On Sunday night, the sartorial standouts at a sold-out Fillmore Silver Spring served synthetics: plush, pleather and plastic, with plenty of fishnet and facial piercings. It was a crowd, one much more female and femme than those at most rap shows, ready not for bottle service or the runway but for a mosh pit or a rave.
That’s exactly what they got from Rico Nasty, the 25-year-old rapper who was headlining the latest stop of Monster Energy’s Outbreak Tour. As far as brand partnerships go, an energy drink with a ragged neon logo is a perfect fit for a Prince George’s County product whose music embraces extremity through her style, sonics and songwriting.
Rico is touring in support of last year’s “Las Ruinas,” a project that represents the apotheosis of her self-described “sugar trap” offerings: hard-nosed rap but with Nickelodeon references delivered through playground taunts. No stranger to speaker-frying beats, her latest project favors even more outré productions, drawing on the drop-D drudgery of rap-rock, the saccharine-sweet melodies of pop-punk and the rapid-fire percussion of underground dance music.
In a hot pink get-up that featured a studded belt, platform boots and what looked like a poodle skirt rescued from a fire, Rico growled and spit her way through dozens of songs from across her wide-ranging discography, spanning pit fuel like “Rage” and “Let It Out,” bubble gum body-movers such as “Dance Scream,” or songs that do a bit of both, like hyperpop anthem “IPHONE.”
On the mic, Rico is ready to fight, bite, punch and smack her haters and imitators, often pairing lyrical violence with music that recalls mostly-male nu-metalheads that fiddled while Woodstock ’99 burned. Throughout, Rico’s catharsis seems more earned than by that generation of stuff-breakers. And after the release, there was time and space to dance, as Rico incorporated throwback favorites by Gwen Stefani and Ludacris and nodded to bass music traditions from Miami to New Orleans and beyond.
The change of pace was a good idea, as a nonstop mosh pit can be dangerous, exhausting and, well, boring. It’s also an issue for venues like the Live Nation-owned Fillmore Silver Spring that are still figuring out how to avoid crowd crush tragedies like the one at the 2021 Astroworld Festival. Rico reminded people to look out for each other and repeatedly asked the crowd to step back or risk the show’s abrupt shutdown. (But venues can do more than warnings and thimble-sized cups of water. There’s already an energy drink logo emblazoned on the stage, what’s stopping Coca-Cola or PepsiCo from tossing out bottles of Dasani and Aquafina?)
For her part, Rico seemed to be relishing the chance to perform for a hometown crowd of her biggest fans. Before closing her set with the celebratory collaboration “We Made It,” she big-upped the DMV and offered a hopeful message: “If you’re in the room right now, you have the potential to be bigger than me.” For someone with the outsize talent and personality of Rico Nasty, that’s saying something.