Wednesday night's Lyricist Lounge at Nation had Xzibit as its hallmark. While each of the other performances hinted at the talents of several up-and-comers, the show did not manage to prove itself until the Los Angeles rhymer finished the evening with an intensely animated 45-minute set. The Lounge--respected by hip-hop purists for breaking quality unsigned rap acts in New York City venues since 1991--continues to reach beyond Gotham with its second year of touring about-to-be-released rappers.

Royce the 5.9, first heard on Eminem's "Slim Shady" LP, gave a poor presentation of his lyrics, his strongest flow leaning on a thinly veiled Jay-Z imitation. Though it was clear that Royce had stage presence, it was muted by his hypeman's incessant screams at the audience. Screwball fell prey to the same unfocused presentation with each of its songs, the best of which was a scathing "Who Killed Rudy." Busta Rhymes's female protege Rah Digga had two strong showcases but was prevented from hitting her lyrical stride because she chose to share the microphone with her large rhyming clique, Da Outsidaz.

Xzibit, the only artist on the bill with full-length albums to his credit, forcefully snarled out rhymes with the help of DJ Sir Jinx and label-mate Tash. Even with significant cameos on the newly released "Dr. Dre 2001," Xzibit stuck mainly with his two-disc catalogue, a notable exception being the performance of his portion of "B Please," a duet with Snoop Dogg. The keep-it-real anthem "Paparazzi" proved a crowd favorite, as did the father-to-son love song "The Foundation." Xzibit garnered his biggest responses, however, with the sociopolitical "Los Angeles Times" and a set-closing rendition of "What U See Is What U Get."