The Judges do not know what's going on and neither do commenters to this video. They're being played from the start. The whole thing is part of the act.
The singer was not having difficulty. He did not choke. And he's no rap god either. That is Eminem's title, not the YouTube uploader's title. This is what happened in the movie. Rap God is the name of the rap contest in the film 8 Mile. The singer above is acting out his interpretation of the scene in the movie before busting out the rap. It's rather clever if a bit drawn out.
Here is the scene in the movie. It too starts out hesitantly then busts out the rap.
The talent shows mentioned have at least a dozen entries of this. It appeals especially to girls. You can see for yourself by querying [talent rap god], [x-factor rap god] You get all kinds of results, girls performing this for school shows, little boys doing this song, the song sped up by half, a guy doing the move in 40 musical styles, on and on, several versions in sign. One of them is what I'd like to talk about briefly.
This is the most popular video I've seen. The comments to it are all complimentary. One commenter said, "Jeeze, you think you did very well in your sign class and then you see this." Meaning, her mad skills blow him away when he imagined himself top of his class. The video has been re-uploaded by others. It's in other peoples' lists, and it's used as basis for other peoples' videos. It's considered very good. She does rap poses very well, she does capture the feel of the song. I can see its appeal for young students.
But I'd give it a C.
This is my critique. This is why it does not work for me.
The arm sweeping movement means "song," "music," "sing." It's a signal used to denote the recording is playing music without words. So if you want to express a person "singing a song" actual lyrics of a song, then you need to show a movement at your voice box plus this sign. This song does have the word "music" and we see her use this sign to denote the orchestral beginning but we do not see the sign where it belongs in the phrase "you better lose yourself in the music" We must see that same arm sweeping movement but we don't. Why don't we see it? Because she's abbreviating all over the place and substituting rap poses and dismissive rap "flicks away" and shoves and grabs for words. She is not true to the lyrics. Not by a long shot.
"Shot" is another word that is in these lyrics but not seen. In all of the ASL videos for this song the word "shot" is interpreted to "grab something from the air" and that grab is so sloppy with other flicks, pushes, pulls, and poses that none of them stand out clearly except for some movement that looks like a rapper singing. Even "try" will work, but none of them, not one, looks like a shot that could be so clear with the sudden startling appearance of a gun. And none of them show "One shot" where really the emphases is on "one." You don't see the very clear to see "one." None of them convey the essential point of "one try," or "one attempt."
She imitates piano music, and I appreciate that, but her keyboard fingering looks like two "Y's" and that has the appearance of "stay," and with two hands it means "the same," "uniform," and "common."
Then having shown the music is piano she fails to show where it switches to guitar and that would have been very easy a nice and simple opportunity ignored.
"Look" It's not "look into my eyes," not "look at me," it's simply "look." It means, "you look." She has the look backwards. "Understand" would work. To be true to the song, a dead flat "look" with dead flat facial expression works best. That would be acting out the song, inhabiting the song, owning it.
This is where the deaf friends of my youth ruined me. They were brilliantly creative. No exaggeration here, I mean this. I didn't realize until much later how unique they were as a group. Much more so than usual and now nothing else matches up. They acted out. They played. They showed what they saw. Their imagination was entertaining, a real thing to behold. One time [anecdote alert] at a grill lunch gathering at my house mixed hearing and deaf, they separated and went into the garage. I had a few dog grooming tools lined up on a shelf. Geraldo caught sight of them and used them as props to depict a model primping at her vanity and using the dog grooming implements to prepare for an audition. He used the guillotine type nail clippers (I switched to Dremel grinder later) as an eyelash curler, exaggerated crimp one eye, exaggerated crimp the second eye, bat, bat, bat, and used the wire dog brush on his own hair, then stepped out onto an imaginary catwalk and crossed the diagonal length of the whole garage, paused, twirled, and returned, twirled and and walked it again, one foot swinging directly over the first, one foot swing, second foot swing, and so on, as female models do. He had us all cracking up folded in laughter at his ridiculous exaggerated behavior. He's actually better than Jeff with this sort of dramatic flair, he could even take a song like this and show each salient point, each significant detail.
But the interpretations do not. They leave too much out. They gloss so much that the song becomes unrecognizable.
