There were two moments from Rico Nasty’s Wednesday night show at the Fillmore Silver Spring that tell you all you need to know about the Largo, Md.-born rapper. There was the time late in the show when she demanded the sold-out crowd open up an “all-girl mosh pit” and “just have fun.” The other was earlier in the show, when she brought out her 2-year-old son, Cameron, and held the bewildered toddler on her hip while she rapped. “This is for all my young mamas,” she told the audience. “Don’t let ’em tell you what you can and can’t do.”
It’s apparent that no one tells Rico Nasty what to do. In a hip-hop world defined by braggadocio, the 21-year-old rapper born Maria Kelly wins superlatives for Most Swagger and Most Casually Charismatic. Her outsize personality, unique style and punk spirit have helped her blast off from SoundCloud rapper to major- label star-in-the-making in less than two years.
All three of those traits were on display Wednesday night. In an outfit both skintight and translucent, she jogged and danced across the stage. Her hard looks and mean mugging would eventually melt — her smile was just too bright.
On Wednesday, as she performed fan favorites and most of her latest mixtape, “Nasty,” she had to rap only about half the time, with the crowd finishing her sentences for her. Nasty’s lyrical topics stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to — players, haters, drugs, guns, jewels — and she spit them from the back of her throat as guttural shouts.
Sonically, she takes the rap zeitgeist and remakes it in her image. There were songs in her self-described “sugar trap” style, like “Hey Arnold,” a Nickelodeon-nodding track that disguises hollow-point threats under a playground melody. And there were songs such as “In the Air” and “Rage” that harked back to nu-metal with their crunchy riffs and aggro attitude. “Ice Cream” — a track that samples an ice cream truck jingle — was somewhere in the middle, a modern take on Kelis’s “Milkshake” that brings the boys to the yard with soft serve covered in razor-blade sprinkles.
Nasty kept the crowd moshing for 45 minutes before the set ended with more a whimper than a bang, as if the collective sugar rush had crashed. When Nasty took a big bite of a cake that someone brought out from backstage, it was less an energy boost and more of a celebration: one last homecoming show before taking over the world.