The Washington Post

Kevin Gates gives first D.C.-area performance at the Fillmore Silver Spring

Baton Rouge rapper Kevin Gates performs at the Fillmore Silver Spring. (Josh Sisk/For The Washington Post)

Two songs into Friday’s performance at the Fillmore Silver Spring, it was unclear if rapper Kevin Gates had just awakened from a deep sleep or had laryngitis. After he casually sauntered onto the stage, his first words were groggy and largely inaudible.

Then on “4:30 a.m.,” a menacing tune from last summer’s “Stranger Than Fiction” mix tape, Gates jolted violently, swiping at the microphone stand like one of those back-stabbing friends he often raps about. Either the betrayals are still fresh in his brain or he was just that excited to perform in the Washington area for the first time.

“I ain’t never been up here before,” Gates exclaimed through a thick Southern drawl. “However long they let me stay up here, I’mma give it a thousand.”

That’s easy for the Baton Rouge rapper, whose bruising flows reach into his sullen past of crime, frayed relationships and bouts of depression. In 2009, Gates was sent to prison after being convicted of drug and firearms charges, which stalled the momentum he achieved as a buzzing lyricist with an intrepid work ethic. After his release in 2011, Gates linked with New Orleans rapper Lil Wayne and signed a management deal with Lil Wayne’s Young Money Entertainment.

Gates made significant strides last year with the release of his critically acclaimed mix tape “The Luca Brasi Story,” which led to his signing with Atlantic Records. Gates’s most recent release, this year’s “By Any Means,” is a bit glossier than his previous work but just as passionate.

Yet on Friday, you wouldn’t know that he’s a budding star with two Billboard-charting projects — the aforementioned “Stranger Than Fiction” and “By Any Means” — on his résumé. For almost an hour, Gates peppered the crowd with songs that the majority seemed to recognize. Before many of these tracks, the rapper shouted at his DJ to “gimme some more s---!” — a nudge that established a quick pace and sustained Gates’s aggressive energy throughout his impressive gig.

Still, there’s an underlying sincerity to the rapper that you instantly feel. So it doesn’t matter if he rhymes about having sex in a bathroom stall (“Would You Mind?”), remaining forthright (“Own Up to Your Bull----”) or the effects of karma (“Get Up on My Level”), it’s clear that his words come from a very real place. Of course, the mini tantrum Gates threw during Friday’s depiction of “Posed to Be in Love” helped drive that point home.

However, the best part of the show came near the end, when Gates jumped from the stage and performed his last few songs — namely “IDGAF” and “John Gotti” — among the audience. “I ain’t never been here in my life, and you know my lyrics verbatim!” Gates said, his excitement teeming to the point of euphoria.

So much for him being fatigued.

Moore is a freelance writer.



Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments
Most Read
Your Three. Videos curated for you.
Play Videos
How to make Sean Brock's 'Heritage' cornbread
New limbs for Pakistani soldiers
The signature dish of Charleston, S.C.
Play Videos
Why seasonal allergies make you miserable
John Lewis, 'Marv the Barb' and the politics of barber shops
What you need to know about filming the police
Play Videos
The Post taste tests Pizza Hut's new hot dog pizza
5 tips for using your thermostat
Michael Bolton's cinematic serenade to Detroit
Play Videos
Full disclosure: 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, 1 ghoul
Pandas, from birth to milk to mom
The signature drink of New Orleans

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.