Netflix’s Rhythm + Flow winner shows immense potential on debut
In October, Netflix aired the first season of its new hip hop talent show, Rhythm + Flow, judged by T.I., Cardi B and Chance the Rapper. The trio stopped in various U.S. cities in search of the genre’s next big star. After 10 episodes, Inglewood, California native D Smoke emerged the victor. On Inglewood High, he proves exactly why he was chosen.
D Smoke has delivered an EP filled with mature, introspective songwriting over soulful, jazz-infused instrumentals. He uses the project’s short run time to paint a picture of what life is like in Inglewood, through various perspectives.
The album opens with the tone-setting titular track “Inglewood High”, a short, one-verse introduction that tells Smoke’s story – that of a young man who avoided gang life by pursuing a teaching position at his local high school.
Following the introduction are “On Paper” and “Lil Red,” tracks from the perspective of two of his troubled students. These tracks highlight both Smoke’s storytelling ability and his ability to effortlessly rap in both English and Spanish, even constructing verses that use both languages.
While D Smoke’s immense talent is apparent, his cadence and flow are sometimes too similar to some of his peers – namely Kendrick Lamar. For example, his second verse on “On Paper” could easily be mistaken for an unlisted feature from Lamar.
Overall, this is an extremely impressive first outing. Smoke’s poetic lyricism perfectly pairs with a great selection of smooth jazzy instrumentals. He shows a maturity that is uncommon for a debut project.
If this is just the start, we have a lot to look forward to from D Smoke.
Trial Track: Ain’t You
“Seven Gang was the clique; it wasn’t no Blood or no Crip
Was more like fraternity ties mixed with bare knuckles and clips
My big homie saw something in me, said f**k hitting licks and pistols
Your test scores gon’ hit the lick with pencils, teaching credentials.”
(D Smoke on “Inglewood High”)