Rico Nasty is easily one of 2019’s most bookable artists. She has remained incredibly prolific over the past two years, and this year has seen her skyrocket to the upper echelon of alternative rap. Her brazen lyrics, raspy voice and electrifying image have kept her on everyone’s radar, on everyone’s Instagram feed and on everyone’s schedule. She’s on the cusp of her debut Australian run of shows for FOMO Festival and somehow, in the midst of her seemingly non-stop schedule taking her across the Northern Hemisphere, she found a moment to talk to me about it all.
“I’m goooood!” she says when I ask how she is. She answers in the same, shy way children do when they’re talking to their parent’s friend. The thing I came quickly to learn about her is that she’s not all that shy, but when she says she’s good, she means it.
This is reflected in her music as well. At the start of the year, she released a mixtape with long-time collaborator Kenny Beats titled Anger Management, which she describes as an actual anger management course.
“When people listen to Anger Management, it’s because they’re hurt or they needed something off their chest,” she says. “I look at it like a literal anger management course, but now I’m done with it. I’m finished.”
While she assures me the screaming vocals and the punk-singed bars aren’t gone, her latest single ‘Time Flies’ could not be any further at the other end of the emotional spectrum. The song, which is arguably her strongest yet, sees Rico rap-singing over an almost chiptune beat. It is, on most levels, a vibrant, positive song.
“I’m feeling better,” she says. “I’m feeling colourful. I’m feeling everything that ‘Time Flies’ represents and I’m ready to give you more songs like that. But you still got crazy ass Rico Nasty, ain’t shit bout to change.”
“I knew my fans needed a breath of fresh air as well,” she continues. “(After Anger Management) I saw a lot of people be like “is this all she can do?” and I was like “bitch, no!”
Rico is nothing if not versatile. She is so apt that her versatility shines through in individual moments, not just across her discography. For example, while ‘Time Flies’ is ultimately an optimistic song, it’s also anchored in realism, the finality of life and the traumatic train of thought about when it’s ‘our time’. She is all about keeping it 100% honest, 100% of the time.
“There’s some dark shit in there. I’m so busy, it kinda sucks at the end of the day. But that’s just me being transparent and being honest with my fans. I’m not gonna go around and act like everything’s great or that everything’s always fucking great all the time. That feels wrong.”
“We lose friends, we lose expensive things,” she continues. “I miss home, I get really homesick. Sometimes I feel lonely. I don’t want it to sound sad, I just want it to sound real.”
That realism has helped drive Rico’s already monumental career. In fact, the night before our phone call, Rico was performing in Los Angeles as part of the esteemed 2019 XXL Freshman Class. For those who don’t know, every year hip-hop tastemakers XXL release a ‘Freshman Class’ of 10 up-and-coming rappers that they think will blow up. With alumni like Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole and Chance The Rapper, they’re not often wrong, and it’s hard to ignore that Rico is setting herself up for the same fate.
The 2019 XXL Freshman Class is pretty monumental, as it is features the most women XXL have ever included in a single class (which is still only three). Nasty’s female classmates are Philadelphia’s lyricist extraordinaire Tierra Whack and Houston’s straight-shooting Megan Thee Stallion. What the three of them together prove is that “female rap” is absolutely not a genre, despite whoever it is that tries to box non-males in hip-hop as one thing.
“I don’t think they’re showing us who’s the best rapper,” he said. “For me, it’s like strippers rapping and as far as rap goes, I’m not getting who’s the best.”
Rico, as expected and as warranted, wasn’t having a bar of it.
“Him making that statement alone was weird. Saying we’re all strippers is so fucked up to say, bro, because Megan is in school. Saweetie” – who is currently charting high on Billboard’s Hot 100 with ‘My Type’ – “was in school. These girls are not fucking strippers, and, even then, so what if they are?”
Of course, Dupri’s sexist comments have obviously derived from the rags-to-riches story of Cardi B, who is a former stripper – and rightfully shows no shame. And Rico thinks she shouldn’t either.
“Cardi B was one in a million, and let her be that. Let her be the stripper-turned-rapper, that’s a dream for some women. We make music for special types of women. You think these women wake up and going to school, working their ass off, just for a ni—a like Jermaine Dupri to come out and say that they’re fucking stripper rappers?”
