Rico Nasty is like nothing I’ve ever seen before – her upbeat and excited nature gives way to a fierceness underneath that hits and hits hard.
Much like her appearing at Coachella Weekend One in a tutu that she eventually rips off to ravenously get shit done, we shouldn’t take her flavour of sugar trap for face value; the venom Rico spits on her tracks is ferocious and powerful.
I caught Rico Nasty at weekend two of the huge festival in the Coachella Valley, and although her vibe is very sugar-and-spice-and-everything-nice with two cartoonish pink ponies flanking the stage, an outfit that had angel wings protruding from her hips, and at one point, a bobble-head version of herself onstage, the tracks that she and her DJ lay down and the lyrics that she spits out into the writhing crowd lean much more on the ‘spice’ than anything else.
Rico commands every inch of the Mojave Stage and in front of it, a heaving, manic crowd who bay to her every demand – most of which was to immediately open up a circle pit. Which they did. And it was huge.
As someone whose experience with circle pits have rarely extended outside of hardcore shows, having a rapper stand up and demand that people open this shit up is jarring, but if you think about it, it makes sense.
Both hardcore punk and rap come from places of anti-establishment ethos and riotous anarchism. Both rap and punk exist under the mantras of things like “fuck the police” and “damn the man.”
So if Rico Nasty wants you to make a circle pit, then you better make that space and fast.
Before she took to the stage, we escaped the desert heat and dust by sitting and chatting in her trailer. We spent a moment complimenting each other – I admired her tattoos while she praised my stretched earlobes; an overhang from my angsty teen years that I’ll probably keep forever.
Rico Nasty (then just Maria-Cecilia Kelly) began writing music when she was working her day job in a hospital, which she tells me wasn’t challenging her at all, which resulted in her challenging herself creatively.
Lot of paperwork, lot of computer work, filing. You know, weird stuff that…no 20 or 19-year-old person wants to do that.
I just remember like being at work and when I am filing stuff I had my headphones in, I’m listening to beats, and just wishing that that could be my life, my lifestyle, my choice.
Growing up in a pretty musical family, her dad was also a rapper and her mum’s “pretty far out” music tastes had a young Rico exposed to everything from hard rap to Amy Winehouse and Duffy.
In her own journey with music, Rico got deep into heavy metal through Slipknot in her early teens, pushing her lust to not conform into familiar territory for young teens who yearn for something outside of the mainstream.
Combining her upbringing with blues and soul, rap, and her own exploration of punk and metal, Rico Nasty began producing her own music from a young age, with her first mixtape ‘Summer’s Eve‘ being dropped days before her 16th birthday.
Rico Nasty’s brand of vicious sugar trap has her going from strength to strength as she sharpens her tongue and hones her craft – where success means that her three-year-old son doesn’t have to follow the same career path – and as she explores her multiple personas; TACOBELLA, Trap Lavigne, and Rico. Producing mostly as Rico at the moment, she tells me that her biggest influence when she’s in the studio is herself.
I always listen to my old stuff. I always try to do better than that. Just to make sure that I’m evolving. Because I feel like that’s what being an artist is about; always changing but within yourself.
Apart from herself, Rico’s biggest influences for her current work are Missy Elliott and Eve; two women who have been defining the space that women in rap and hip-hop occupy for the last 30 years.
“I wanna say for my most recent project, I was a lot influenced by Missy Elliott,” she tells me. “My mom used to love Missy Elliott, and so I always had love for her and Eve. Eve was amazing.”
Her latest offering, Anger Management, has her working with Kenny Beats (who’s produced Vince Staples and JPEGMAFIA in the past), and if anything, Rico wants fans to come out of the other side of this mixtape with an appreciation for how hard she’s pushing herself, and how she’s adapting with the world around her, and showing that through her music.
I just want them to see the growth, hear the growth, and adapt. All human life, anything living, is all based on adapting, and changing with the times, and evolving into a person who can sustain almost anything.
So I just really want them to listen to this music and say “fuck, this is harder than the last tape” and then when they hear the next tape be like “damn, this is harder than the last tape!”
And we’ll just keep going up.
With a show that involves bobbleheads, Doja Cat for their track ‘Tia Tamara‘, and a rolling backdrop of a selection of delicious memes, Rico Nasty is playing entirely her own game of bad bitch trap, with each performance genuinely harder than the last.Image: Getty Images / Frazer Harrison