Whether a city of origin is relevant in today’s hip-hop landscape is debatable. The world has become so small that anyone can make it anywhere, regardless of where they are from with enough luck and effort. However, the DC-Maryland-Virginia area, lovingly referred to as the DMV by its residents, has plenty of representation coming out these days. From Rico Nasty to Black Fortune, there is a lot to be thankful for in the DMV. Another recent addition to the genre is YBN Cordae, a Suitland, Maryland native, whose most recent album The Lost Boy was nominated for Best Rap Album at the 2020 Grammys, and perhaps more presitigously, earned a comfortable spot on Stay Up News’ top 25 albums of 2019 list. Cordae, who goes by his real name, returned close to home to perform at The Fillmore Silver Spring on February 14, 2020 to a sold out crowd.
The freezing cold evening did not detract fans from lining up around the corner before the doors even opened for the late show. One of the openers, 24kGolden, pulled up in his tour van to the line, got out, and began handing out Valentine’s Day cards. The cards were printed with a picture of 24kGolden and a lyric from his 2019 hit song “Valentino,” “I don’t want no Valentine, I just want Valentino.” 24kGolden handed them out to each member of the line while wearing angel wings. Eventually, The Fillmore began processing the line, and the venue slowly filled to capacity from then until the headliner.
First to open the show was another DMV native, Kassim, who started off the night with the energy high. Kassim spent time in between songs to explain where he was from, and often to congratulate himself on selling out the Fillmore, an accomplishment undoubtedly achieved by YBN Cordae more so than Mr. Kassim. Nevertheless, he referred to the two of them both as DMV legends. Kassim is however, very talented, and certainly entertaining for the short time of his set.
Next up was lonr. The young artist sounded pretty good on record, but a mixture of poor mic technique and lack of projection led to little to no vocals coming through the speakers for the majority of his set. It almost seemed as if he was lip-syncing the whole song, only to come in every once in a while with a “1, 2, 3, 4,” before a beat dropped. His performance was pretty energetic, hopping back and forth across the stage, and some of the crowd seemed to respond. Much of the crowd seemed to politely nod their heads to the beat and enjoy the music. After making sure that the crowd had the opportunity to hear his Instagram handle, he left the stage.
The final opener was the aforementioned 24kGolden. What was not clear outside before the show, however, but was abundantly obvious upon hearing him on the mic, was something was wrong with his voice. His usual sing-songy high-pitched vocal register was replaced with a hard rasp reminiscent of some kind of sickness. Perhaps 24kGolden is not taking care of his voice over the course of the tour, and the strain on his vocals has taken its toll. However, the rapper/singer did not complain, or acknowledge his voice, and performed through it anyway. Some of the audience seemed to enjoy his time on stage, and 24kGolden seemed to have a blast throughout.
After a short warm-up session by the DJ, YBN Cordae took the stage to “Wintertime,” the first song of his latest album. Cordae spent most of his set transitioning between the harder and more introspective parts of his discography. Going back and forth between whipping the crowd into a frenzy and sitting on a stool delivering his truth with no filter. No matter what Cordae did, the crowd was with him. The fans were clearly hardcore at this show, with even the rapper’s most dexterous flows being replicated by fans in the audience.
About halfway through the set, Cordae brought out 3oh Black, another DMV rapper, who performed his 2019 hit “All Talk.” Most of the audience seemed to know the song, and jumped around to the performance in response. The energy of the show remained high throughout all of YBN Cordae’s set, no matter what type of song Cordae performed.
The highlight of the set was undoubtedly the end of the show, where YBN Cordae performed “RNP,” a song which heavily features Anderson .Paak. At first, Cordae performed the song with his DJ. After finishing the song, he announced he would do it again, but wanted a member of the audience to join. He said they would have to know the whole part, and eventually chose someone in the crowd named, “Kennedy.” The performance that resulted from this pairing of Cordae and Kennedy was electric. “She was better than all of the openers,” one audience member stated.
YBN Cordae is a very talented rapper, whose most hardcore fans purport him as the best of his generation. At 22 years old, it is certainly incredible what he has managed to accomplish. There is an incredibly bright future for YBN Cordae if he can maintain the standard of quality he has so far established.