On Friday night, the Fillmore Silver Spring hosted the “Welcome to the Zoo” tour. Ostensibly named after headliner Fetty Wap’s Zoo Gang collective, “Welcome to the Zoo” also served as a warning of what was to come.
As the sold-out crowd made its way into the venue, the scene was set: a mostly underage audience comprised of hundreds of teenage girls in their summer-festival attire, despite the freezing weather; their male counterparts seemed content to be cool while warm, layering jackets over throwback jerseys. After breaking through to the main floor, elated concertgoers proceeded to party, human chains snaking their way through the crowd as kids ping-ponged into each other like drunken toddlers.
After an hour of hype-men and low-card openers, the show began in earnest about 10 p.m. with special guest rapper-singer Post Malone, a 20-year-old white Dallas native. Before he was famous, the artist, formerly known as Austin Post, uploaded acoustic Bob Dylan covers and released a 1980s-style synth-pop ballad under the moniker Leon DeChino. That was before he met rap producers FKi Music, put his hair in braids and a gold grill in his mouth, and became Post Malone.
Malone released “White Iverson” in February 2015, and it quickly became a hit. As its title suggests, Malone uses the song — a Charmin-soft rap ballad heavy with basketball references — to anoint himself the white Allen Iverson, the retired professional basketball player. On Friday night, a camo-clad Malone opened his set with the song, providing just a taste before cutting it short; the crowd would have to wait until the end of his half-hour set to hear it in full.
“A lot of people like to talk . . . about me on the Internet,” Malone mused before launching into “#mood,” a freestyle over 50 Cent’s “Window Shopper.” While “Window Shopper” took aim at 50’s New York rap competition, “#mood” takes on the pop star target du jour, haters: “They ain’t understand or see the work I put into it,” he raps.
Throughout his set, Malone repeatedly returned to the theme of anonymous forces praying for his demise, despite this alleged hard work. After “#mood,” he performed his guest verse from 50’s “Tryna F--- Me Over,” rapping that “people want to see me get got.” Even “Too Young,” a song inspired by the passing of influential rap tastemaker ASAP Yams, countered, “I don’t wanna die too young” with “I’ve been grindin’ way too long.”
This type of paranoia made sense coming from 50 Cent, a rapper whose origin story famously includes nine gunshot wounds. But from Post Malone, it’s just silly. Like the white rappers before him, part of Malone’s rapid ascent is certainly due to white privilege. And like Post Malone, the majority of the crowd on Friday night was made up of suburban white kids, hundreds of White Iversons for whom Black Cool is only a haircut, a gold grill and a throwback jersey away.
Kelly is a freelance writer.