From Grammy wins to Top 100 chart records, we’re living in an era where more women are succeeding in rap than ever before. Not only are women flourishing in the genre, they no longer need a male cosign to make it big. This new generation of women brought new perspectives to rap and, as one of the fastest rising women in the game, Rico Nasty is using her rhymes to shed light on a topic that’s seldom discussed in society, let alone in hip-hop. “Growing up as a woman, when you get mad people either take advantage of or take pity on you,” Nasty says. “They try to victimize you or say that something’s wrong with you, you’re crazy and you’re doing too much. It’s OK for men to lash out and break shit if they want to. But if a woman does it, it’s always been unlady-like.
“Girls need an artist to express whatever emotions they want to express,” she continues. “I hate when people expect women to be the perfect role model, the perfect mother or the perfect wife. Nobody puts that fucking stigma on men, men can be assholes who don’t do anything for anyone but themselves. And in most cases, they get praised. It’s time to get our power back. We don’t give a fuck if you see us as mad, us being mad doesn’t mean that we care differently.”
Nasty has used her music as a vehicle to express all of her emotions, not just anger. She touches on sadness, happiness and everything in between, connecting to listeners through the authenticity of her mixtapes. She began her career releasing singles to SoundCloud, quickly picking up steam within the underground scene, before transitioning to releasing mixtapes under her label, Sugar Trap. In that time, Nasty racked up an impressive seven mixtapes in only five years. This method of releasing music in quick succession helped build Nasty’s repertoire and reputation within the industry, but now that she’s a known figure in hip-hop, she’s taking a different approach for her debut studio album, “Nightmare Vacation.”
“[With ‘Nightmare Vacation’] I didn’t rush myself,” Nasty says. “I paced myself, tried to improve and tried new things. It was honestly an adventure from start to finish.” Nasty found that as she began creating more melodic music, those singles needed time to build intricate layers and required extra listening to find harmonies that might not have jumped out in the first take. “Before, I would just make a song, put it out and never hear it again because I thought it was finished,” Nasty says. “I would never go back to the studio and try to re-record a song if it was more than a month old. But I did that and I finished a lot of songs I thought I couldn’t finish, even if they didn’t end up on the album.”
In giving herself more time per single, Nasty had the opportunity to explore and experiment with her style. Nowhere on “Nightmare Vacation” does this show more than with the album’s lead single, “iPhone,” which was produced by Dylan Brady of the experimental music duo 100 Gecs. “The whole process of recording that song was different and that song wasn’t made in one day, we produced it in a span of three months,” Nasty says. “I learned a bunch of new things about recording in general, like how to pitch your voice up, slow it down to make it a better fit, and then speed it back up so it sounds crazy.”
The experimenting didn’t end with “iPhone,” as she’d go on to have another big first as an artist with the album’s second promotional track, “Own It.” “I worked with a writer on ‘Own It,’ and that was different because I’ve never worked with writers,” Nasty says. “I chose to work with her because she didn’t have the song ready for me when we got to the studio and we built it from the ground up together. I’ve never gotten to collaborate with a writer the way you would with a producer, which was really fun.”
“Nightmare Vacation” allowed many opportunities for Nasty to improve and try new things, but one thing stayed the same, and that’s the presence of her alternative personas. Alternative personas have been a long-standing tradition in hip-hop, with Beyoncé unveiling Sasha Fierce and Nicki Minaj constantly pulling new characters out of her bag of tricks. Throughout Nasty’s career, she’s revealed personas on different tracks, with Tacobella taking over for Nasty’s more sensitive and vulnerable songs, Trap Lavigne (an homage to Avril Lavigne) coming out for her aggressive, punk-inspired pieces, and Rico filling in the gaps. For “Nightmare Vacation,” Nasty stuck with these three primary personas when developing the singles, but through the process, she was able to give fans a glimpse of an emerging fourth side of herself.
“I have a song called ‘Pussy Poppin’ on there and that’s definitely a new perspective that I don’t think my fans have heard from me,” Nasty says. “It’s more sexual and more feminine. A lot of my music is really hard and in your face, so this is more bouncy and fun. I guess she is a different persona, but I’ve only made one song like that so we’ll see what she turns into.”
In addition to showing off the different sides of her personality through her music, Nasty is known for expressing herself through her personal style. In her music videos, on the red carpet and in photoshoots, Nasty leans toward extravagant, maximalist fashions. Which can vary between a spiky mohawk to a babydoll nighty to a haute couture gown depending on her mood. Nasty’s personal expression has helped to set her apart from the pack and she’s been coloring outside the lines since childhood. “I remember I used to get in trouble all the time at school for not wearing my uniform,” Nasty says. “I would actually draw on my uniform, just so I could be different from everyone else.”
It didn’t take long for Nasty’s uniform doodles to transform into a passion for collecting tattoos, as she got her first two tattoos when she was just 17. As she started developing her brand as a rapper, she fell more in love with tattoos and her personas quickly made their way onto her skin. “I became obsessed with getting drawings of me tattooed,” Nasty shares. “I’m obsessed with remembering certain phases in my life and moments that I thought would make or break me. Oftentimes, I get tattoos to remember super fucked-up shit or super good shit—it’s a way of healing. When you lose somebody, you get them tattooed and the pain of the tattoo almost outweighs how much it hurts when you lose them.”
Through her music, her style and her tattoo collection, Rico Nasty has shown the world she doesn’t fit into a predetermined category. She’s always changing and, at 23, there’s plenty more of her story yet to be written. One thing we do know is that the charts are about to get a whole lot nastier thanks to “Nightmare Vacation.”