In a post-Soundcloud rap scene that identifies as emo, Rico Nasty is assuredly its riot grrrl. Since 2016, she’s fine-tuned her brash, sour-then-sweet persona invoking cartoonishness and an unassailable cool on a series of mixtapes including her Sugar Trap series and Tales of Tacobella. In them, her voice and attitude alternates between bratty and demonic, grabbing the attention until she’s ready to be done with it.
Nasty is a natural progression of Rico Nasty as artist and character: a woman who can assure her audience that she’s A-list and have them believe it. With production from Kenny Beats, Tay Keith, and Lex Luger, the music varies from a bouncy childlike energy on “Hockey” to “Won’t Change,” to a hedonistic deep bass on “Pressing Me” to the intense metal influence of “Rage.” The disparate songs make sense together even as they borrow from different genres and musical styles, and Rico meets the task of giving the each song its own flair. She’ll stretch her voice to hoarse, barking rap one minute and come down to playful, melodious glee in the next. On the album’s lead single, “Countin Up,” Rico masters a crowd pleasing record, even if leaning on a sample from Noreaga’s “Superthug.” The way Nasty fuses genre and versatility throughout gives her character a narrative that feels singular.
On Nasty, Rico’s raps aren’t exactly explicitly political in the way, say, bands like Bikini Kill were, but she’s keyed in a level of control and potency that feels as crucial–as a rapper for women, and particularly as a rapper for black women. On the intro “Bitch I’m Nasty,” she raps, “And I’m screaming ‘fuck Trump, black girls stand up’,” while she shouts out her love of “bad bitches who be ragin'” on the appropriately-titled “Rage.” It’s punk rock married with crunk music, and delivers an energy that is exclusively black woman-centric, encouraging them to thrash and rage in their own aggression.
This sensation happens a lot throughout the album, often thanks to her close production partnership with Kenny Beats. On Nasty, Kenny properly balances the silliness, decadence, and wildness of Rico’s rap style by making beats that are both garish and menacing. On “Ice Cream,” which turns a video game tune into something sinister and trunk-rattling, Rico takes the beat and makes it into an anthemic jam full of amusing innuendo. On “Won’t Change,” Kenny brings an island flutter, with bells and bamboo flutes for Rico’s honeyed sing-rapping. Outside of the tracks that come from this killer combo, she does a good Waka Flocka Flame impersonation on the Lex Luger-produced “Transformer,” and the album closer, “La La,” contains an interesting but oddball droning melody over a bleak, monotonous SS.Kev beat.
All said, Rico Nasty’s confidence is contagious, and her fusion of sounds make her a hypnotizing artist of the future. In turn, Nasty is a cohesive and strong body of work–the kind of great summer album that is so energetic and unquestionably hard, that she’ll only rise from here.