THE SPUNK OF RICO NASTY: QUEEN OF RAP AND PUNK

Who is SHE?

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To write an introduction for an artist as versatile as Rico Nasty is quite the challenge. To try and define Rico is a challenge when she aims to be undefined. Existing in the way Rico Nasty does, to refuse to be crammed in a box that the world requires you to check yourself in to understand you within the framework of how THEY believe you should exist. This defiance of labels is the very foundation of what it means to be “punk”. Not just punk music, but punk as a lifestyle, to embrace being different. Rico Nasty has become a musical icon for mixing the instrumental styles of punk with the rhythm of rap, and the grunge and roughness of both together to create her own subcategory of rap. Rico Nasty is the mother of punk rap.

The Past is the Path to the FUTURE

Maria-Cecilia Simone Kelly grew up around the DMV living in both suburbs and hoods. Once her life in the hood drastically affected her grades and performance she was sent to a high achieving boarding school in Maryland. As a student from a different background, she noticed how she didn’t fit in with those around her from her interests to her appearance and attitude.

Teen Dreams

Rico told once in an interview how at 13 she “wanted to be an outcast”— she was tired of the pressure to conform. This led Rico to become a self-proclaimed “emo”, and began to constantly listen to punk and metal bands. In the near future, artists like Beastie Boys, Slipknot, and Joan Jett became significant influences in her sound. Joan Jett was especially an imperative artist that contributed to Rico’s early development as she listened and watched in awe how rough and hardcore she was as the female lead of a rock band.

Rise to Stardom

Eventually, the combination of a new environment, a parental divorce, and teenage hormones turned Rico from a regular emo kid to a troublesome kid. She began skipping school and selling drugs, but also began to follow in the footsteps of her idols and create her own music as an outlet to express her emotions. She dropped two mixtapes in high school, but her delinquent days came to a stop once she became pregnant with her son at 18. Rico told Fader in an interview how she remembers “I was sad because all the people who used to tell me to dream big started telling me to settle”. But she didn’t let this didn’t stop her, yet let it encourage her to create a name for herself through her music to provide for her son and continue to follow her dreams. 

After high school, she continued to release cartoon and children show inspired beats and songs on Soundcloud like iCarly and Hey Arnold, which led her to begin gaining internet popularity. Her first single that truly made her take off from there was “Poppin”, which gained millions of views and featured on HBO tv show ‘Insecure’.

WHAT'S POPPIN NOW?

Everything took a turn for the better when Rico Nasty met Kenny Beats and they produced their first track together that took direct influence from rock, creating the gateway to a new genre: Trap Metal.

Smack a B*tch was groundbreaking. A heavy metal rock guitar presence with hardcore rap lyrics took both the punk and rap world by storm. This is when Rico began to embrace both punk and rap culture. She began to embody the role of “pop-punk-princess”. Her signature look of bold rockstar makeup and spiked hair and mohawks. This was not only revolutionary as a musician, but as a Black woman. 

AWARD: Certified Gold track by the Recording Industry Association of America in June 2020 for her single Smack A B****

“I was still thinking the standard of a female rapper is supposed to be pretty.”… “Women aren’t all like that anymore. They’re doing what the fuck they want. Why still be pretty and all that when there’s so many girly female rappers already? You can be a rock star instead.”

Black people in entertainment are always expected to fit a societal standard of what Black people should be. Black female rappers are expected to be the “pretty popular girls”, but Rico choose to be her full self: the weird girl. 

As she continued to work with Kenny Beats, she was eventually signed to Atlantic Records and released her first mixtape under that label: Nasty.

 

She’s gone on to do feature with artists like Doja Cat, Gucci Mane, Lil Yatchy, etc.

 

These tracks SLAP: THE DISCOGRPAHY

Rico Nasty dropped 5 mixtapes in high school,

Summer’s Eve

The Rico Story

Sugar Trap

Tales of Tacobella

Sugar Trap 2

She released her first mixtape under Atlantic Records called Nasty, second mixtape named Anger Management, and her debut studio album in 2020 named Nightmare Vacation

NASTY

Rico embraced her darker, wild side for her mixtape ‘Nasty’ (2018). She came into her true punk self as she introduced the alter ego to us named Trap Lavigne (her cool rockstar persona that followed after Tacobella, her softer rap side). Her music became grittier and distorted, with rockstar instrumentals.This is when she began to incorporate her influences in her music. Who inspires her musical personas?

Rico dedicates her entire career to Joan Jett, but takes heavy personality and appearance influence from 

David Bowie’s style,  Tyler, the Creator’s eccentric nature and fearlessness to be himself, Nicki Minaj’s male alter-ego Roman.


ANGER MANAGEMENT

In the early 1960s clinical psychologist Arthur Janov conceived of a new form of treatment for his patients called primal therapy.  One of the most well known products of this therapy was the “primal scream”, which was a deep, almost involuntary emotional scream to release stress, trauma, etc. Rockstars soon after like John Lennon and Yoko Ono both found therapeutic comfort in being primal practitioners.

Rico Nasty never formally partook in primal therapy, but her mixtape Anger Management produced with Kenny Beats in 2019 drew heavy inspiration from Javon’s teachings. The art cover of the album itself mirrors a similar image that reappears on Janov’s book covers: a psychedelic of a man’s head with a screaming mouth bursting out of the top.

This album was Rico’s own version of adult therapy, complete with plenty of raw-throated screaming ad libs and overall being an outlet to release her anger. The mixtape used sounds from nu metal, E.D.M., and hard rock as it does from trap and rap.

NIGHTMARE VACATION

And here is the debut first album: Nightmare Vacation. A wallop of loud and radical sounds. Mixes of raspy, smashing vocals and grungy hooks with cooler, early 2000s sounding fun computerised beats.

Tacobella showed up on tracks like “Pussy Poppin” and “Back & Forth”, sensual songs about female sexual empowerment.

Both her alter ego’s were prominent on this album: Trap Levigne and Tacobella

This album demonstrates her broad abilities and futuristic visions of music as she collabs with  alternative 100 gec’s Dylan Brady, who produced the genre-infused tracks “OHFR?” and “iPhone”, tracks Trap Levigne rapped on. “Let it Out” continues with the Javon influence from Anger Management, screaming and “letting out” 



“If you wanna rage, let it out-- LET IT OUT”

"I feel like people like my super dark side. And they're just now getting familiar with the hyperpop and like more of the singing side,”

Conclusion

Rico is only 24 years old, and hasn’t even reached her peak yet. She has accomplished significantly more than so many artists her age. Her musical talent is beyond what we’ve seen before, and seeing her come up is outstanding as she greatly impacts music. Rico’s fearlessness to be herself is so inspiring for Black women who don’t fit into the boxes society expects us to.  Her ability to embrace femininity and experiment with her music in unconventional ways is quite outstanding, and her career is only going up from here.

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