In the first set, the shortcomings were not for lack of trying, though. Under the circumstances, Dusk One proved himself worthy of some hype with his blazingly impassioned lyrical delivery and laptop beat companion. It is clear that he isn’t accustomed to performing for so many empty spaces. Unfortunately, Dusk, who might fit the bill opening for a touring act the likes of Brother Ali, had to work too hard without the support of a sizable audience.
As Dusk One’s set went on, the head count in front of Wasted Space’s small stage slowly grew. Setting the stage for The Numbs was their own DJ Shanty, spinning and scratching to a livened and grooving dance floor. With the atmosphere improving, The Numbs took over with a sound and attitude that clearly draws inspiration from rap legends The Beastie Boys, with lightning-fast rhymes, funky driven beats and an irreverent onstage persona. It was clear by the end of the night that The Numbs would serve as the showcase’s defining highlight.
The deck was stacked against Burnell Washburn before he had the chance to turn any heads. Justifiably daunted by the turnout, the rapper ambled through his rhymes with a somewhat hushed voice, a few times even skipping to the next backing track mid-song. A group of fans remained ,and Washburn’s performance retained some redeeming qualities, but altogether the show lacked the gusto needed to push his name into the running for ballot voters.
In the atmosphere of competition that some artists focus on with CWMAs, those who lack the stage presence to resound in the memory of their audience fall at a considerable disadvantage. This crucial element retains even greater importance in hip-hop, an artform with the spirit of competition at its core. Unfortunately, to varying degrees, all three of the featured artists fell short of significantly reaching their audience. Though it is unclear how much the fans’ lack of dedication is to blame, this year’s rap CWMA turnout will, hopefully, stand to be improved upon in coming years.
Photo by Dom Darling.