The chants were thunderous. For the first time that day, they drowned out beats blaring from the stage upstairs. One word rained down on the bassement of the dilapidated train station: “Emtee! Emtee! Emtee!”

At a glance, Stage 2 at Riky Rick’s inaugural Cotton Fest looked like the designated spot for emerging acts. Read: the stage that forces you to humble yourself as the Not-Yet-Somebody you don’t believe yourself to be.

Upstairs, spot that shone with natural Jozi city light during the day and was emblazoned by pyrotechnics and flashing camera lights at night. The likes of AKA, Nasty C, Nadia Nakai and Ms Cosmo played.

Downstairs, a grimy, dark corner was the stage that was dwarfed by the sound of Stage 1. Punchline Media – the home of D.EE XCLSV and Manu Worldstar – played on Stage 2. Kandy Koated Music – which houses Hopemasta, Espique and DJ Kaymo (who is Riky Rick’s DJ!) – played on Stage 2.

And, predictably, while acts like Tellaman sounded superb upstairs, some of the kids downstairs just don’t have great mic control. Another reason one can’t be faulted for thinking Stage 2 is where you play when you haven’t yet “made it.”

That’s why it was dumbfounding to encounter Emtee at the bottom.

But the easy enthusiasm the trap king brought with him was undeniable. Its reciprocity from the kids in the crowd unmatched. My Dude leaned over to my ear, cupped his hand over it and said: “Looks like he’s our Lil Wayne, ne.”

I’m always weary of labeling anyone after another person but the blind adoration of a lean sipping superstar is familiar. And it would be unwarranted if the songs were wack but based on Emtee’s setlist alone, that’s not a debate worthy of sparking. At many points, during his performance, the crowd outsang and out-rapped him. Even I belted out the Me and You chorus.

And then, when he was done, something that I hadn’t heard since I arrived at the fest happened. They started chanting his name. It was endearing to watch. And yes, when it became apparent that the rapper wouldn’t be returning for an encore, the crowd dispersed with the swiftness of a, effboy ghosting after sex.

After all, the line-up claimed A-Reece was about to perform upstairs on Stage 1. Read into that what you will.

That Emtee performance put one thing into perspective: only the people can count you out. It doesn’t matter what life throws you, if you touch the hearts of people through music, no stage can decide your destiny.

And maybe we can apply that to situations in the lives of us regular people too, huh.

Let me know how it works out for you.