THE LOOP — Temperatures were in the single digits in the Loop Friday morning, but that didn't freeze the dreams of hundreds of young rappers and lyricists trying to get their big break.
The new hip-hop reality show "One Shot" is in Chicago this weekend looking for talent to compete for $100,000 and a record deal.
The line of mostly young men wrapped around the Hard Rock Hotel on North Michigan Avenue, where the auditions are being held Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Round one is Friday.
Lawrence Mead, 20, from the Austin neighborhood, got in line at 4 a.m. for his chance to audition.
Mead, who goes by the stage name "The Law," said he feels growing up with other notable rappers, like Michael Taylor Bennett and his brother, Chance the Rapper, puts him at an advantage.
"All these people came from the same place that I came from. That's my inspiration, so I know my time is right around the corner. I'm just as good as any of these guys, if not better," Mead said.
But Mead said he's not just about the fame. Every Wednesday, he and his rap group HUEY Gang help run an open mic forum for young rappers at the Harold Washington Library through YOUmedia. Through the open mic, HUEY, or Headstrong Urban Educated Youth, gives young artists the chance to practice their skills and branch out.
"It gives them a good outlet to express themselves," Mead said. "They say things they wouldn't have a chance to say to their parents, or to their closest of kin or friends. It gives them the opportunity to relieve stress. Some people box, some people smoke. This is our our way of releasing what we want and letting the world know, 'Hey, this is art as well as a reliever."
Many hopefuls flew in from across the country, including Miami rapper Sean Pio, a.k.a Guapo, 27.
The rapper, who has opened for Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, planned his trip for the audition back in December after hearing about the competition, he said.
His mother, Emilia Pio, 50, said "Sean's been [rapping] since he came out the womb."
The proud mother said she made the trip with her son to show her support.
"I'm here to stand next to him all the time," she said.
Zach Herrmann, director and producer of the show, said he was impressed by the nearly 2,500 people who braved the cold for their chance to compete for the record deal.
The talent pool will be narrowed from 2,500 to 50 by the end of the day, and further narrowed to six by Saturday, Herrmann said.
The remaining six will rap in front of guest judges, West Side native Twista, and Tech N9ne, and a live crowd on Sunday at the Chop Shop's venue in Wicker Park Sunday.
The production will then head to other cities across the country, including Atlanta, New York and Houston where one rapper will be selected to represent each of eight cities, Herrmann said.
Other judges throughout the competition include Mike Smith, radio co-hosts Sway Calloway and King Tech, and Kxng Crooked.
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