As "America's Got Talent" Season 7 auditions rolled into New York City, judge Howard Stern expressed his hope that he would find the winning act in the city where he lives and works. He didn't expect an audition that would make him momentarily question his ability to judge.
When little Mir Money, 7, a rapper from Philadelphia, took the stage, he won over the audience with his pre-performance interview. In response to Howie Mandel's question, "Who's your favorite rapper?" he responded, "Myself." He also received "awws" when he said he wanted to win the million-dollar top prize in order to take care of his family. But it soon became clear that the diminutive rapper had a lot of growing yet to do. His refrain was just "I'm 7!" and the rhythm was far from regular.
Howard buzzed the performance and, surprisingly, the softy on the panel, Sharon Osbourne, buzzed Mir, as well. But as Howard was trying to let him down easy -- starting with "You're a very nice young man. You're very brave to get up there at 7 years old" -- the bright little guy figured out he was being told no, and he began to weep. It was a heartbreaking display, and Howard rushed onto the stage to give him a hug and speak to him face to face. Howard told him, "I've met many great rappers. None of them are quite as great as you." The audience cheered the little guy as host Nick Cannon embraced him in a bear hug and carried him offstage. "This job is too rough for me," Howard said. "I'm not cut out for this."
When the producers insisted on an official vote, Howard, who was clearly feeling guilty about the kid's reaction, was ready to rethink his decision, voting yes. But Sharon pointed out that the little guy had already cried once when being told no. Howie agreed that he just wasn't ready for this level of competition. Both voted no.
As the judges retired to their dressing rooms for a break, Howard was still second-guessing his buzzing of the pint-sized rapper. "I need to be fair to everyone," he said, but he was clearly still disturbed about the reaction that his honesty had elicited. He should give himself a break: a lot of children audition for the show, with the support of their parents. But even if a parent has been careful to prepare the child for possible rejection, it's difficult to predict how a child who's not used to show business is going to react.
Another atypical rap act met with a different reaction from the panel. Burton Crane, 77, was dapper in a white suit with maroon shirt and white fedora. Calling himself the Grandfather of Rap, his backing track was a Casio keyboard. Surprisingly, his original song, "Whatcha Gonna Do," related a series of vaguely humorous stories in a strict rhyming pattern. The chorus, repeated with his hands held up resignedly in the air, got the audience singing along, and both Howie and the audience gave him a standing ovation.
In response, Howard said, "I hated you at first. I was going to hit the buzzer. But then I find myself going, 'Whatcha gonna do? Whatcha gonna do?'" The judges gave him a unanimous yes, sending him to the Las Vegas round. Nick did a little beat boxing with him before escorting him off the stage, where further footage saw him greeted like an instant celebrity by audience members outside the theater.
This episode largely focused on successful acts, except for a brief montage of bands who failed to impress the judges. Highlights among those moving on to Vegas included:
- The Flyte Cru, an acrobatic stunt team that combined basketball tricks with stunts. Howie thought he'd seen similar acts before and wasn't impressed, but Howard and Sharon liked them enough to send them to Vegas.
- The New York Irish Dance Club, who modernized clog dancing by wearing white masks and futuristic costumes.
- Jason Cordero, a young man whose keyboard player demonstrated technique beyond his years.
- Olate Dogs, a dog act consisting of rescue dogs who have been trained to do everything from jump rope to do back flips. This act caused dog lover Sharon to repeatedly squeal and clutch her face in delight.
- A "Jackass" style performance group whose stunts consisted of smashing a guy named Horse in the crotch in various ways, causing Howard to dub him the "King of the Nut Shots."
- Wordspit the Illest, a band whose name does not do justice to its unique sound: blending hip-hop with rock, thanks to a talented group of musicians, including a violinist and a vocalist whose vintage checked jacket, mustard turtle neck and brown fedora earned him the nickname "The Math Teacher" from Howard.