The Divine (pictured) performed first, the two vocalists taking the stage along with a live drummer and a DJ. The vocalists alternated between rapping and singing, both outfitted with a host of colorful tattoos. They brought a ton of energy to the room for their two songs, blending rap, hip hop, rock, and grunge and mixing beats with live vocals and drums. I was reminded of the Beastie Boys and a Justin Timberlake/Timbaland joint, and I mean both comparisons as a compliment. By the end of the second song, they had the crowd waving and clapping their hands, an impressive feat for such a quick set. The judges' opinions were short and to-the-point, but fair. They appreciated the moxie of the small group, but they admitted that they'd like to see more interaction with the crowd and The Divine's sound was very familiar and reminiscent of 3OH3!.
Up next was It Boys, arriving onstage amidst a medley loop featuring (among other things) a Daft Punk clip and Europe's Final Countdown. It was a pretty epic beginning, and the band didn't let the momentum stop for even a moment. Even with a lead singer, the drummer and guitar player had no problem carrying the vocal line by themselves, and the exchange between the drummer and the lead singer was certainly unusual but well-practiced and executed. Everyone in the band seemed to have their boy band niche persona, all five members sporting avant garde asymmetrical coiffures. The It Boys' charms were certainly not lost on their young female fans screaming in the front of the stage, especially for their last song 'Guys Don't Like Me', an electro-rock club romp whose bass line shook the ground under our feet. The judges were equally moved, but their commentary for It Boys was a little bit more specific than that of The Divine. Swizz Beatz thought the drummer was doing too much, and that their choreography needed a little work. Travie McCoy praised the band's introduction, calling it "awesome foreplay".
The last artist was rapper Steve Liriks, performing with a full band that included a drummer, bassist, two guitar players, and superb female vocalist. I've always enjoyed hip hop and rap with a live band, and Steve Liriks' performance with The Specialists didn't disappoint. Set to mid-tempo beats featuring psychedlic guitar solos, Steve's rapping flowed easily over the music on 'Fix U', the female vocalizations adding a pretty, softer dimension to the song. "This next song I know all ya'll can relate to," Steve announced, before introducing the next song 'Lazy Boy Syndrome' that was more rock than rap or hip hop. Swizz Beatz was the first to comment on the song, appreciating the band picking up the energy after the slower 'Fix U'. Andrew Shipman compared Steve's sound to that of Kanye West, the other two judges nodding in agreement. Both he and Swizz Beatz suggested taking the group in a different direction, so as not to follow artists like Kanye already dominating the scene. Travie McCoy praised Steve for using a live group, and recommended working on the back and forth vocalizations. The band politely thanked the judges, heading backstage to await their decision.
As soon as the judges had left to consider the three choices, the crowd began to buzz in anticipation. No one seemed to have any idea who they were picked, and when the judges and bands returned to the stage for the announcement, a respectful hush fell over the crowd. Each band had a great chance at becoming the next MTV VMA Breakout Artist of L.A., but who would it be? The judges thanked the bands for their efforts, but as Travie McCoy explained, they had come "to a unanimous decision: The Divine!" he shouted into the microphone, and the audience erupted in cheers. Travie was equally appreciative, smiling good-naturedly and declaring "Congrats. Motherfuckers."