Battle of the 1Bands

Rico Nasty

If you don’t speak up, you’ll never be heard. Rico Nasty certainly has no problem speaking up…

“Yes, I am a girl,” she exclaims. “Yes, I am going as hard as all of these motherfucking dudes are. Yes, I am loud. If you’re female, get some confidence from what I’m doing. I’m the representation of a lot of girls who don’t get love.”

Backing up those points, the DMV rapper, producer, and singer has continually both shown and proven her mettle on the mic time and time again since dropping her first mixtape—Summer’s Eve—back in high school. A string of viral singles such as 2016’s “iCarly” and “Hey Arnold” lit up the internet as her breakout mixtape Tales of Tacobella received praise from Washington Post, XXL, Pigeons & Planes, and more. Next up, the 21-year-old opened up a bold, bloody, and bright world of her own on Sugar Trap 2 accompanied by alter egos Tacobella and Trap Levine (Think Rainbow Brite participating in “Purge” night). “Poppin” appeared on HBO’s hit series “Insecure,” and she joined forces with Lil Yachty on “Mamacita” for the chart-dominating Fate of the Furious Official Soundtrack. In the aftermath, she signed to Atlantic Records.

Showing no signs of stopping, 2018 saw her launch a massively successful headline tour, selling out nearly every date and inciting mosh pits coast to coast. However, the driving engine behind her rapid rise would be the bars—as evidenced by the likes of “Smack A Bitch.”

Unabashedly uncompromising, knife sharp, and potently powerful, her microphone prowess offered a respite from a scene preoccupied with auto-tune and mumbling.

“I didn’t pussy out,” she admits. “I’ve become more accepting of myself. I don’t care what other people think about the things I do. I feel like that’s good for me to be confident in a respectful way at such a young age. I just need to make good music and put on turnt shows for my fans because they do a lot for me.”

2018’s major label debut mixtape Nasty made good on that promise. A dizzying display of lyrical fireworks and taut wordplay, Pitchfork awarded it a coveted 8.0 rating and proclaimed it “one of the hardest rap records of the year.” Meanwhile, she graced the cover of The Fader in tandem with the release. The record marked a conscious evolution, giving audiences something they hadn’t received yet.

“I felt like my fans were ready to hear me and not just a phase of me or a personality—just me,” she continues. “With Nasty, I did that. I did a whole lot of blending melodies with the grunge-y voice. I took a lot more time on the beats and picking what songs I wanted to shoot videos for. I was really inspired by my life experiences. I felt like the audience deserved that because they grew fucking super fast. They already have a bunch of party songs. I decided to talk about myself a little bit more.”

Exploding on impact, the single “Countin Up” sees her deliver one vicious verse after another over a flipped sample of Noreaga’s “Super Thug (What What).”

“If you just bought something and want to flex, we’ve got ‘Countin’ Up’,” says Rico. “It’s all based on daily experiences, living life, and not worrying about what others say or letting it affect your creativity.”

Produced by Tay Keith, the immediately infectious “In The Air” throws bandz up with an assist from Blocboy JB. Elsewhere, “Rage” takes no prisoners as Rico unleashes a flurry over muscular guitar riffs and ambient echoes courtesy of regular collaborator Kenny Beats.

In the end, Rico won’t ever stop speaking her mind, and hip-hop is better for it.

“It’s only going to get realer,” she leaves off. “I want to talk about myself even more and what I’ve been through. Nasty is just the beginning. I have to give you something you haven’t already heard from me every time I drop a project.”