Flo Milli brings her barbed yet playful rhymes to the Howard Theatre



In front of a bright video screen and an inflatable sign of her name — made to look like an early 2000s VH1 logo — rapper Flo Milli declared her slot in the pop culture canon to a Howard Theatre audience Friday night.

And why shouldn’t she? Her breakout singles “Beef FloMix” and “In The Party” were internet staples in 2019, from TikTok trends to fan-made video edits of TV characters dropped into Twitter replies. Her barbed yet playful rhymes and distinct, soprano-like cadence set her apart from her peers included in XXL magazine’s 2021 Freshman Class listing of up-and-coming artists.

“If you know you that girl, make some noise,” the 22-year-old Mobile, Ala., native urged the crowd at the Howard. D.C. was the third stop of her aptly named “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” tour.

During the day, Milli had also performed at Howard University’s Homecoming Yardfest. Even with that earlier appearance, she still brought fresh energy to her sold-out evening show, with a charismatic stage presence that felt experienced despite it being her first headlining tour.

She opened with the taunting “Come Outside,” off her 2022 debut album, electrifying a ready audience that had been primed by the bevy of openers: Houston rapper Monaleo, who is seeing her own star rise; R&B singer GoGo Morrow; and rapper Shakur Smalls, not featured on the tour poster yet somehow shuffling onto a lineup highlighting women.

Following the success of her mixtape, “Ho, Why Is You Here?” — a fast-paced, razor-sharp manifesto of independence and wit — Milli told Vulture that she wanted to be more intentional on her first album and show off her versatility. With “You Still Here, Ho?,” Milli explores her artistry, playing with vocal delivery in the fierce “Bed Time” (sampling Missy Elliott’s “She’s a B—-”) and peeling back a layer of armor in “Tilted Halo.”

Fellow Southern rapper Latto said it best in an interview with Milli in Rolling Stone’s Musicians on Musicians series: “Every time I hear a new song or a new verse, it’s just better and better. You play with your voice. You use your voice like an instrument.”

Onstage, Milli’s star power gleamed as the crowd followed her, bar for bar, on the wiry “Roaring 20s.” With “Beef FloMix,” the wall of voices even managed to obscure the signature chimes at one point, so that the bass thumped like a merged heartbeat.

For “We Not Humping (Remix),” Milli invited collaborator Monaleo onstage, but technical difficulties had them restarting the song and sharing a mic. The impromptu adjustment made for a highlight of musical skill and camaraderie.

Milli moved quickly from song to song. When Monaleo returned for an unplanned reprise of her “Faneto Freestyle,” Flo Milli completely handed over her mic. Once Monaleo finished, Flo Milli thanked the crowd and the show came to an abrupt end. Like her own songs, that can sometimes be fleeting, her show’s unceremonious finale left listeners lingering, craving more.

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