanish and music recording teacher at Inglewood High School — has been open about his rocky childhood.
“Growing up in Inglewood, it’s inevitable that you associate with gangs,” he said in the first episode. “I have three brothers. At first, I had a single parent home. My dad was in jail until I was 9 years old and while he was in jail, we were fighting, like, all the time. But my dad came home from jail, and he wasn’t having all that because he was like, ‘I don’t want you getting into the same kind of trouble that I got into.’ So we had that discipline in the home. We really responded to it and we chose to apply ourselves to music or school or academics.”
“Winning this competition would be a huge opportunity,” he added. “I don’t take it lightly. It would mean a whole lot of doors opened and a whole lot of people that my music can reach and my message can reach and what I stand for can reach. I’m about something.”
During episode 7, which had each contestant create their own visuals to go with an original song, D Smoke decided to make a music video about police brutality and growing up in Inglewood.
“As an artist, I’m here to say something, and I think the judges have known that from day one,” he said. “When my pops was locked up, it was a void. I was always on edge so I was always fighting. My older brother gang-banged because in his formative years, pops was gone. He was like, ‘Well, s—, the streets is what I got.’ We all saw that connection between gang-banging and rap. Once I matured, I realized gang-banging wasn’t my thing. I chose a different path but the good and the bad, Inglewood is home.”
He later said his music video for his song, “Let Me Go,” displayed how he had to learn how to navigate his surroundings while growing up in Inglewood.
“I learned early … what colors I could wear in certain areas,” he said. “So in the video, I wanted people to feel the strength that somebody feels coming out of that place knowing that you survived it and you confronted those challenges.”
Ever since his audition in Los Angeles (during which Cardi jokingly told him he looked like “a janitor”) aired in the first episode, D Smoke has been a favorite amongst both fans of the show and the judges.
During episode 9, which paired the contestants up with popular artists to collaborate, T.I. even said that “something catastrophic would have to happen for [D Smoke] not to win this” after he performed “Sky Walker” with Miguel.
“It’s his to lose,” T.I. added.
Rhythm + Flow is streaming now on Netflix.