Season 1 of Netflix’s Rhythm + Flow is a must-see. Rapper D Smoke beat out the remaining 29 contestants competing for the $250,000 prize.

Daniel Farris (aka D Smoke) is a teacher in Inglewood, CA. The 33-year-old was cast when the judges went to Los Angeles to hold auditions. He took the stage wearing a red beanie and a pair of coveralls, and Cardi B jokingly commented to the other judges that he looked like a janitor. It wasn’t until he started performing that she, Chance the Rapper, and T.I. saw him for the superstar he is. D Smoke is a bilingual rapper. Although he’s African-American, he spits some of his rhymes en Español. Early on, Cardi B was thrilled with the positive lyrics he conveyed in Spanish. T.I. and guest judge Snoop Dogg were taken with him because of his crossover appeal into the international market.

Fast on D Smoke’s heels as the runner-up in the competition was Flawless Real Talk. The Rhode Island native is a family man and all-around musical dynamo. Throughout the competition, he stressed the importance of winning the prize money so that he, his fiancée, two daughters, and baby on the way could have a better life. Watching the strength of his cadence and his fiery performance in the rap battles is a wonder to behold. He gave Cardi B a renewed sense of pride in the New York City castings, and maneuvered through the rest of the series with nary a stumble. Still, there were other competitors from the series who really stood out.

Rae Khalil, from Los Angeles, is a sterling example of the strength of her community. She’s the granddaughter of George Goodman, who was one of the first black music writers for The New York Times. Her great-uncle, Leon Washington, started one of the largest black newspapers in the U.S. Her family also has strong ties to Martin Luther King Jr., and her sense of civic duty is evident in her lyrics. She also sheds the notion that a successful female rapper has to sell sex to get ahead. The judges even praised her for this.

“I like you,” said Cardi B. “You’re very different from me. I’m selling boobs. I’m selling a**.” The crowd erupted into laughter, but the “Bodak Yellow” rapper finished her compliments by telling Khalil that her vibe was inspiring because of her difference. The judges ultimately advanced Rae Khalil to the next stages of competition, before she was eliminated in Los Angeles. Other standouts are Nikee Turbo, Old Man Saxon, Savannah Hannah, Cakes Da Killa, and hard-as-steel Beanz - a female rapper from Pennsylvania.

The best thing about Rhythm + Flow is that it boasts so many fantastic artists and showcases their backstories with dignity and  grace. We see these 30 aspiring rappers grow and evolve. We learn about their motivations and their weaknesses. The show’s high production value is also unlike most of the other competition programs on the air. There is such an assortment of talent, each type of rap fan can find an artist that they identify with, including female performers and LGBTQ artists.

What gave D Smoke an edge over Flawless Real Talk in the finale was his crossover appeal. His rhymes are socially conscious and attracted fans across the spectrum, including Latin audience members. D Smoke also has undeniable street cred because he’s from Inglewood, but has managed to avoid getting caught up in “the life.” Flawless Real Talk has heartthrob good looks, but he’s a family man. The rapper’s lifestyle and the rigors of being on the road left him conflicted during the competition. Surprisingly, both men have strong ties to the entertainment industry already. D Smoke has acted in shows such as Judging Amy and Boston Public, while Flawless Real Talk has performed on stages with Waka Flocka Flame and French Montana. In the end, however, D Smoke just had a few more tricks up his sleeve than Flawless Real Talk or the other performers. Those unexpected moments are what makes Rhythm + Flow nothing short of bingeworthy.

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Source: Netflix, All Music