The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

At Broccoli City Festival, cheers for Cardi B — and jeers for Kanye West

Cardi B charms the crowds at the Broccoli City Festival at RFK Stadium in Washington. (Kyle Gustafson for The Washington Post)
Placeholder while article actions load

If you know Cardi B’s music, you know she has a big mouth. And if you’ve caught her in concert, you know she isn’t shy about showing it off. Never mind her tremendous gab-gifts. The woman’s smile is wide enough to span three Zip codes.

She seemed especially smiley at the sixth annual Broccoli City Festival in Washington on Saturday. How come? Maybe because her debut album, “Invasion of Privacy,” went No. 1 earlier this month, cementing her spot in the American pop firmament. Or maybe it was because this would be Cardi’s last concert before the birth of her first child — with Offset of the Atlanta rap maestros Migos. Or maybe she just likes the way her blab detonates in her mouth as much as everybody else does. “I like dollars, I like diamonds, I like stunting, I like shining,” she rhymed at the top of her voice on Saturday night, joined by thousands of festivalgoers who like those things, too. If you weren’t shouting along, you were basking in her life force. The mood was pure joy.

And this was a family affair. During a headlining performance from Migos, Offset flaunted the locomotive force of his rhymes during “Walk It Talk It,” a mysteriously repetitive song where he and his comrades appear to be walk-talking in circles, but still manage to gain ground, as if scaling some M.C. Escher staircase. It was as if they were discovering perpetual motion inside a world of their own: At one point during their set, the sound cut off for two minutes, and they kept rapping as if nothing had happened.

Aside from that surreal technical difficulty, this was a relatively glitch-free transition for Broccoli City, which had relocated from the leafy grounds of Gateway D.C. in Southeast to the sprawling asphalt plains outside RFK Stadium. Throughout the day, the show was repeatedly hyped from the stage as “the biggest urban Earth Day festival” thanks to a capacity crowd of 33,000 people. As for the festival’s 13 acts, they appeared in a thoughtful sequence — easygoing music in the sunshine, rambunctious stuff at night.

In the moonlight, that meant Cardi, Migos and Miguel, who delivered his tight R&B hits with a rock-and-roll looseness — kind of like Prince in reverse. In the daylight, it was H.E.R. and Daniel Caesar, two young songwriters who channeled the purity of ’90s neo-soul. (She knew her way around every corner of her voice, whereas he seemed like a shy guy whose pheromones refused to travel on the afternoon breeze.)

And while performing for a still-arriving crowd in the unforgiving midday sun must be brutal, nobody told D.C. rapper Lightshow, who blasted through his early slot as if the entire city could hear him. Surrounded by a band fluent in go-go, he rhymed in high spirits, but his most triumphal refrain still felt heavy-hearted: “Police can’t chase us now.”

The festival’s most sobering moment came at the end of a sly set from gangsta rap journeyman Nipsey Hussle, who walked off the stage to “FDT,” a 2016 song excoriating then-candidate Donald Trump. While the bass thumped, an image of Kanye West wearing his red MAGA hat appeared on three giant video screens — and the crowd instantly sent up a thick fog of boos. Aside from Cardi’s babbling reveries, this was the other moment when all 33,000 festival attendees seemed to be in complete sync.