After what seems like forever for fans of the 22-year-old, Rico Nasty has finally begun to get the hype she so rightly deserves. The Maryland native’s brash, raucous rap style zapped a freshness into the scene that was dominated with the likes of more “traditional”-sounding female rappers like Nicki Minaj and Cardi B, but hey – we’re not here to compare women. For the first time, people seem to realise there’s room for more than one woman at the top of the music game, with the likes of Lizzo, Billie Eilish, Halsey, Ariana Grande and more dominating the upper echelons of the charts. Rico’s on the same trajectory, thanks to her interesting past and bright future.
As soon as we get on the phone with the rising star, she blurts out excitably, “I like your name!” It’s a mark of the enigma’s forthcoming personality and ability to build rapport with whomever is in front of her. During our chat – which is taking place in her bustling apartment – Rico turns away from the phone to chat to her guests. “You guys look amazing, I miss you guys,” she tells them warmly.
The release of the punky mixtape Anger Management with producer Kenny Beats really started her ascension this year, and following a killer set at Coachella, people cottoning on to her iconic fits and footage of her crazy mosh pits at SXSW emerging, we were ready to have badass Rico hooked to our veins.
“It’s crazy that you say that [Anger Management is punky] – and a lot of people say that – because me and Kenny’s main thing on this project was to not use any guitars and to not give off the punk elements so much, but people still pick up on it. I think it’s my voice! I don’t even think it’s the instruments we use.
“In school, [I would listen to] Joan Jett - I feel like she qualifies as punk. And Avril Lavigne hated being called punk but we’re gonna throw her in there. She did a lot for young girl rockstars, skater girl rockstars. She was the perfect tomboy-girly girl!” Rico exclaims.
Like all of us watching Avril sing Complicated and Sk8er Boi with wide eyes, Rico saw herself in Avril’s rebel attitude. She explains that she “talked different from everyone else”, “dressed different” and it made her “automatically a weirdo” when she was sent to a boarding school in Baltimore at age 10, following the divorce of her parents.
“I fucking hated it. It was the worst. It was a horrible experience being away from home, not being from Baltimore. It was just weird. I talked different from everyone else, I dressed different, so I was just automatically a weirdo.
“My parents had gotten a divorce and this was maybe a year after they’d gotten a divorce, I was doing really badly in school and shit,” she explains, before being distracted by her friends in her apartment. “My parents got a fucking divorce and because my parents got a divorce, my mum had to start doing everything on her own and it got really hard. To raise me and all my school stuff, me not wanting to do anything right, it was just a lot on her. And then the school I was going to was pretty bad too, it wasn’t a good school.”
And so Rico was an outsider. She was a scene kid, she explains, a more vibrant offshoot of the emo subculture that emerged in the early to mid-2000s, buoyed by the popularity of MySpace, pop punk bands and '80s metal. When I share that I rocked teased, layered hair and was a scene kid too, she practically bellows down the phone in excitement, “GET THE FUCK OUTTA HERE!”
“I was a French-bang wearing [scene kid], commenting on people’s MySpaces. I had a really crazy playlist, I remember it had like, Slipknot, Sex Pistols, Rob Zombie… which is crazy at that age because I liked Rob Zombie because of The Devil’s Rejects.” The punk and metal influence is apparent when you examine some of Rico’s fits on her Instagram – there’s Sid Vicious-esque spikes, KISS-inspired make-up and wild chain/leather accessories, not to mention enough coloured wigs to rival any scene queen.
The quick rise in her popularity has found Rico reeling with her newfound fame, though.
“I’m kind of waiting for it to feel like, the feeling everyone talks about,” she explains of fame. “Like, ‘wow, this is really happening,’ but I’m taking this shit day by day. People do harass me when I leave my house, but it’s okay. It’s not that bad.
“I feel like they do it to everybody, like, ‘can I get a picture? Can I do this?’ Some people just stare at you. It’s always awkward but I feel like I’ve gotten over it over time because it always happens. It’s something you gotta get over. I feel like if I don’t get used to it, I’d sit in my house all day scared to take pictures with people, and that’s even weirder!”
It's a mature way to look at it, obviously. No one, not even celebrities, should get used to being “harassed” when they leave the house, but Rico understands it’s the price she pays for becoming more noticed.
And her popularity is rising still. Along with 10 others, Rico’s billed on XXL’s highly coveted Freshman Class 2019 list, meaning she’s been earmarked by the hip hop community to ascend to spectacular heights (past artists include Mac Miller, Lil Yachty, Future, Kendrick Lamar and Chance The Rapper, so they’re definitely onto something). Along the likes of Blueface, Roddy Ricch and YBN Cordae, for the first time, there are three women on the list too – Rico, Megan Thee Stallion and Tierra Whack, and Rico’s stoked.
“Oh my god, it feels really cool being a part of the Freshman Class because YBN Cordae is from where I’m from. And there being three girls on there because it’s the first time that’s happened,” she chatters happily. “It definitely did take them a while but I see why it took them a while – look at the class list. They all went crazy. That’s probably why they were trying to keep girls out of it – ‘CAUSE WE’RE BETTER!” she laughs maniacally. She’s kidding though, adding shout-outs to YBN Cordae and DaBaby, who she says are “fire”.
Rico’s also got an actual baby in her life – her three-year-old son Cameron, who she says “is a rager” for her music.
“I’ve tried a couple times to bring him on the road with me, but I just don’t think that’s a place for a child. Constantly moving around. I do when I can, but if I can't, I don’t beat myself up about it, especially because he’s in school right now, or in daycare. He’s always learning something and I don’t want him to just be following me around everywhere – I ain’t doing shit! I’m just waiting for someone to send me a beat. Or doing nothing backstage.
“He’s with my mum and that’s another thing too – she’s having a lot of fun being a grandmother right now too. She’s enjoying it. He’s three so everything is super cute. Everything he does is adorable. OOH! Hold on shit, wait,” she suddenly stops and I wonder if something’s wrong.
“I’d like to announce… he’s potty-trained. He’s POTTY-TRAINED! No more diapers. No more pull-ups. He’s wearing Avengers underwear.”
It’s a pity Cameron won’t be tagging along on Rico’s first Australian tour for FOMO Festival next January, because her biggest plans are to meet all our animals – and also hang out with Lizzo.
“I can’t wait to see Lizzo! But I want to go to a place with kangaroos and koala bears. And I wanna go to the beach. I love the beach. And hmm, let me think. The aquarium too! I wanna see the animals. Everybody that I know that’s been there has told me the exact same thing, that the animals are cool as hell there. You guys have a lot of poisonous animals don’t you?”
When I confirm that, indeed, everything in Australia will try to kill you, her surprising answer pretty much sums up why we all love her.
“That’s COOL AS FUCK!”