The crowd was restless as the beat dropped.
Taking turns at the mic, six aspiring MCs spit their best rhymes in front of a panel of judges while cameras rolled inside SET Nightclub on Lincoln Road.
Each has only one thing in mind: a $100,000 cash prize and a record deal with SMH Records.
Hundreds of contestants swarmed the streets of downtown Miami since Friday morning to audition for ONE SHOT, the first competition series focused on rap artists.
The competition, hosted by radio and TV personality Sway Calloway, is holding auditions in eight cities ㅡ including Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, New York and Los Angeles. Miami was the fourth stop on the tour.
“Miami has been the standout so far. Being in this business it takes a gift to be able to stand out,” Calloway said. “Miami has such a rich history. Just like there is a melting pot of cultures, there is a melting pot in the music scene.”
The competition attracted many artists hoping for their big break in the music industry.
A local contestant who goes by the stage name DYFL said rapping started as a hobby but became a real passion.
“I’ve been an MC since I was 8 years old, and at 14 I started taking it seriously,” he said.
Also in the running was local radio personality Stichiz, who hosts a weekend show on 103.5 The Beat.
Throughout the weekend, a panel of judges made up of music moguls winnowed the list to six semifinalists. Eventually, one finalist will be selected from each city to compete in Las Vegas for the prize money and a record deal.
The judges are DJ King Tech, Crooked I and SMH CEO Mike Smith, as well as a celebrity judge for each stop. For the Miami auditions, longtime 99 Jamz personality and artist DJ Khaled joined the panel of judges as a guest.
Smith said he started the competition to give MCs an opportunity they wouldn’t find in more traditional singing competitions.
The ideal artist, Smith said, is someone who is well-rounded and can do more than bust a rhyme. During auditions, Smith has seen contestants come with instruments and play, sing and rap.
“I’m looking for the whole package,” Smith said. “Someone who can sing as well as rap, has the look and the charisma.”
Smith said he has seen the competition grow in popularity as the numbers increase at each audition city. The competition has even attracted aficionados to travel and audition in multiple cities.
“I noticed we had been picking people up along the way,” Smith said. “In each city, I get swarmed.”
One of the Miami’s final six had auditioned in Chicago a few weeks back and followed the group South to try out one more time.
Smith said he has also noticed a lot of female MCs at the auditions, and at least two have made it to the final six in each city.
Miami’s final six, three who are actually from Miami, were selected Saturday. The other three traveled from Ohio, Illinois and Atlanta.
Each got some time inside a recording studio before Sunday to write an original song. On Sunday, they performed in the Miami Beach nightclub in front of the judges and a crowd during the taping of the show.
The judges critiqued each artist in their original performance, but a finalist will not be chosen until the show airs on TV this summer. Smith said he is talking to TV networks to see which will air the show after they finish taping auditions in July.
“There’s this hole in the music industry,” Smith said. “No one is catering to hip hop.”