The sign for gravity is "Earth + grab down" the grab down movement done as ligature to the Earth sign. Here is another version of the same thing. Here are two more versions of the same thing. But none of the ASL versions of this song do I see the sign for "earth," just the pulling down, and honestly, that can be anything. It would be pulling down the previous thing mentioned. There is nothing to connote that the thing being pulled down is signifying gravity itself. So the phrase looks like "snap back to reality, oops there goes something pulled down." Except there's no "oops" and there's no "there goes," and there's not "back" or "return" so really it looks like, "snap reality pulled down." And that bears no resemblance to the lyrics, nothing true to the lyrics.
And there's time for all that specificity and fidelity to lyrics that needn't be sacrificed for rap posing and bouncing around and projecting a tough rap persona.
The bouncing around, the semi-dancing to emphasize the beat, makes it more difficult to follow. That's why interpreters stand still. It's why interpreters tend to hold things close to the chest. The plain background is great and so is the black clothing, both very good choices, while the bouncing back and forth detracts. She can create the same driving beat without it. Slight nods of the head will do the same thing.
There is just too much left out of this excellent song. It's truly a fantastic poem in English, and a very great deal is forfeited to this deeply elided interpretation. Too much to do the song its due justice.
I'd recommend going back to the lyrics and pull this off line-for line with no gloss. Stay true to the lyrics, even when confusing in sign, so what, rap is confusing sometimes, and make choices that show what the lyrics actually say. Be sure to convey every single idea expressed within it. My suggestion is reconsider each line and attempt to be graphic as possible. Then practice to nail each line to its beat, no lagging, and nothing predicted. Each rapid sequence done compressed, each brief pause held, each emphatic rhyme on its beat, and hold dancing movement to slight head motions and with no bouncing around, allow the rap attitude to come naturally, not forced by shoulder shoving that takes the torso target and the supporting lipreading off their mark. Make the song easy to see.
"Opportunity" is two "O" hands as if holding an invisible sheet of paper by the corners then popping upwards into two "P's." She is showing, "pop-up" as "show-up" "suddenly appear," the sign that is opposite of "disappear." It uses a "one" signifier" meaning a person who suddenly shows up. "opportunity" is a specific sign. She is showing "a person shows up unexpectedly" not an opportunity. It is the wrong sign and it garbles the lyrics. That motion is in its own very useful class, It's opposite is "disappear" and its sideways complement is "suddenly departs."
"One moment" is shown as a clock face second hand ticking off. A single clock tick. It's derived from the word for "hour," the same configuration with the clock-hand sweeping a circle around the flattened palm (unrealistically) For "second" or "moment" that clock-hand goes, "tick." She taps her wrist for the sign "time,"
"Time" is a tap on the back of the wrist, as a wristwatch. It's used in ligature for the word "clock"
"Clock is shown "time (wristwatch) + circle up there on the wall" Hour, minute, second, moment, etc are all in their own little class of signs. She says, "You have time."
"Yo" She says, "acting" and appears acting tough.
"catch it" She shows the sign for "win"
"or let it slip away" She does something like "my vision come to me" that is her gloss, not the lyrics, Here is where the opposite of her "pop-up" is appropriate, the sign for "disappear" but she says "let it go" instead.
'knees weak" "Weak" is a clawed hand on a flat palm collapsing. "Knees" is shown as two fingers walking and bending. Those two can be combined beautifully as a stick figure collapsing with "weak" shown dramatically. She does something weird with one hand at the cheek and tongue sticking out as exhaustion and the other hand clawed I suppose half the sign for collapsing weakness. It doesn't work for me. Not when there are so many other better approaches available. Frankly I was confused by her choices. All poor ones from my point of view. It just doesn't work to show the lyrics. And this is only the first few lines. I gave up on it.
Yet other people marveled.
I expected much harsher criticism in comments but its not there. Other viewers love this interpretation and they don't care about what else is available, how much better this can be done.
Another version does do it better, another guy who also bounces around energetically getting all into inhabiting the role of a rapper, but technically the video is so low grade, so heavily optimized, that it amounts to indistinct blurs. I gave up.
I'm cheered so many young people are excited about learning and showing while I'm still disappointed with results. There are very few good video interpretations available presently.
Maybe I had just do this myself. I can show what my remarkably creative friends showed me a long time ago.