“That’s not why we do this. Do not do that to us.”
What’s bizarre is that, after those comments he made, Dupri saw Rico’s XXL freestyle and praised her. But Rico still wasn’t having any of it.
— Jermaine Dupri (@jermainedupri) July 12, 2019
“I couldn’t even take the compliment. Don’t put us all down then lift one of us up. Don’t do that. Keep your opinions to yourself. Don’t bring us down and then be like ‘oh I found this one that I like.’ Bitch, no.”
“You’re gonna take all of us.”
While she then goes on to explain how society lets any male rapper succeed regardless of how bad they are, but remain painfully selective when it comes to anyone else, she definitely shows admiration for one male rapper in particular.
I discovered whom when I tell her, albeit off-handedly, that her growth and style reminds me of Tyler, The Creator’s earlier work. When I tell her this, she cuts me dead and says “don’t do that.”
There’s an awkward pause, with me thinking I’ve offended her, before she says “I literally have a shrine to Tyler, The Creator in my house.”
“I was a huge fan of the way he grew and everything he’s doing now. His growth as an artist is really crazy and super inspirational.” She then goes on to thank me, explaining that it’s because “you don’t look at me as a female rapper, you look at me as a rapper” – which is the least that any rapper, regardless of gender, deserves, no?
That being said, Rico remains determined to shout out all the women she can while we’re talking. Speaking of last night’s performance, she said “me and all my girls looked amazing, we looked fucking fire. Tierra Whack was amazing.” Later she shouted out City Girls, who have been charting all year with songs like “Twerk” and “Act Up”, and Lizzo, who at this point is so omnipresent she needs no introduction.
In fact, Rico and Lizzo have – at the time of this interview, at least – never met. But that will change come January when they’re both in the country for FOMO Festival. We’re sending the bat signal out to Lizzo now – Rico really wants to meet you. Rico says she cannot wait to come to Australia, and begins to show that child-like wonder again when I positively respond to her query of “is the sand actually white over there?”
It’s a little bewildering that, with all the amazing experiences Rico must have had over the past few years, something as seemingly insignificant as sand can bring her so much joy. But it’s also something that Rico goes out of her way to do every single day.
“I do cherish those singular good moments, because my life is really, really fast,” she says.
“Good shit happens and you can’t even appreciate it, or acknowledge it because you’re so focused on what’s next. So, when I do have the time to acknowledge it I’m like wow this shit feels amazing. I can’t believe it.”
What was today’s good moment? Well, it involves nipple tassles.
“Well, my second look in the shoot I did today or whatever, I changed my hair and wore nipple tassles. They had to be taped on, so when I took them off it hurt,” she says, bursting into a giggle fit.
In between fits of laughter between her and people in the background, she continues “we were all just making jokes when the shoot was over, and it was just an amazing time.”
“Everyone got to be creative, everyone got to get their vision out and it was an all female crew. Those vibes are important.”
And, Rico’s positive vibes beam through the phone, despite their being an entire hemisphere between us. It’s hard not to smile when you talk to her, because she’s going to be smiling first, despite whatever is going on. That’s why ‘Time Flies’ works so well – it is unapologetically and unmistakably Rico Nasty.
“That’s life in general,” she says. “Life is so fucked up but once you have that good moment in your day, the bad shit doesn’t matter. You just keep dancing.”
Rico Nasty is in Australia next year for FOMO 2020.
Check out the full lineup and all dates below.
FOMO Festival 2020 Lineup
JAX JONES (UK)
RICO NASTY (USA)
WHIPPED CREAM (CAN)
Plus triple j Unearthed and local artists to be announced.
FOMO Festival 2020 Lineup
Saturday, 4th January
Brisbane Showgrounds, Brisbane (18+)
Tickets: FOMO Fest
Sunday, 5th January
Elder Park, Adelaide (16+)
Tickets: FOMO Fest
Saturday, 11th January
Parramatta Park, Sydney (18+)
Tickets: FOMO Fest
Sunday, 12th January
Melbourne Showgrounds, Melbourne (16+)
Tickets: FOMO Fest