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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Review: Rhythm + Flow

New Netflix talent search focuses only on hip-hop and rap

If you watched television anytime between the early 2000s and now, chances are you’ve probably seen your fair share of talent search shows. From “American Idol,” “X-Factor,” “The Voice,” “America’s Got Talent” and so on, there are far too many to name them all. For the most part, it’s hard to invent the wheel for these shows. Or at least, that’s what it seemed like until Netflix premiered its own iteration, “Rhythm + Flow,” earlier this month.

This music competition features megastars Cardi B, Chance the Rapper and T.I as they engage in a nationwide search to find the next rap superstar. Yes, you read that right. This series is the first of its kind to focus solely on rap music. 

The first four episodes take viewers along for the show’s audition process starting in Los Angeles, Calif. The search kicks off with the judges calling in West Coast Rap experts Snoop Dog, Anderson .Paak and the late Nipsey Hustle to put them on to local talent. After the first episode, the judges each head to their own cities to scout and hold auditions. 

In New York City, Cardi B teams up with Fat Joe and Jadakiss to find some East Coast heat. T.I travels to Atlanta enlisting the help of Quavo, Big Boi and Killer Mike to uncover the new hip-hop mecca’s best. Finally, Chance the Rapper joins Lupe Fiasco, Twista and Royce Da 5’9 to bring along the Midwest’s finest. 

What makes the show such a hook for rap fans is that from the very first episode you get to see a diversity of rap’s sounds and artists. 

Contestants in Los Angeles were very different from those in Atlanta just like Cardi B is a very different type of artist than her co-host Chance the Rapper. Yet, it’s exactly because of these diverse perspectives that the show works. 

It would have been easy for the show to paint a narrow view of hip-hop and focus solely on finding the next social media rap sensation. Instead, the show aims to find artists who truly embody all aspects of the genre. 

Past the audition phase, the show takes contestants through every level of hip-hop artistry in its attempt to narrow down to its finalists and ultimate winner. 

The top 30 selected from across the country are immediately thrown into a cypher round that eliminates 14 competitors; the remaining 16 move on to an intense rap battle episode. Following their one-on-one face-offs, only eight remain by episode seven. 

Over the course of the series, the number of contestants further and further diminishes as they compete in shooting their own music videos, writing songs to legendary samples and collaborating with big-time rhythm and blues artists. 

The finale stage mirrors that of an award show where finalists are expected to perform their “dream” song crafted with some of the genre’s hottest producers.

Beyond just the dynamics of the show, what’s truly captivating is the stories and passion of the contestants, especially as it comes down to the top eight.

These people are school teachers, parents and spouses who put their day-to-day lives on hold to pursue their passions and tell their stories. Even with the pressures to make music that sounds good, or records that can sell, the show captures the true nature of hip-hop as a means of artistic and personal expression. 

Especially in the music video episode where contestants are tasked to shoot their videos in their hometowns, viewers truly get a glimpse into the stories behind these artists. 

Some tackled police brutality, gun violence, religion, single parenthood, homelessness, and financial hardship which may be typical for rap but pretty unprecedented in this type of television programming. 

Of course, since it is a rap show, it’s also entertaining to watch. Cardi B along with several contestants add their fair share of comedic relief, especially when it comes to rap battles or even their stage presence. 

All in all, if you like rap, “Rhythm + Flow” is guaranteed to put you on to new artists. Even if rap isn’t your thing, it’s still worth a binge-watch.

Written By: Nahima Shaffer — arts@theaggie.org


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