“If you wanna rage, let it out,” Rico Nasty raps on Let It Out, the midway point of her official debut album Nightmare Vacation. The 100 gecs beat crushes, compresses and distorts as Nasty brings her uncontained energy to the table. Her voice cracks and screams as she forces the bad energy out of her body. As we come to the end of a difficult year, raging may be exactly what we need. Nightmare Vacation acts as a chance to reset as we enter 2021, “a soundtrack to getting back on your shit,” as Nasty puts it.
In many ways, embracing Nasty has always been about getting everything out of your system. Ever since she coined her own genre ‘Sugar Trap’, she’s been making some of the rawest, unapologetic music around. She trips through rap, punk, pop and electronica, crafting a sound for a generation of non-conforming rebels. Before this year shut them down, her shows were an outlet for outcasts. An opportunity to let it all out and get back on your game.
Speaking from her home in Maryland over Zoom, Nasty is launching her album in a much quieter fashion that she perhaps imagined. Her mood is a mix of excitement and nervous energy - eager to give fans what they’ve waited so long for. “I'm feeling good about this release because I just feel like my music, people tell me that it makes them so powerful,” she says.
“This year people definitely need that mood boost. Energy boost. it's okay to be upset right now. It's okay.”
As much as Nasty says it’s okay to own your emotions and let it all out, there’s a flipside to it. Positive energy is on the other side. “We have to move forward. Even though there’s all this fucked shit in the way, we’re going to progress.”
“If you wanna get what you want in life, then you gotta kill or you gotta fight,” she raps on defiant album opener Candy. This kind of attitude is essential to Nasty’s whole mantra. We’re not waiting for things to change. We’re taking control of what we can. That kind of energy translates to Nasty releasing a debut album in the year of a global pandemic. She’s taking control of the situation.
Over the past half decade, Nasty has dropped some of the most pushing, innovative records in music. From her cohesive collision with Kenny Beats on Anger Management to the suave confidence of Nasty, she’s captured the attention of critics drawing both praise and head scratches.
Any of her projects could’ve easily been a debut record but Nightmare Vacation expands the scale. It’s a wide-reaching, ambitious collection. One that effortlessly moves from Dylan Brady’s harsh electronic production to Take A Daytrip’s space-ready beats. The opposites on the record are worlds apart but they’re tied together because Nasty is so unique. She’s just as impressive as a smooth commander on Own It as she is getting chaotic on the grinding IPHONE.
For her fans, the versatility is part of her uniqueness but for those who haven’t quite caught up, it’s been a source of criticism. “They always say I don’t know who I want to be,” she says.
“That’s just them being insecure because I know how to do so many things. I’m not afraid of that. I’m not afraid to do makeup, dress the way I do and make all types of music. All the greats I look up to do the shit that people weren’t thinking to do.”
Visually, it feels like Nasty has unleashed for the first time. The videos to come from this project are the most ambitious yet - a true culmination of her individuality and ambition. The fashion pulls from goth and streetwear while also owning elements of high fashion. In the Own It video she’s dripping in diamonds while wearing latex. In the STFU video she’s an underground punk kid complete with beanie and ripped tank top. She’s the kind of icon that could strut the Met Gala and then head straight to a sticky rave. Nasty doesn’t dress for the occasion, she dictates the occasion.
“I didn’t hold back,” she says about the fashion in her music videos, continuing, “bring me the weirdest shit that you have and the craziest shit. Let’s get freaky, I want weird shit.”
This weekend, there’s going to be plenty of quarantine head-banging going on. Nasty fans raging in their homes waiting for the opportunity to reunite with a community that prides themselves on “weird shit,” as Nasty would put it. For her, she’s just glad she’s able to give them something to look forward to this year.
“I want them to feel happy and excited. I want them to feel like they just want to go for a fucking run. Like they just want to go somewhere and do something.”
All that pent up energy. It’s time to let it go.